So...should we be nervous? Would it be best to gnash away at our fingernails and anything else in sight? Relax, don't do it. It's only Stoke. It's only Mark Hughes. It's at Anfield. Everything's the best and three scrumptious points will be gobbled up like that craven cousin of yours who always comes round to empty your fridge. This week has felt strange.
When I was a kid, I loved playing "stuck in the mud". For those who are unfamiliar with the game, here's a quick summary. You have a set of kids, let's say ten for illustrative purposes. Two of those kids are 'on' and have to chase the other eight kids to tag them. Once tagged, the expected modus operandi (unless you're one of those rebellious sorts) is to accept your fate and stand with your arms as well as your legs outstretched. Welcome to being 'stuck in the mud' and you cannot move. Only other kids who are running around, with the freedoms you once enjoyed, can free you but they have to go under your arms or legs to do so.
Over the past week, a positive bit of news has followed a disappointing revelation or vice versa. We seemed unstuck before the transfer window opened and have looked stuck for most of it. The Liverpool revival wagon is tagged then freed then tagged again by some playful yet jarring force. That's been Liverpool's transfer window act two. A goalscoring attacking midfielder. A youthful talisman in central defence. Competition at left back. A returning prodigal son. A "gamebreaker". All have thus far slipped from our eager hands. Act one was nothing like this.
We're not sure exactly why or how these instances of misfortune unfolded but somebody must be at fault even if nobody really is. Everything's the worst until it's the best until it's the worst again. Of course, what we feel isn't a true reflection on how things necessarily are in life and football. The problem is that football fans feel; that's our thing even when we know it shouldn't be on certain days and in certain situations.
Feelings aside, what do we know? Brendan Rodgers reminds me of the kid at school who had a growth spurt over the summer and now commands everyone's respect. Transfer signings for the squad were made early and they can grow to be key players. Fans across the world hold a deep affinity for what Liverpool represents. Being out of the top four really is all that it's cracked up to be. The previous American owners caused long-term damage to the club that the current ones are still trying to clean up. We need a few more players to confidently lock horns with Arsenal and Tottenham. We have plenty of youngsters with "bags of potential" and it'll be fun seeing them grow over the next few years.
That's how we're heading into the season. There's still work to do between now and 2 September but we can cautiously smile at the possibility of making real progress this season.
- There's nowhere else to start but Willian. The former Shakhtar man has reportedly spoken of his desire to join Liverpool and that has stirred some emotions; either excitement or worry. Sometimes both. Liverpool are said to be engaged in discussions with Anzhi over the transfer of the Brazil international, otherwise known in transfer parlance as "stepping up" interest or pursuit. That's plainly superior to meekly asking to take a look around the training ground for some youngsters on a freebie who might get injured before the season starts.
- Two positions that remain unqualified bones of contention are left back and defensive midfield. Lucas Leiva is much loved and appears to be approaching his best physically. However, no other option is being sought. Jose Enrique is a different beast altogether. Physically imposing and capable of creating incredible chances for Luis Suarez, our Spanish defender can take time to reach his best form. To remedy problems in concentration, Liverpool are reportedly close to signing Aly Cissokho on loan with a view to a permanent move after talks for Guilherme Siqueira broke down due to cost.
- The Rickie Lambert story, a tale of a hard-working underdog came good who rose through the leagues steadily. Last season, the striker shocked EPL defences by scoring 15 goals and creating another 8 in 38 league games. Impressive. Match that Fernando. In a midweek international friendly, Lambert scored on his England debut to defeat Scotland in a match that always carries history and symbolism. Lambert told reporters that it was "a dream come true" and our captain, England's captain, believes young kids can learn a lot from Lambert. International football can often be immensely annoying for various reasons but stories like this warm one's heart.
- Speaking of hearts, Jamie Carragher is getting ready to usurp Gary Neville as The Truth on Sky Sports. Before that, he spoke to The Liverpool Echo in praise of the handling of the Suarez saga to date. Lots of positive and sensible words from Liverpool's former number 23 so it's obviously worth any Liverpool fan's time. The man from Bootle also teamed up with Gary Neville to preview the upcoming season.
- Finally, we should put everything on the line and predict the top six. Here's the challenge. Find a way of fitting Liverpool in. Seriously? Predict the top six before the first kick of the league season and we'll revisit your predictions on ETW after the transfer window closes at 23:00 BST on Monday, 2 September.
Downing's gone and Noel's back so it's been a good week already. Suarez is back in the fold, Enrique will have some competition, and we might get a guy with that moxie we've all been waiting for. This calls for a celebration so in the best way, let's try and do just that. After all, act three is still to come.
Kool & The Gang - Celebration (via KoolAndTheGangVEVO)