As we are forced to once again ask ourselves whether this might be Liverpool’s year, there can be no doubt that this week centred on Anfield’s past, present and future.
In one seven-day period, ex-Red Brendan Rodgers returned to the Premier League dugout while current manager Jurgen Klopp had to plan for two of English Football’s biggest derbies, with a tricky visit from a powerful Watford team sandwiched in between.
Nothing better demonstrates Liverpool’s resurgence this season than Van Dijk’s immense defensive performance
A resurgent Manchester City, buoyed by recent cup final success, only added to Klopp’s growing issues in a week that certainly contained the possibility to define Liverpool’s season.
Monday morning’s press led the charge in questioning Liverpool’s attacking impotency following their blunt display against an injury-rattled United team. Rodger’s return, resurfacing memories of their infamous title slip-up in the 2013-14 season, only exacerbated concerns over a recent downturn in form and Klopp’s ability to see the season out.
A point at Old Trafford is a good result for any team, but it is the manner in which they drew that would have worried Liverpool fans, so proud of their Red Arrows’ incredible goal-scoring abilities.
The visit of a challenging Watford team, a leading competitor in the ‘best of the rest’ race, contained the potential to send Liverpool into crisis and put the Premier League title, which had seemed so close in December, in serious jeopardy.
Liverpool passed this test with flying colours. To score five in the way they did was a sign of where Klopp’s team are at the moment. To record a clean sheet against a team who matched such a feat five days earlier is a sign of how far they have come.
Nothing better demonstrates Liverpool’s resurgence this season than Van Dijk’s immense defensive performance and goalscoring exploits at the other end; a physical embodiment of the steel of this Liverpool team that has responded to its central weaknesses of last year.
This was a performance to silence the critics and dispel the doubt that had emerged in days-gone-by, and did so emphatic fashion.
What does this mean for Liverpool’s immediate future? Few would deny the formidable challenge that Guardiola’s Manchester City team continue to present, and it seems that this threat will never truly disappear until Jordan Henderson can place his hands on the Premier League trophy.
Klopp’s midfield still has question marks over its creative ability and guile, and the injury to Roberto Firmino could threaten the dynamism of Anfield’s Red Arrows. Nevertheless, the Liverpool team will surely be approaching the 200th league meeting with their Merseyside rivals with optimism.
it is unquestionable that Liverpool are heading in the right direction
They continue to lead the title charge having played many of their more significant competitors. Mohamed Salah is still well in the race for the Golden Boot while the imminent return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s drive and athleticism could provide the solution to these midfield issues.
If Divock Origi can score in the manner he did, they must be doing something right. Even when thinking beyond this season, Trent Alexander-Arnold’s hattrick of assists (the youngest Premier league player to do so) demonstrates that this is a Liverpool team with its best years ahead of it.
What will happen in the coming weeks is guesswork, but it is unquestionable that Liverpool are heading in the right direction.
The Merseyside Derby and the culmination of one of the best title races of recent years, however, can leave us in little doubt that Premier League fans will have experienced a fantastic season that has set the stage for a brilliant few years in English football.
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