Liverpool must shake off a bad habit if they’re to challenge this season.
West Ham at home is one of those fixtures isn’t it. They’re one of those sides who can prove a right pain in the arse on their day.
Despite the East Londoner’s significant strengthening this summer, on paper this should be a no contest, but we all know that quite often these games aren’t that easy for Liverpool.
Last season only three sides drew more games that us. All three of those clubs finished in the bottom five. Only one club on the other hand lost fewer games and scored more goals, that would be the League Champions.
The Champions League run last season turned everyone’s heads, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that once again, on the final day of the campaign, Liverpool needed a win against Brighton to be absolutely sure of their place in the top four.
Having scored eighty-four goals and only lost five times in the League all season, this situation was a bit bizarre to say the least. But it is a symptom of Liverpool’s, at times, inability to games to bed. Even under Klopp, it’s a bad habit that but be put to bed this season.
History cannot repeat
It’s a decade since Liverpool came so painfully close to the 08/09 title under Benitez. His was a Liverpool team full of talent, a group of players that should have won so much more.
That title challenge failed, partly, because of too many bloody draws. Liverpool only lost twice all season in the League, unheard of for a generation that had grown up in the post 1990 era. It was not enough though. Eleven draws with horrible sides who camped ten men in their own half, saw us finish second.
Then as now, there was a sense of anticipation going into that season. The previous couple of campaigns had been excellent. Liverpool had reached four major finals between 2005-2008 winning two of them, and under Benitez we’d once again become one of the best and most respected club’s in Europe.
Torres and Gerrard terrified everyone in 2007-08, so it was no surprise therefore that in 08-09, every side came to Anfield with that extra sense of dread. The fact Liverpool couldn’t put a significant number of these teams to bed was so ultimately so very costly.
Social media generation
A decade on and the anticipation that fans felt going into 08/09, feels like small beer in comparison to the surge in optimism going into this campaign.
We are ten years further on in to the social media generation this time round, and that has perhaps added to the swollen sense of expectation. A training ground save from Alisson can be watched by millions of gasping fans. As can a social media posting of the players bonding over karaoke.
Fans can constantly speculate and predict online and coupled with the productive transfer window the club has just had, this has led to the huge weight of expectation placed on the club this season.
Buck the trend
As in 08-09 though, this season, starting with West Ham on Sunday, Liverpool are going to have to grapple with an old enemy. Themselves. It may sound over dramatic, but in all of the aforementioned failures to put teams away, Liverpool can only really have themselves to blame.
Yes it’s grim to see a side play without any football ambition and hope for a snide goal on the counter or set piece, but you have to find a way to get past these sides. Too often Liverpool have been left scratching their heads as overly defensive sides nick a point. Over the course of a full Premier League season, it can become death by a dozen draws as the club is made to pay for it’s lack of ability to finish games off.
There are signs thought that this is slowly ebbing away. Under Van Dijk, Liverpool looked a lot more solid, and the defender has been deceptively good going forward. The world’s most expensive centre half misplaced fewer than four passes a game in the league last season and can really help Liverpool build from the back, giving them a platform to be more patient against deep siting sides.
Salah’s impact surpassed all of our expectation last season and the hope will be that this season, with Keita and Shaqiri bolstering the attack with added pace and skill. Liverpool appear to have added that extra bit of creativity and guile to finally buck their costly trend. West Ham will be the first big test, the quickly comes Palace away. The time is now to put all of this theory into practice.