By Hani Na’eem – @hani_eem
Having recorded yet another clean sheet in their latest Premier League game against Everton, Liverpool are turning into a side that is very difficult and ugly to play against – a pattern that has developed because of excellent defensive displays, and one that fans should get behind.
At a time when football fans seem to become more acquainted with the notion that winning and winning alone is not enough and the said win should always come as a result of sheer attacking brilliance, one should take a moment to appreciate what a team can achieve with a great backline.
Reds fans should know this better than others. After all, for all the attacking masterclass that the team produced last season, defensive solidity was arguably what the team needed to take that extra step towards the tangible success of lifting a trophy.
A similar assessment could be given to the 2013/14 Premier League season when Liverpool came agonisingly close to lifting the Premier League title – scoring a record 101 goals – only to be denied at the closing stages of the season. Liverpool conceded 50 goals that season, more than any side in the top eight bar Tottenham, who conceded 51.
This season, much has been said and written about Liverpool’s frontline not being up to the usual standards. While this could be partially true in terms of attacking performance, the same cannot be said about the goals return. The Reds have scored 26 goals so far in the league, compared to 25 at the same stage last year.
The excellent defensive work put in by the Anfield club this year, however, is making all the difference, and fans should embrace this change in approach rather than slate the attacking performance after each game. Liverpool have the joint best record for goals conceded this season – five after 14 games.
At this stage last season, Jurgen Klopp’s men had already conceded 18. This impressive improvement puts Liverpool in a very good position to chase champions Manchester City, who also seem to have improved on their remarkable performances and numbers from last season.
Whether this change in approach is by design or not simply does not matter at this point as the team is taking to its new shape remarkably well.
There was arguably some doubt among Reds fans of their teams performances at the start of the season as the team saw a number of narrow victories, but this should not be a concern now because of the consistency that the team showed in controlling games.
At one stage last season, fans simply came to accept the Liverpool way: Trying to always be on the front foot and relying on high-energy pressing, leaving it very nervy at the back at times. It is about time now that our fans stop all the talk of a weakened attack and get behind the team’s new way of getting things done.