It seems a long time ago that Liverpool’s defence was constantly mocked for their inability to see out leads, their defensive calamities and their goalkeeping mistakes. However, since the record arrivals of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker, as well as the trust Klopp has given to young Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, Liverpool’s defence has become one of the league’s best. So just how far have the Reds come and are they now genuine title contenders?
Virgil van Dijk (left) and Joe Gomez (right) celebrate their 2-1 victory over Spurs on Saturday (LFC SC Sweden)
Jurgen Klopp and his undefeated Liverpool have already been named as favourites to win the league alongside Manchester City and Chelsea. The Reds enjoyed a productive summer with four major incomings of Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson Becker and Xherdan Shaqiri all bringing a new air of positivity to Anfield. Fabinho and Shaqiri are yet to establish themselves as first team-regulars with the latter unlikely to do so but both Naby Keita and Alisson Becker have bee outstanding in their short time at the club so far.
Jurgen Klopp has spent three years building the perfect side for him and he has come a long way since the days of Adam Bogdan, Martin Skrtel and Alberto Moreno. The German manager was determined to bring ex-Southampton skipper, Virgil van Dijk to Liverpool in 2017, however, he had to wait until January 2018 when he got his man. The Dutchmen has completely transformed the Liverpool defence and since his arrival, the Reds have boasted the Premier League’s best defensive record with the most clean sheets and least goals conceded. Van Dijk has been instrumental in the improvement of all the defenders around him. Dejan Lovren, Andy Robertson and Joe Gomez have all become vital squad members while Trent Alexander-Arnold has been living the Scouse dream.
Alisson Becker (left) has kept more clean sheets (3) than any other Premier League keeper (Evening Standard)
The big question that remains is will they have anything to say for this improvement? There’s no use having the best defensive record if they can’t win titles so Klopp will seek his first piece of silverware since his arrival on Merseyside in 2015. If Liverpool are to win a trophy this season, they’ll certainly have their work cut out for them. They got to the Champions League final last season which was their third final under Klopp yet remain searching for the final piece of the puzzle. With huge improvements across all departments within the squad, they may finally have the winning element they’ve needed but will have to battle against the very best to get silverware.
Manchester City will be their biggest challenge. Liverpool faced Guardiola’s men four times last season and despite coming out on top on three occasions, they were embarrassed 5-0 when they went to the Etihad at the start of the 17/18 Premier League season. They returned with 4-3, 3-0 and 1-2 victories and have proven their ability to expose City’s defensive weaknesses and suppress their midfield creativity. Kevin de Bruyne remains sidelined and Liverpool have been making the most of his absence with five successive wins from five but will have their biggest challenge so far this season when they face City at Anfield on October 7th.
Mohamed Salah (centre) celebrates his Champions League goal against Manchester City (Football365)
Chelsea, under Maurizio Sarri, also look impressive and have overtaken Liverpool at the top of the Premier League on goal difference. Eden Hazard has returned to his best and the arrival of Jorginho in midfield with a change in system has made Chelsea a huge threat going forward. Liverpool have always struggled against Chelsea but with Van Dijk and Alisson at the top of their game, they have a great chance in both fixtures in the coming weeks.
Harry Kane and Spurs would have also appeared to be a significant challenge for the Reds but with Lloris and Dele Alli out, Liverpool walked all over Spurs at Wembley this weekend. They created chance after chance and while Salah and Mane weren’t as clinical as they usually are, they will be back to their best in no time. Spurs shouldn’t be a direct challenge to Liverpool’s trophy challenge but even if they do emerge as contenders, Klopp will be comfortable in his side’s ability to produce a similar performance again.
Gini Wijnaldum (centre) celebrates his first away goal in the Premier League against Spurs on Saturday (Liverpool Echo)
So Liverpool fans, what do you think, have Jurgen Klopp and his Reds shown title-winning form and will they be able to sustain it for the rest of the season? With the huge investment made this summer, he’ll be expected to get some silverware. Let us know what you expect by tweeting @AllOutFootball_ using #AOF.