We might as well just face it; it’s a darn good time to be a Liverpool fan. The club was on a slippery slope for the past two years, falling away from the form that brought them Premier League runners up spot in the 2008-09 campaign. However, the route has been changed, gears have been shifted and the Reds are back on the track to success. Investors and businessman alike would say that Liverpool has had ‘a good year’.
This time last year, the team were floundering in 17th place as then-manager Roy Hodgson started the first of his torrid six months with the club. They now find themselves in first place, just above Chelsea, with whom they’re sure to be vying with for a Champions League place this season.
Of course, position doesn’t count for that much in these early days of the league. There are too many factors in the opening fixtures to look at the table as completely reliable. That being said, that turnaround is more symbolic for the Merseysiders than anything. It signifies the revolution that’s boiling at Anfield, and how what was once so bad one year ago, has turned into something much more productive.
And ‘Revolution’ is exactly the tagline that befits the club. In these last twelve months, they’ve seen a change of manager, new ownership, they’ve lost one Latin star and they’ve brought another one in. Not to mention the other draft of talent the Kop will now witness every week.
I don’t need to tell you how Kenny Dalglish brought Liverpool’s season back from the death last term. Roy Hodgson guided his newest batch of players to a very below standard level of mediocrity. When the Scot came in, his beloved team Reds were sitting in a miserable 13th place. After bringing in the big money duo of Andy Carroll and Luis Suarez, the Kopites salvaged an unglamorous 6th place finish. Another admirable feat that Dalglish accomplished was managing to squeeze the very best out of players such as Raul Meireles and Lucas Leiva. They were the same players they had been under Hodgson, but the Kop hero did something with the players, and whatever it was, it worked.
The 2004-05 Champions League winners are now flying high with seven points taken from a possible nine out of their opening three league fixtures. The placement may only be temporary, but even if Manchester United leapfrog into first place with a win over Arsenal on Sunday, Liverpool can take solace in the fact that they are more than capable of claiming it back at some point.
Last week, Liverpool outclassed an out of luck Arsenal to claim a 2-0 victory at the Emirates Stadium. The team showed fluidity, pace and were glad to see that new signings Charlie Adam, Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing all in fine form. Above all however, the Merseysiders showed squad depth, something Arsenal couldn’t be further from at the moment. Raul Meireles and Luis Suarez were ready to leap off the bench and of course were instrumental in the two late goals that resulted in the win.
After the disappointing 1-1 draw against Sunderland, it was vital the players turned out against the Gunners, and despite the pressure, Kenny turned up with the goods. Undermanned they may have been but Arsenal were still no pushovers. Nasri of course saw his last minutes playing for the North London side and Van Persie is never a small threat, but were ultimately swept aside.
This Saturday’s game was no different in the respect that it affirmed Liverpool’s chances of getting back into the Champions League and perhaps even challenging for the league title. Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam were of course both brought in over the summer window, and were on hand to prove why Kenny was right to have faith in the pair by rewarding him with a goal each. Martin Skrtel also got forward off of a Adam delivered corner to add to the goal tally.
When Fenway Sports Group, owned by John W. Henry, took over the club nearly a year ago, a promise was made by the Americans for cash to be injected. It’s no secret that Rafael Benitez and Roy Hodgson both made some questionable signings during their spells at the club’s helm. The likes of Christian Poulsen and Alberto Aquilani still linger on at Anfield, despite the latter now being loaned to AC Milan.
The first bit of transfer business Henry made at the club was selling former Kop star, Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m. The sale is now famously seen as savvy business as Torres fails to recapture the form he displayed with Liverpool. That being said, The £58m spent on Suarez and Carroll was appreciated by the fans, with the Uruguayan forward quickly showing why he warranted a £23m price tag. Another £55m was then spent over the summer on Adam, Henderson, Enrique and Downing, all of whom featured spectacularly in the 3-1 win over Bolton.
Dalglish looks to have conducted some wily business with Enrique. The Spaniard basically operates as a third winger, linking up superbly with Downing down the left leaving Bolton full-back Steinsson with no chance of defending the onslaught. Adam showed that he’s more diverse than some may think, uncharacteristically rolling in from outside the box on his right peg for once. Jordan Henderson showed why the club paid £20m for his services, curling wonderfully into the top corner to crown his first goal at Anfield. Finally, Suarez put in his usual workhorse job, creating when and how he saw fit, earning a man of the match performance.
It’s not just the new signings who are impressing though. Kenny Dalglish now has simply the greatest dilemma a manager can have on his hands, in that he has too many good players to use. So much so, that £35m signing Andy Carroll could only feature in the last ten minutes as a Suarez substitute.
It’s nice to see that new signings aren’t the only ones picking up the pace. Lucas, Dirk Kuyt and old stalwart Jamie Carragher all gave reliable performances, worthy of any Premier League side. Brazilian Lucas was once the laughing stock at Anfield who people couldn’t believe was a part of the Brazilian national side. The defensive midfielder is now the foundations of a streamline Liverpool offense, laying the base for any attack they may create. At 24 years-old, his work-rate is as high as ever, chasing back relentlessly, he’ll be hard to get past this season.
Now, King Kenny finds himself on the verge of another cut-price signature in the form of Sebastian Coates. Their defence has been impressive this season, only conceding one goal to Ivan Klasnic that was only due to a sleeping Jamie Carragher. An issue Coates looks to resolve. The Uruguayan was awarded the accolade of Young Player of the Tournament at this year’s Copa America, and at 20 has plenty of time to flourish.
Everyone is talking about the youthful influx taking place at Old Trafford but, almost harmoniously, their rivals down the road are quietly establishing a future-proof squad of their own. Steven Gerrard may be injured, but you know you’re in a good place when even if he were fit, he would still need to fight to get into your side.