In hindsight, it was incredibly naïve of us Liverpool fans to assume that Virgil van Dijk’s season-ending injury at Everton would be the biggest setback this campaign. While his injury remains the most high-profile on the list, more and more players have been lining up at the treatment table at the AXA Training Centre, to the point where it’s gotten comical. Joe Gomez, Mohamed Salah, Jordan Henderson, Trent Alexander-Arnold and plenty others have all contributed to the casualty list since Van Dijk was sidelined, leading to talk of a crisis and an early concession of the title.
All this considered, Liverpool’s emphatic 3-0 win against high-flying Leicester last weekend looks all the more impressive. Let’s ignore Liverpool’s 2-0 defeat to Atalanta in the Champions League, which took place at Anfield yesterday. It was nothing more than a poor night at the office for Liverpool. Many had tipped the Reds’ paper-thin squad to be beaten by The Foxes, who would then have claimed top spot in the league. Jurgen Klopp’s depleted side instead went on to produce a performance as good as anything we’ve seen this season, silencing the doubters and the naysayers.
Equally as pertinently, Liverpool also heavily undermined Leicester’s own credentials as contenders for the league this season. It’s early days, but that didn’t stop the sensationalists from talking up the Leicester’s chances of a second Premier League crown in the build-up to the game. It sounds ruthless, but it was necessary for the Reds to quash that kind of talk as swiftly and as emphatically as they did. A positive result for the visitors may have threatened to upset the Liverpool-City hegemony of the last few seasons, or at least plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the regular hegemons. As Liverpool faithful, we can only hope that this was a game to distinguish between contenders and pretenders.
Having already drawn against City before the international break, the next high-profile game for the Reds, with reference to the title race, anyway, would appear to be the home fixture against Spurs next month- provided both sides maintain their recent form. If the Reds can pass that test, they could well prove themselves unequivocal favourites for the championship going into the new year.
Arguably more significant than the result, however, is what the performance says about this side’s resilience and mentality. It’s hardly breaking news, but this display was once again testament to the Reds’ status as mentality giants. The show they put up on Sunday was reminiscent of Fergie’s United side that could produce a champion’s performance regardless of whether they had Anderson or Cristiano Ronaldo on the flanks, or whether it was Nemanja Vidic or Phil Jones in defence. The ability to consistently shine in the face of adversity is a quality borne by a select few sides in footballing history, and offers hope that this Reds side may produce sustained success over next few years – rather than living off the glory of the last two.