With the arrival of Mamadou Sakho and something of a minor resurgence and, perhaps for the first time under Brendan Rodgers, a return to relevance for Martin Skrtel, what in recent seasons has been something of a weak point for Liverpool has quite suddenly become a strength. Add in the imminent return of Daniel Agger from injury, and Liverpool's backline is looking positively crowded. Which probably isn't the worst problem to be facing if you're Brendan Rodgers.
Of Liverpool's four contending centre halves, though, perhaps the most surprising starting candidate for many is Kolo Toure, who continues to show that Roberto Mancini and Manchester City were very certainly missing something when they sidelined the Ivorian defender. And if his new club's confidence in him is growing seemingly with the week, Toure is matching it with a growing confidence in Liverpool's ability to challenge for the top four and compete with the league's best.
"There's no doubt this squad is good enough to get a Champions League place," he said. "We have so many good players and there's a great mentality here. We are at a fantastic club. We need to keep playing well every week and give 100 per cent for our teammates and the fans. We're up there and now it's very important to stay there. A season is like a marathon and there will be plenty of ups and downs [but] we're happy with where we are but we must keep working hard and try to be as close as possible to the top."
Despite Liverpool's strong start to the season and that they currently stand level on points with Arsenal at the top of the table, it's difficult to imagine there won't be at least a few times this season when things don't look nearly so positive. In recent years, some of the worst times have come against sides Liverpool has expected to beat and so taken it easy against, seemingly taking the points for granted, and despite victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday there were a few causes for concern to go along with the much appreciated points.
"We will learn from the mistakes we made against Palace. We lost a little bit of concentration after scoring three goals so we have to keep playing and moving the ball to prevent the other team from being dangerous. We needed to control the game better than we did in the second half. The manager has told us we have to improve on that. But there were also a lot of good points in that game and the most important thing is we got the three points.
"After losing at home to Southampton, it was vital we beat Palace at Anfield and we did that. When you get goals early in games that makes it much easier. The next challenge will be Newcastle. When we all come back to Melwood after the internationals it will be like a new season starting again."
Newcastle, though, will have to wait a week, as Toure–like Mamadou Sakho—has used a strong start to life at Liverpool to get back into the international picture and will join the Ivory Coast after a long absence and with the top ranked CAF nation set to face Senegal on Saturday for the first of a two-leg tie whose winner will advance to the World Cup. Liverpool fans aren't always known for embracing internationals actions, but for most it will be hard to begrudge Toure the opportunity he clearly relishes.
"They are very big games and I can't wait to play in them," he said. "They were always calling me about playing for my country but I told them I had to prepare myself. "I had to take time and get back playing again because when you don't play for your club it is always very difficult to play for your national team. You need to be fit to play and I wasn't playing a lot for City but this is a new start for me now. I am playing for a great club in Liverpool and I hope to help my national team go to the World Cup.
"There is great respect for Liverpool in the Ivory Coast. They know I've been playing regularly for one of the best clubs in the world. Everyone in Ivory Coast has been waiting for me. When I was not playing they were talking but I knew what I was doing. I knew my qualities. I just had to work hard and get playing again. Now I'm ready to help my national team."
More from The Liverpool Offside:
- Honest, I Can Change
- Sakho Credits Liverpool Transfer for Return to National Team
- Gerrard Underlines Sturridge Importance for Club and Country
- Everything's the Worst: Disharmony United Edition
- Rodgers: Jose Enrique Can Be "One of the Best"