Twenty-six years ago, Liverpool Football Club won their 18th and last first division title.
The world was a much different place nearly three decades ago. Nelson Mandala was just released from prison, Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and East and West Germany were formally re-united the same year Liverpool last won the top-prize in English football.
After 11 games in 2016-17, Liverpool look like they could once again regain the perch that Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United so unceremoniously knocked them off of.
The Reds enter the international break on top of the English Premier League. With 26 points from a possible 33, the Reds have been firing on all cylinders. At least all cylinders when in attack.
Liverpool top the Premier League in goals scored with 30 and average 2.7 goals per match. Despite Manchester City’s high-priced stars, Liverpool’s high-pressure team is thwarting clubs left and right in the Premier League. In just their last two fixtures, Liverpool have racked up 10 goals to the opponents three. A fantastic stat as the team have shared the scoring among a trio of players.
Philippe Coutinho remains the heart and soul of the Reds’ attack. With five assists currently, the Brazilian is the creative spark that ignites Liverpool’s attack. Roberto Firmino has continued the form he finished 2015-16 in. The former Hoffenheim player has five goals and three assists in 10 games. He has played as the featured striker in Jurgen Klopp’s false No. 9 formation; which has been favoured by the German coach in eight league matches.
Firmino’s play has kept true strikers Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi out of the starting XI for the most part. When Sturridge has played, Firmino has played on the left and been slightly less effective.
Even when Sturridge and Origi have played, Firmino’s form has put the Brazilian head and shoulders about them. Neither Sturridge nor Origi have scored this term, despite both playing in eight fixtures for the Reds.
Even with Firmino’s fantastic form, perhaps Sadio Mane has been the biggest revelation. When Liverpool paid £34 million for him over the summer, fans could have been forgiven if they had expected Mane to be another big money failure to arrive from Southampton. Yet, Mane has been anything but that. His pace, tenacity and liveliness on the pitch has turned the Reds’ pressing and counter-attack up a notch.
So the big question is now, can the Liverpool attack drive them to the title? The simple answer is yes. The team were nearly there just a few seasons ago with Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling and Sturridge leading the way.
However, the current team has far more attacking weapons than Brendan Rodgers’ team in 2013-14. With Sturridge, Origi and an in-form Adam Lallana, Liverpool look more dangerous than ever. The hope is that Sturridge or Origi could step in if needed and continue the goal scoring Liverpool have had thus far.
In Klopp’s favour is Liverpool’s upcoming fixtures. The Reds have already played the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea. The Reds took an important eight from 12 points in those four fixtures, an outstanding return.
Liverpool’s next match against a top-six rival won’t come until New Year’s Eve when they host Manchester City. Although there is a Merseyside Derby against Everton just before that.
Is it Liverpool’s year to win the Premier League? Based on the team’s attack, it just might be. The defence has done just enough each week, but needs to improve. Defensive lapses have been a feature of the team this term.
During Klopp’s time a Borussia Dortmund, he built his title winning sides on defence. His teams gave up 22 and 25 goals in two title winning seasons, respectively. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have the same defensive qualities in his current players. Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic were the bedrocks of that those teams. Both centre-backs played in front of the highly experienced shot-stopper Roman Weidenfeller. Liverpool’s goalkeepers are nowhere near the German’s standards of those title winning seasons.
The yellow and black scored 67 and 80 goals in 34 games, respectively. This season’s Liverpool have already scored nearly half of that latter number in a third of the games. If the Reds don’t win this year’s Premier League title, it won’t be for a lack of goals.