I was wrong, Liverpool are a complete team and could finish the Premier League season unbeaten
Written by Chris Winterburn
I’ve spent much of the 2019/20 season waiting for Liverpool to slip-up, not due to any personal vendetta, but merely because I didn’t feel as though the Reds were as good a team as many suggested.
I could see holes in midfield where Jordan Henderson’s lack of technical ability would be exploited, whilst I also felt Mohamed Salah’s connection with Sadio Mane could prove problematic with regards to Liverpool’s attacking moves.
Furthermore, after having gotten so close to the Premier League title last term, only to be pipped by a merciless Manchester City side, I simply didn’t see how Jurgen Klopp could get anymore out of that group of players he had.
A European Cup win seemed a fitting reward for his work, especially when the summer transfer window was so quiet for the Merseyside club, although that was understandable when you look at the money spent on Alisson Becker, Virgil van Dijk and Fabinho, although much of that came from Philippe Coutinho’s sale.
How could you catch this Manchester City side without improving your squad? Yet in hindsight this was a short-sighted view on my behalf, I’d underestimated the coaching ability of the former Borussia Dortmund boss, he didn’t need to buy players, he’s extracted another level out of almost everyone in his squad from last term. Liverpool are indeed a complete team, and they could finish the Premier League season unbeaten.
Of course, Manchester City haven’t been as excellent this season and they have dropped far more points than normal, but that’s irrelevant when you take into account Liverpool’s run of results. Even if City had matched their play from last year, Liverpool would still be ahead at the summit of the table.
The palpable sense of relief and joy around Anfield when Mohamed Salah’s injury time goal went past David de Gea on Sunday afternoon could be felt all the way up the M62.
Manchester United had battled valiantly, without any real quality, but Liverpool had won comfortably without being at their best.
Jordan Henderson was incredible, covering every blade of grass in midfield and driving Liverpool’s off-ball press up the field. Just go back and re-watch the match and count how many times United simply gave the ball away from their own defensive zone in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Henderson facilitated that.
Of course, he’s not Paul Scholes or Xabi Alonso, but perhaps that’s not something we should criticise him for. He adds balance to Klopp’s teams and makes the style of play the German prefers actually work. Sometimes a complete team isn’t the most glamourous, but the one which works in the most efficient way.
Not that Liverpool lack technical quality. In previous years under Klopp it could be argued that the Reds were overly direct. Now, this isn’t in the Big Sam way of getting the ball as far away from his team’s own goal as quickly as possible, but rather a consequence of a lack of technique in midfield.
Liverpool’s front players were so impressive that it was imperative the ball was sent to them as quickly as possible, yet whilst this style of play may always have stunned Manchester City in individual matches, it wouldn’t win the Reds their coveted Premier League title. Enter Fabinho.
The Brazilian has taken Liverpool to the next level. He impressed in his first season at Anfield when he eventually broke into the team, but it’s been during his second season where he has been nothing short of perfect.
I made the rather bold, foolish-looking now, claim that in the Brazilian’s injury absence, Liverpool would see their unbeaten run in the Premier League come to an end.
Yet, as the familiar looking frame of the wiry former Real Madrid player took part in the warm-down exercises at Anfield in the aftermath of Sunday’s victory, Liverpool still had zero defeats on their copybook.
Fabinho’s return is only going to make the team stronger, and yes there will be challenges with maintaining performances in multiple competitions, but this Liverpool team is basically without flaw, if you don’t count Dejan Lovren.
I hadn’t seen it before, but I do now, this is a more complete team than Arsenal’s 2003/04 invincibles, albeit in a different way. Maybe they don’t have the best in the world player that Thierry Henry was in 2004, and perhaps they don’t have the all-conquering physical defence, although they aren’t far off. However, they play much more refined football, they are much more capable of getting positive results, and they are doing it against generally harder competition in the Premier League.
Few thought Arsenal’s achievement could be matched with how competitive the Premier League is now, but Liverpool can do it, and you’d be a fool to bet against them doing so, as they’ve made people eat their words at every single turn.