In all honesty, Liverpool’s start to the 2016-2017 Premier League season has probably shocked a good number of fans. The club is playing free flowing football and results have been exemplary, for the most part.
BUT, it is important that the fans and players not get too carried away with title talk. It is understandable that Liverpool and their fans are more than hungry for a first Premier League title after a 27-year wait, but the goal for this season should simply be a top-four finish and, maybe, a cup final.
After last season’s eighth place finish, a season that also saw Klopp lead his men to the EFL Cup and Europa League finals, Liverpool are in a great position to finish in a Champions League place.
Recall Liverpool’s transition from 2012/2013 to 2013/2014. Brendan Rodgers took Liverpool from a seventh place finish to a second place finish and near Premier League title.
The team Rodgers lead onto the pitch week in week out was one that nobody saw achieving anything too major. The team was a good one, but they took everyone by surprise.
Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge scored goals for fun while Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson bossed the midfield.
— Warriors of Uruguay (@UruguayanHeroes) December 24, 2016
A few years later, Liverpool are in an almost identical situation. The Reds are five points off the top going into the second half of the season (could be 6 or 8 points depending on Chelsea’s result against Tottenham today).
While Liverpool do not possess a player who scores goals like Luis Suarez did, they are playing better team football and defending a bit better as well.
The atmosphere around the club is just the same, though. Fans and many ex-players see every win as a step towards the title, and each point dropped as a disgraceful and embarrassing performance that surely means the end of the title race for them.
This is where a potential problem lays in my eyes. It is important that the fans focus on what the true goal is this season is, a top-four finish.
Jurgen Klopp is desperate to get his side back into the Champions League and lift a trophy before too long and he has his side in a perfect position to do so this year.
Liverpool have yet to lose a match against any side in the top six and have a comfortable cushion in second place. In addition, Liverpool are in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup and will play a two-legged draw against Southampton in the coming weeks.
Klopp’s men are the favorites and if they keep their form up, strengthened by the near return of Philippe Coutinho, they should book their place in the final at Wembley for the second straight year.
After Liverpool’s slip up in 2013/2014, Brendan Rodgers made it clear that while losing out on the title was disappointing, the goal was never to win the title, but to finish in the top four. The team had simply surprised everyone and given them newfound hope. Klopp would say exactly the same thing if Liverpool are to miss out on the title but finish in a Champions League place. It feels very similar to that infamous season.
The mood surrounding the club took a big dip on Monday when Liverpool dropped two points against Sunderland. Fans began to lose hope in a title race and began to demand big money signings be brought into the club to turn it around.
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) January 4, 2017
But Liverpool are right where they should be. They have improved massively since last season and look motivated to lift a cup trophy this year after their heartbreaking losses in the EFL Cup and Europa League finals last season.
Yes, most of the points Liverpool have dropped this season have been avoidable and against smaller sides, but the few poor results should not help fans lose any faith whatsoever.
Liverpool's last 20 matches:
Lost 1 pic.twitter.com/PgOpjzsuTV
— Klopp (@BundesligaLFC) January 2, 2017
If you had been told as a fan that Liverpool would finish in the top four and battle to get into a cup final at the start of the season, would you have taken it?
Of course, there will always be fans who expect too much. Liverpool Football Club is one of the world’s most historic teams and there will always be people who are unimpressed and tough to satisfy. This is true for just about every sporting team worldwide.
Now, this is all not to say that Liverpool cannot win the title. They definitely can and there is plenty of football to be played this year, but in the event that the title race is lost, the focus should be, and should always have been, to finish in the top four.
If Klopp is given sufficient time, he will win a Premier League title with Liverpool, it almost seems like it is predetermined, but this season might be simply too early.