Three matches shy of the season's half-way point, Liverpool find themselves two points off first and with the chance of heading into Christmas top of the table should they win on Saturday and Arsenal draw or lose against Chelsea on Monday. One would think this would be greeted with universal joy, good cheer, and celebratory drinking amongst Liverpool fans. And really, perhaps it should be, even if the reality for many isn't quite so optimistically upbeat.
Because the problem with Liverpool being sat near the top of the table with the season nearly half over is that the optimism that would engender in most doesn't sit well with the pessimism those fans have been cultivating in recent seasons—and maybe even as far back as there's been a Premier League. A sense of terror at the thought of something nice ever happening, though, isn't one shared by the players. Which, when you come down to it, is probably a good thing.
"It's normal to have celebrated and savoured the moment because it's not every day that you win at Tottenham by five clear goals," said centre half and summer signing Mamadou Sakho, coming off a second strong performance alongside Martin Skrtel in place of vice-captain Daniel Agger. "We were very happy with how the match went, very satisfied with the result and with all the effort put in by everyone. I think it simply shows that Liverpool are right in the mix and that we want to remain in and around the top of the table."
In the mix. Liverpool are right in the mix. For the league title. Sure, the facts might line up with that—second in the league after 16 games and averaging more than two points per game; the second best goal differential; the best striker in the league—but then the facts haven't been sitting watching Roy Hodgsons and failed big money signings and false dawns these past few years. Still, given they're the facts, it's not a stretch to suggest that as of today, here and now and before it maybe all goes wrong, Liverpool are in the mix for the title.
"It's a very strong message that we've sent," added Sakho, before going on to temper his optimistic outlook just a touch. "While our main aim is to be in the places for the Champions League, we will see how things stand towards the end of the season to see if we are in the running for the title itself. But the first target is to get back on the European stage once again."
After struggling to make the starting eleven for a time, Liverpool's biggest signing of last summer has been a force since stepping in for Daniel Agger, and having Sakho continue his strong play will be a must if Liverpool are to get the results they need to stay near the top of the pack against Cardiff, Chelsea, and Manchester City. And though he insisted the team and his defensive duties come first, Sakho admitted disappointment at missing his chance to score in Sunday's rout of Spurs.
"I do set myself targets," he said. "I have my own little goals quota, even if it's quite tough to achieve as a defender. But honestly, yes, it was a shame that I couldn't quite convert that chance but the main thing is that the team went on to win the game, and also kept a clean sheet, because we hadn't for a while. Any goal for me is of secondary importance in comparison to the team winning the game."
Perhaps he could make up for it with a game winning effort against either Chelsea or City that keep Liverpool right in that mix at the top of the table heading into the new year. You know, just to keep on target for that goals quota he's set for himself.