After eleven league games, Liverpool sit second in the league and have experienced one of the best match days in quite a while. Chelsea drew. Manchester City lost. Arsenal lost but that meant the former acolytes of the Dark Lord, Manchester United, won a vital game. Tottenham lost. Everton drew. Liverpool won but you already knew that didn't you? Not bad for a weekend's work.
Plans are vital but expectations drive those plans more so than anything. Brendan Rodgers, Colin Pascoe, and company prepare as best they can for a successful 90 minutes against whatever side they face whether it's home or away. As Liverpool fans, we count on seeing a good performance and a victory to savour. Every team and fan sets out with some sort of scheme for success. Everything cannot be the worst if things go according to plan such as Liverpool destroying Norwich. Or willing replacements like Fulham.
It's the schemers that put you where you are. You were a schemer, you had plans, and uh, look where that got you. I just did what I do best. I took your plan and I turned it on itself. Look what I did, to this city with a few drums of gas and a couple of bullets. Hm? You know what, you know what I noticed? Nobody panics when things go according to plan. Even if the plan is horrifying. If tomorrow I tell the press that like a gang banger, will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it's all, part of the plan. But when I say that one, little old mayor will die, well then everyone loses their minds!
Poor Martin Jol. Really. Sincerely. Fulham had lost two successive games after two consecutive victories and travelling to Anfield was not the best trip to make. If Liverpool are exceptional at anything, it's easily defeating weak or decent sides (out of form ones anyway) at Anfield. Liverpool are the flat track bullies in the EPL playground and the reality is mostly horrifying for sides like Fulham, Crystal Palace, and umm...Norwich. Perhaps Norwich should be left out of it for now as there may come a time when Norwich will rise to enact a terrible vengeance on Liverpool for three heavy defeats in a row. Let's just hope El Pistolero is on hand to take a bite out of any designs Norwich have for redemption.
A clean sheet has resumed being part of Liverpool's reality after nine games. That's nice, quite nice indeed. In fact, the manner in which other games unfolded was quite pleasant indeed. Even Manchester United's victory brought Liverpool closer to Arsenal and while there are only six points separating the top eight sides in the league, Liverpool remaining as close to first position as possible can never be an abominable act or dastardly deed. Yes, a Manchester United victory could be descried in those alliterative terms but when it helps Liverpool, all one can do is grumble and shrug those shoulders.
It is uncanny that Liverpool continue to experience international breaks with a calm over the squad and a respectable league position. It no longer feels special and that's a worry because it could be taken away from us earlier than we'd expect. ETW bears quite a weak constitution that is prone to despondency, discomfiture, and deliberation. Extreme hopefulness, needless calculation, and unyielding suspicion remain debilitating side effects. A weekend such as this should stave off those familiar feelings of misery but neither joy nor unhappiness envelopes ETW right now. Apprehension is the order of the day. Why so? Gaze upon the league table slowly from first to eighth. Virtually the entire top half of the table is packed closely together. A couple of bad results and quite a few places will be ceded to others. Oh dear.
The only solution is consistency as unpredictability has featured regularly on various match days. The best sides will drop points and even Arsenal's excellent league start has only been marginally superior to Liverpool's. Top four is the aim and the preoccupation with the growth in Liverpool's fortunes has ensured that any European league round up is absent from these pages. This trepidation may seem unnecessary given the season's relative youth but can anyone taste what is cooking this season? Do you see what is simmering beneath the lid of the Premier League pot? Opportunity. Others are weak. Others are disjointed. Others are in transition. Others are not quite they appear or want to be. Opportunity. We are where we want to be but the next 12 available points offer an opportunity to continue our current existence as top four residents no matter what the other sides around us do. The power of 12.
Discussion of Liverpool and the top four has been a hearty source for jocular souls to do their best in concocting witty ditties to mock any Liverpool representative who believes in the reality of a reunion with the UEFA Champions League theme song. Such possibilities are maddening yet they are very real at this early stage. ETW will do as it clearly should not and look far beyond the next game with some modicum of objectivity. The influence of 12 continues as Liverpool's next 12 league fixtures will take the club into February and by that stage, Brendan Rodgers will have overseen 23 league games. The January transfer window will have arrived and trotted off by that stage too. Those fixtures can be broken into three distinct chunks of games that in equal number. The first section has four games that provide a Merseyside derby away and three games that Liverpool should be winning. The middle section could be bitter for any fan to swallow as Liverpool travel to White Hart Lane, the Etihad Stadium, and Stamford Bridge with only a home tie against Cardiff to offer any potential solace. The last block of four is not easy but three out of four ties are at home and can be won.
If Liverpool remain undefeated throughout those 12 games, ETW will find a succulent limb to chew on with zeal yet that is unlikely given the capricious nature of the Football Gods and noted weaknesses in the side. Liverpool will need to respond to adversity quickly or just be consistent instead of needing to thrash a side at home to show signs of "recovery" after a disappointing result. Our beloved must continue this relentless approach that has characterised many home games in order to continue sitting in this comfortable seat in the Premier League hallway. If a similar obduracy is displayed on Liverpool's travels then perhaps New Year will bring whispers of a credible challenge for something worthwhile in the league. No, not the league title but entrance to that blessed country; the land of milk and honey.
A few more weekends like the past one then a few Liverpool fans will lose their minds, especially if "schemers" Manchester United have their nefarious designs fall apart along with the others. That would be all part of the plan and it would be one we'd irrefutably cherish.