Liverpool’s Premier League victory over Swansea on Saturday lunchtime showed any doubters that this is a team ready to compete at the top of the table this season.
The Reds have been widely praised for their high-intensity attacking style of play in their opening fixtures, but here they were forced to grind out a tough result against a resolute Swans defence.
— Liverpool FC News (@LivEchoLFC) October 1, 2016
Trailing 1-0 at half-time to a contentious Leroy Fer goal, it took a Roberto Firmino header and a penalty from James Milner to send all three points back to Anfield.
It was by no means a classic performance, but Liverpool got the job done to keep the pressure on at the top of the table; here we look at three reasons why they could be set to challenge this year.
Developing a defined style of play is something that manager Jurgen Klopp has worked on since day one and it is now finally coming to fruition.
Each player knows exactly how the team is going to set up and what their own role is within the larger unit.
The team press as one and look to win the ball back high up the pitch, meaning that they can counter very quickly and look to sucker-punch teams.
This only works if the whole team fully embraces the philosophy and so naturally was always going to take time to perfect – hence Liverpool’s somewhat patchy form last season after Klopp took the reigns.
However, they now look like a coherent team all singing from the same hymn sheet, particularly when contrasted with some of their rivals such as Manchester United and Chelsea, who are still searching for their own identity under new managers.
The Reds even received a ringing endorsement from United legend Paul Scholes this week, a sure sign that they are on the right track.
Paul Scholes: “Liverpool look like they’re a team who can win the league but I hope they don’t!” pic.twitter.com/2pAH76cALg
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) September 30, 2016
Any side that is gunning for a top-four finish and beyond needs one or two outstanding players who can turn a game in an instant.
Liverpool are blessed with some gifted attacking talents; the likes of Firmino, Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane all have a bit of magic in their boots.
There is no question though that the talisman in this side is Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho.
“Liverpool feels like my home,” says Coutinho. “It’s an amazing city.”https://t.co/N7sNW3gMRx
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) October 1, 2016
The diminutive former Inter man notched a career-best eight Premier League goals last season, despite missing 12 matches, earning him the club’s Player of the Year award.
He has begun this campaign in explosive form with three league goals in the first seven games, all different finishes but each of them exquisitely taken.
Coutinho would arguably walk into any side in the league and keeping him fit for the season will be key to the Reds’ ambitions.
The Klopp factor
Liverpool’s charismatic boss has quickly become a fan favourite, not just amongst the Anfield faithful but across the league.
With all of his exuberant celebrations and quirky post-match interviews, it is easy to forget that Klopp is a top-class manager with a track record for overachieving.
His first managerial role was with Mainz 05, where he took the club to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history and qualified for the 2005-06 UEFA Cup.
He took over at sleeping giants Borussia Dortmund in 2008 and in his third season won the title; Klopp would go on to repeat the feat in the following campaign and reach the Champions League final in 2013.
In both of his previous roles, the talismanic trainer was given time to mould a team to his own specifications and it looks as if his Liverpool project is starting to take shape.
— Sky Football ⚽️ (@SkyFootball) October 1, 2016
Time is not a luxury afforded to many managers in the Premier League, but the German is now coming up to a year in charge and fans are justifiably excited by the progress the team appears to be making.
The defence is still a concern; the Anfield outfit have yet to keep a clean sheet in the league this season and this may be their downfall in terms of a sustained title challenge.
Despite this, Liverpool certainly look good enough to be in the mix for the top four and few would be surprised if they were there or thereabouts come next May.