By Hayden Boyle – @hayden_boyle
“Liverpool are back in the big time here for sure” “I think they have more of a chance in the
Champions’ League if I’m being honest.” That was Cardiff City manager Neil Warnock after Liverpool beat his side 4-1 at Anfield on the weekend. It was an honest and open assessment of his team’s opponent, rare in today’s media-managed world.
Liverpool did it relatively comfortably against a Cardiff team who are one of my picks to suffer the drop at seasons end. It could be argued that the score-line was flattering, that when Cardiff scored and made it 2-1 things got a little a nervy.
Liverpool responded brilliantly and closed the game out with a further two goals, but it was Warnock’s comments that had me most intrigued.
Liverpool typically under Klopp are a direct, quick and aggressive attacking team. Counter-attacks are brutal, they’re efficient and in front of goal usually clinical. It’s what makes this team so much fun to watch. It could be argued they’re a team set up for cup competitions, for cut throat matches when there is no tomorrow.
The Champions league run last season proved that, a 20-minute burst often blew opponents away and the goal difference was just too much to make up the following week. It felt like everything was left out on the pitch. And my word it was entertaining.
This season has started differently, Liverpool’s style seems like it has altered, maybe more
composure and a greater emphasis on control of the game. The defence is by far and away the
tightest it has been under Klopp and perhaps even as far back as the Benitez era, led by the
outstanding Virgil van Dijk. Opposition teams already knew what to expect from the attack but now come to face Liverpool knowing the defence will be equally as impressive.
Has the overall defensive stability come at the cost of the attacking game? I’d argue no, statistically Liverpool continue to score at a good rate and the team has in fact more goals than the same point in the league last season. It hasn’t been as free flowing sure, but there is no doubt this team has grown up.
The question for me is what does Liverpool prioritise in terms of competition, if anything at all?
Warnock’s comments suggest he sees us as a cup team, capable of the shorter-term sprint and not the marathon of the league.
But I disagree, 17/18 Liverpool was set up that way because Klopp was still missing key pieces of the puzzle and identified Europe as a more achievable target with the tools at his disposal. And to be honest, once City were 20 points clear they were never going to be caught.
To put it simply both trophies are attainable, does priority matter? No, not in my view and there is a feeling amongst the fanbase that Liverpool should be gunning for glory in Europe and in England.
Squad depth is now at Klopp’s disposal and such heavy reliance on the prolific front 3 has been eased (Shaq anybody?). The defence is strong, the midfield looks more than just reliable with the slow integration of Fabinho and Keita and there is a world-class Brazilian between the sticks.
So, Neil you’re wrong, Liverpool under Klopp are on the road to success, the League is achievable as is a 6th Champions league. The priority is winning silverware and I think it’s around the corner.