Opinion

Must Liverpool Deliver the Goals to Prove Title Credentials?

Winning Ugly

Time and time again this season we’ve found ourselves buried under a mire of concerns with the lack of goals of late, be it on Twitter, the tabloids, or even in casual conversation.

On several occasions however, Liverpool have managed to silence – all too briefly – the boo boys, in producing a number of solid, if not flashy, displays.

Liverpool legend, John Aldridge, was particularly worried over this development and what it could mean for the club’s prospects this season.

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Aldridge said: “We’re often told that title-winning sides have to sometimes win ugly but I’m concerned that there are no signs of yet that Liverpool are about to turn the corner and get back to their fluid best.

“It’s all well and good and we’d take a 1-0 win at Huddersfield in the past with that kind of display but we’re doing it too many times.

“You want to see things falling into place – especially going forward – whether it’s the link-up play or the performances of the front three but it’s just not happening.”

Putting aside the fact that Liverpool have accrued more goals in the Premier League this season than they managed at the same stage in 2017/18, we have to remember that the goals only really started flowing consistently for Liverpool toward the end of October.

Ironically, it all started with a 3-0 thrashing of Huddersfield in front of the Anfield faithful, off the back of Liverpool’s lowest point last season when the club suffered a turnover of 4-1 away to Tottenham.

Although it remains a fair point to criticise Liverpool’s fluidity at this juncture, we should be mindful firstly of mitigating factors i.e. fatigue following the World Cup, and secondly, Jürgen Klopp’s general game management.

The fluidity of Liverpool’s football and, in particular, a Klopp side, is largely reliant on the team’s pressing game. This has arguably been lacking of late, certainly in part due to the difficult run of fixtures, injuries, and the insertion of new players.

Nonetheless, we’ve found a less aggressive Liverpool than the one we left last season. But given Klopp’s criticism of the hectic Winter schedule, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to suggest that the German is being careful to avoid exhausting his squad before Christmas.

Notwithstanding the lack of goals though, I personally don’t understand the negativity around our start.

We are, despite some fans’ insistence on plaguing Twitter with their cries of ‘but look at the goal difference,’ joint-top (that’s right, I said it) with City, and without having yet found our best form.

Given the breathtaking football we were treated to last term, it is understandable why many are tired of Liverpool’s lackluster displays of late.

Indeed, as Aldridge rightly pointed out, Liverpool have been indisputably wasteful of late. However, this should not leave cause for concern with Liverpool’s title credentials.

I mentioned before that our position in the league was all the more impressive when taking into account the horrendous run of fixtures we had to endure.

Given that Liverpool have come out of it almost unscathed with 23 points from a possible 27, there is so much for fans to be positive about.

At the same stage last season, the club was languishing outside of the top four at 9th place, with a negative goal difference (don’t say I never think of you ‘goal-differencers’) and a deficit of 10 points. To put things into perspective, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle had a better start to their season.

 

A Defence we can Rely on

Fast forward a year, a couple of brilliant defensive purchases down the line, and Liverpool find themselves sitting pretty in the top four with their defence rightly attracting praise from all the plaudits.

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As such, I find myself taking an alternative position to Aldridge, and I’m not too concerned about Liverpool’s ability to challenge City over the season (to challenge, not to win the contest, i must stress).

If anything, I would argue that Liverpool’s show of pure resilience over the last few games, most notably away to Chelsea, is proof of Liverpool’s title credentials.

The defence has been a big part of this early drive in points and I agree with Aldridge completely when he says that Liverpool’s opponents are having a hard time of it lately because of it.

As many a Liverpool fan will attest, our defence has not always been a source of pride for the club, nor its title hopes.

In 2013/14, Brendan Rodgers’ side played some dazzling football but ultimately fell short of the long-awaited prize. Many will point to Rodgers’ reluctance to be pragmatic and settle for a point against Chelsea and the capitulation at Crystal Palace.

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However, I would be far more inclined to highlight Liverpool’s shaky defence, which leaked an eye-opening fifty goals. No other club in the top four came close to that figure, and within the top 6, only Tottenham managed to surpass it (with fifty-one).

As preferable as it would be for Liverpool to make a quick return to their free-scoring exploits of the previous season, we must not forget the lesson of 2013/14, especially considering the strength of Pep Guardiola’s City outfit.

The goals for Liverpool will come, but for now it remains absolutely essential that the club continues to build on its newfound defensive prowess.

In the meantime, let’s take a break from all the negativity and just enjoy the brilliant position we find ourselves in.

Is Liverpool’s resilient streak of late proof of title credentials? Or cause for concern? Have your say below.

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