How much difference a few days makes. This time last week, many Reds fans were prophesizing the downfall of the team after a wholly underwhelming transfer window and an unconvincing performance at home to Leeds. Then of course, Liverpool went on to make the back-to-back signings of Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota, before registering a comfortable victory at Chelsea- this season’s supposed newest flavour. While this seismic mood shift is yet another instance of how overly reactionary football fans can be, there are legitimate grounds for greater optimism.
The two signings that sent Liverpool social media into a frenzy coincidentally also happen to resolve two glaring problem areas in the squad. As Thiago so emphatically demonstrated on Sunday, his presence offers Liverpool a whole new creative dimension in midfield, going beyond the usual defensive cover service provided by Gini Wijnaldum and Jordan Henderson. The Brazilian’s ability to pass between the lines and spray diagonal balls at ease will prove to be an even greater asset against conservative deep blocks in future.
Jota, meanwhile, will offer the depth that Liverpool’s front line has been crying out for. Jota’s pace and smart movement should see him fit seamlessly into the team when called upon, and will offer serious competition to the likes of Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino should they allow their standards to drop. With all due respect to the Belgian, it will also be refreshing to not have to see Divock Origi continue to labour fruitlessly in a team where he often looks out of his depth.
But even more encouraging than these acquisitions was Liverpool’s performance in their second game of the season at Stamford Bridge. While the Reds’ man advantage is a caveat that detractors will happily use to undermine the visitors’ performance, it’s worth remembering Liverpool would probably have gone into the break with a lead if Andreas Christensen hadn’t sacrificed his second half to haul Mane down.
And the red card had little to do with the manner in which Liverpool scored their goals. While the second was yet another howler by Chelsea’s Kepa, the first would have been noted down by Jurgen Klopp and probably even other managers for future reference- a lovely, incisive exchange between Salah and Firmino that was finished off by Mane. In fact, Liverpool dominated the game even before Christensen’s dismissal, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and creating the majority of the chances.
While Liverpool’s wins can often be unconvincing and marginal, which of course leads many to questions whether their success is sustainable, it seems that they are capable of stepping up a gear and issuing a statement when the occasion necessitates it. Last season’s wins against Leicester and Manchester City (4-0 and 3-1 respectively), their closest title rivals at the time, were nothing short of emphatic. Similarly, those who suggested that Chelsea could simply erase the gap between them and Liverpool this season based on their respective transfer windows will be made to reconsider after this recent display.
Of course, we are but two games into the season. Declarations that Liverpool are nailed-on champions based on the last week are no less reactionary than prior suggestions that we could struggle for Champions League football. Nuanced views are a scarcity in football. Ultimately, only time will tell if Thiago and Jota can indeed effect a positive change in this team, and if Klopp can indeed lead his men to a second consecutive domestic title.
Up next in the league is Arsenal at home, after a cup tie against Lincoln which will probably feature a third-string lineup. The game against the Gunners will be an excellent opportunity to prove that this newfound hype surrounding the Redmen is well justified.