For much of my Liverpool-supporting life, I’ve been accused of being needlessly pessimistic. I often expect us to lose every big game we play, even though Jurgen Klopp has a superb record against rivals, and prior to his appointment, I would write us off at every given opportunity. This may have been a defence mechanism, in order to soften the blow when defeats inevitably came along, but there was still a part of me that was naturally negative about the Reds.
In recent times, however, I seem to have come full circle, and now grief is coming my way because I’m “deluded” and “incapable of criticising the team”. You can’t win. Everywhere I look, Liverpool’s title challenge is well and truly over, and a season that promised so much is dead in the water. I just don’t see it.
January was undoubtedly a hideous month – one of the worst Liverpool have experienced, quite frankly – but it is still far too early to be writing the team off. The two cup exits were disappointing, but for me personally, they are not defeats that will live remotely long in the memory, and it allows the Reds to focus solely on the Premier League.
Since Christmas, the fixtures have come along at a relentless rate, while key men have either been injured or unavailable. That has exposed Liverpool’s squad depth and damaged confidence badly, but that will change in the coming weeks and months. All of a sudden, Klopp’s men are back to having one game a week, and as the early months of this season showed, fresh legs and time on the training ground make this Liverpool side very formidable. Add to that the return to full fitness and availability of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Jordan Henderson and Joel Matip, and there is reason to be cheerful.
Of course, Chelsea’s 10-point lead is a big one, but they are not as unstoppable as their points tally would suggest. They haven’t quite look as imperious so far in 2017, and a few injuries and a couple of iffy results could make them nervy. Have we ever wanted Arsenal to win a game so much?
Leads of this size have been cancelled out plenty of times in the past, and if Liverpool can be in touch come the start of April, they can win the league. Who was giving them a chance at this point in 2013/14, when they were eight points behind leaders Arsenal?
The Reds’ final eight games of the season are all extremely winnable, with their toughest match in that run either West Brom or Stoke away. Many of their opponents are unlikely to have anything to play for, so summer holidays could already be in the back of their minds, and Liverpool are a team capable of stringing eight wins together.
Not for one second am I saying that Liverpool will lift the title in May, but their chances are not as bleak as the vast majority are claiming. More belief needs to be shown.
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