Second time writing this, first time around my laptop crashed and I lost 900 words so here goes again. Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years, here’s something to help get 2019 off to a positive start.
So let’s start with some of the best bits from December, we beat Everton thanks to Jordan Pickford literally handing Divock Origi the opportunity to score the match winner in the 96th minute, we beat Napoli 1-0 at home to progress through to the last-16 of the champions league, beat Manchester United 3-1 when we arguably were pretty sloppy and thrashed Arsenal 5-1 at home to see out what has certainly been a positive year for the Reds minus one forgettable day in Kiev in may.
But the real testing of our ability to handle pressure was against Arsenal, yeah I know we beat Manchester United – but all rivalries aside we all kind of expected that didn’t we? And this isn’t me being a cocky deluded fan but I think most of us knew it would pan out the way it did – our vibrant, exciting and energetic style of football versus Mourinho’s boring, almost lethargic and out-dated tactics.
Arsenal was always going to be a big game, they’ve really shown glimpses of what they could become under Unai Emery, and it’s pretty similar to the transition we have gone through under Jurgen Klopp. Arsenal was different because we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and a true test of our ability to perform under pressure having learnt that Manchester City had dropped points elsewhere.
But we responded brilliantly after going 1 down, the Liverpool of a few seasons back under Brendan Rogers would have crumbled after going 1-0 down, Klopp has instilled belief and confidence into both the team and the fans and it’s great to see, something that we have lacked for so long.
Which leads me on to my next point, the personnel. Only recently could you scroll through Twitter and see lots of “FSG out” content, calling for Klopp to go, for the board to go, the fans weren’t happy. This was because we saw the success other teams were having and we wanted in on it, and rightly so.
Fast forward a little bit and I don’t think anyone could knock our recent transfer business, gone are the days of the “Transfer Committee” and them handing our manager a list of potential candidates and asking him to pick who he wants. Now Klopp has the full backing of the board and Michael Edwards. This is highlighted when you look at the Virgil Van Dijk saga, Klopp told the board who he wanted, he had “A-class” and “B-class” candidates, the “A-class” candidates included the likes of Van Dijk, Koulibaly (Napoli) and Laporte (Then at Athletic Bilbao). Klopp wanted a world-class defender one way or another, and that’s what he got – the signing of Van Dijk set the precedent for us and seems to be worth every penny so far.
This apparent change in our transfer policy has been really evident for the first half of this season too. Alisson has conceded 8 goals so far in the league this season, Everton conceded 6 in 90 minutes against Tottenham.
Alisson is what we have been so desperate for, his sheer ability gives the entire back 4 confidence should he actually need to be tested during a game, alongside this Virgil Van Dijk has proven all those who mocked his price tag wrong, with an average tackle success rate of 73% – The season before Virgil Van Dijk signed for us we conceded 1.2 goals per game with a clean sheet percentage of just 32%, pretty bad right?
Following the big man arriving at Anfield that expected goals figure has dropped to just 0.5 per game, with a clean sheet percentage of 57% so far, Some improvement that.
I can’t really talk about December and not mention Fabinho either. Whilst Naby Keita is still adapting to life in the Premier League, Fabinho has really shown his quality with some of his recent performances, the assist for Mane against Manchester United really got us all excited. Fabinho has surely nailed down his spot in the starting XI – his ability to read the game so well, the way he opens up his body when receiving the ball so he can pass as soon as the ball lands at his feet, his ability to orchestrate technical fouls at the right moments, it’s perfect for our system.
We’ve seen some changes in our formations lately too, having become so used to a 4-3-3 it’s refreshing to see Klopp switch things up, mainly to get the best out of Mo Salah. We’ve predominantly been using a 4-2-3-1 lately with Salah as a lone striker, Bobby in behind him, with Mane on the left and Shaqiri on the right. A double-pivoted midfield usually consists of two of Fabinho, Henderson, Keita, Wijnaldum or Milner (nice to see us finally having some depth by the way).
All in all December was a pretty good month, we’re top of the Premier League, ahead of “one of the greatest teams ever” in the form of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. We’ve beaten Everton, Manchester United (got Jose Mourinho sacked in the process) and Arsenal, are through to the last-16 of the Champions League and we’re playing some of the most entertaining and exciting football in the world.
Here’s to hoping we can keep this momentum going until the end of the season, it’s nice to see nobody getting carried away, because it’s never won until it’s won, let’s just hope this special team we currently have can come away with something that proves just how special they, and this football club are, onwards and upwards, Happy New Year!