This season has been a welcome surprise. No longer am I rising to my feet, screaming praise at our goalscoring only to later sit in silent, depressed desperation as we concede.
Well, this season we haven’t been conceding.
And I haven’t been stressing that we would concede.
Sure, we haven’t had a perfect clean sheet of a season. But with the exception of the league cup game this week (can we just pretend like it never happened?) and our grueling second performance against Chelsea at the weekend, overall, our defense has looked incredible. It’s a massive and overwhelming improvement over last season.
Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, and Andy Robertson have been at the top of their game, with the cherry on top of Alisson Becker. For every error, of which there have been a few (some major, some not so major), these players have come through for us three or four times over. The pace, the awareness, the tackles—all impressive and cementing trust from me. A lot of folks want to call TAA out for an error leading to Hazard’s goal in the league game, and they might be right.
But I remind everyone that it was Eden Hazard and Chelsea making us work for every second of that game. One error, one mistake, one goal, and I’m still okay with our performance. We were at Stamford Bridge going against a Chelsea squad on our level, riding the high of a new manager, and hungrily vying for that top spot in the table. It’s frustrating because we weren’t at 100%, our finishing wasn’t clinical, but to come away with a point was fantastic. Especially when you think about last year, and how we probably would’ve fallen apart under the same circumstances.
It would have been a different story if our front three had managed better finishes. Our attacking force…ah yes…the surprise Golden Trio from last year’s campaign.
LEAGUE STATS for our FORWARDS as of Oct 1st
SADIO MANE – 7 GAMES – 4 GOALS – 0 ASSISTS – 19 SHOTS
MO SALAH – 7 GAMES – 3 GOALS – 1 ASSIST – 29 SHOTS
BOBBY FIRMINO – 7 GAMES – 2 GOALS – 2 ASSISTS – 14 SHOTS
DANIEL STURRIDGE – 5 GAMES – 2 GOALS – 0 ASSISTS – 5 SHOTS
Sadio Mane has come forward at full force, maintaining his place as an integral and efficient part in the team (I know what you’re going to say, Timucin, but I like my forwards a tad bit selfish). He’s creating opportunities, but not always making the best decisions in the box. He had a few phenomenal shots that were saved by Kepa. Had he made one of those, no one would be criticizing him.
Mo Salah has been slow to come back from his serious injury in May, but he has been delivering forward dribbles, assists, and goals. His number of shots (29) proves that he’s still able to work his magic, it’s just the finishing that is tripping him up. While I hope he finds his mojo soon, his current stats aren’t too worrisome. I don’t know if it is related to his injury, or if perhaps it’s all in his head. But I’m willing to give him the time to work it out.
One-Eyed Bobby has been doing fantastic, coming through for us in so many ways. With two goals and two assists in the league, I’m positive he’s going to maintain if not surpass his contributions from last season. (I’m not biased at all or anything. It’s not like he’s my favorite player. It’s not as if I ordered the one-eyed celebration phone case last Friday.)
And then we have our new player: Daniel Sturridge.
Oh wait… he’s not a new signing? But I’ll be damned if it feels like I’m watching someone new, right up until he scores a banger and does the ridiculous and fantastic Studge Dance. What a wonderful surprise it’s been seeing him subbed on, looking to be at full strength again. He has been the definition of an impact sub. We didn’t have this kind of weapon last season, and he’s got the skill to make a real difference in moments when we desperately need it. Few thought he’d be back to these great heights.
Shaqiri hasn’t been quite as surprising. He’s performing exactly how I imagined he would, and I can only hope that with more time under Klopp, he can advance to great things. In my eyes, he is a good Ox placeholder. He has 1 assist and 0 goals in the league so far, and he’s missed some great shots. It’s clear he could prove valuable across all competitions, but like our Golden Trio, we need Shaq at 100%, finishing his chances. He has the pace and the skill, and I don’t question his drive or determination.
I’m not going to comment too much on the midfield. Everyone has their opinions. Well, everyone thinks James Milner is the second coming and everyone is right. While our new midfield signings of Keita and Fabinho have strengths, they don’t outweigh or overshadow our veterans. In fact, Gini Wijnaldum has risen to new heights, taking a starting position in midfield and owning it. Gini is probably our strongest midfielder at the moment, between his endurance, vision, and defensive mindset.
Keita and Fabinho have massive qualities, but we haven’t seen them yet. People can talk about how great they are, but that’s in the past, with other teams. We still have yet to see them fully integrated into the first team, and Klopp undoubtedly has his reasons. With Milner and Gini earning starting places, I’m not worried. (I’m not going to touch Hendo with a ten-foot stick. You either see what he brings, or you don’t, and it’s a matter of opinion, especially if you want Fabinho in for him after seeing his performance against Chelsea in the league cup tie.)
I love this team (the love was never in question) but even better, I trust this team. If 75mil can buy that and fix half of what we already had, then it’s safe to say Virgil van Dijk was worth every penny. No matter who his partner is, Lovren last season or Gomez this season, he makes them better. He makes everyone better.
Since the beginning of last season, with the exception of maybe Woodburn and Moreno, not a single player in our squad has gotten worse (lower your pitchforks, Hendo-haters). Maybe there have been slumps, dips in form, but overall, we’ve been on the rise.
All Klopp has to do is say Look at what we did when we were struggling; when half of us were injured; when everyone said we weren’t good enough.
We’re at full strength now; we’re ready and able. The sky is the limit.
Our biggest test so far will Manchester City this weekend. A win would be amazing, but a draw wouldn’t be the end of the world. We’re winning games that last season we’d lose, and we’re performing week in and week out at a level we haven’t seen in many moons. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, it’s the sort of team you dream of supporting. No matter what happens, this is going to be a great season of football.