Nearly a full week has passed since Liverpool Football Club's latest victory and it was emphatic in its brutal simplicity. The ingredients were fine ones indeed. Well, for Liverpool anyway. Add an early own goal, sprinkle a first-half heap of Suarez magic powder, mix a tablespoon of Flannavaro skill and Coutinho overdue long-range accuracy, and a pinch of Henderson. Just a pinch otherwise the concoction wouldn't be as intended. It was just and it was far too easy. Liverpool hadn't been top of the table since Christmas and returning there was done with consummate ease. Manchester City drew with Arsenal and Chelsea lost to Crystal Palace. An opportunity opened up and Liverpool ruthlessly exploited it.
A quick word about statistics that certain fans misuse without applying the correct context in order to sufficiently understand such data. Tottenham had more shots than Liverpool despite losing four nil but it was interesting to see that over half of them arrived in the final twenty minutes where Liverpool had already won the game. Rodgers used his full complement of substitutions, Liverpool were happy to play within themselves and conserve energy with further challenges ahead, and a clean sheet was achieved without much fuss or fanfare.
Tottenham have been more significant for Liverpool than many would admit. They have gone for many of the same players we want and just seem to be going for what we want to go for. Get out of the way. Leave us alone. It's hard enough as it is with Man U, Man City, Chelsea, and Arsenal. It was Spurs who wanted to lure Brendan Rodgers once upon a time but Levy's penchant for not giving managers too much time or power did not tickle the Carnlough man into giving in to Levy's overtures. Tottenham's loss would eventually come to be seen as Liverpool's gain. However, if one were to overlook the smaller details and daily progress of a side that has been in constant development since Rodgers took over in June 2012 then four league games against Tottenham across two seasons could represent different stages of Liverpool's progress.
Brendan Rodgers' first encounter with Tottenham Hotspurs ended in defeat but interestingly, 9 of the eleven players who remain at the club. Liverpool controlled the ball, made accurate passes, and dominated aerial battles. Poor finishing and individual errors ensured that a late November clash would not end well for the Merseyside giants. Tottenham scored all the goals for both sides including an infamous own goal by Gareth Bale and so Liverpool's eight game unbeaten streak in the league was gone. Liverpool still couldn't beat one of the league's better sides after draws with both Manchester City and Chelsea alongside home defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United. The side could pass but only three wins from the opening fourteen games was a worry.
March came round and Liverpool had established a pattern of inconsistency since that defeat to Spurs in November 2012. It went as follows: win two, lose at home to Aston Villa, win one, lose at Stoke, win two, lose at Man United, win one and draw two, lose at home to West Brom, and win two. Liverpool had not yet won three leagues games in a row under Rodgers but a home clash with André Villas-Boas' Tottenham offered an opportunity to break new ground. Beat a rival and show some consistency. Liverpool had secured big victories against Norwich (twice), Fulham, Swansea, and Wigan to support solid three nil victories against Wigan, QPR, and Sunderland. Liverpool could hammer the league's lesser lights but questions remained.
Liverpool won that game. It was celebrated in a way that seemed ill-fitting for a club of such stature but it represented a few milestones for Rodgers. Liverpool won after going behind and like the kamikaze victory over West Ham in December, this was a show of mental strength. In fact, it was a greater display of fortitude that had often eluded Liverpool that season. Three wins in a row. The first big side defeated in Rodgers' tenure. A first league victory after going behind too. Liverpool did turn a corner but lost the very next game 3-1 away to Southampton and would win four and draw four of their remaining eight games.
A new season came round and Liverpool looked to build upon an impressive start. West Brom, Fulham, Norwich, and West Ham were tanked by an effervescent Liverpool side. Manchester United had also fallen at Anfield but this was at White Hart Lane where Spurs had won six in six against Liverpool. A five nil away victory was astounding. Man City may have won six nil at home but winning so emphatically away to a rival was a game changer. West Ham may have won there three nil but this victory sent a message. Liverpool were a proper side. Many would not realise that this result would be the first of many beatings that Liverpool would hand out to rivals in the top eight. Liverpool could tank Premier League cannon fodder but the league's better sides were also game. In roughly the space of a year, Liverpool had been reborn.
Liverpool's victory over Tottenham last weekend was terrifying simply because it felt so routine. Yet look at the previous three clashes to see how far this side has come. In November 2012, Gareth Bale looked like the mature winger we needed when we fielded a seventeen-year old Raheem Sterling but less than 18 months later it is Sterling who looks like the senior winger Spurs need. To date, it has been mostly the same collection of players who have battled Spurs as underdogs at White Hart Lane to hopefuls at Anfield to improved visitors at the Lane to Premier League aristocrats at Anfield.
Five past Tottenham. Four past Everton. Five past Arsenal. Three past Southampton. Three past Manchester United. Four past Tottenham. Only Arsenal managed a reply and it was a lonely one at that. Liverpool's travails should not be forgotten but it was the defeats, the draws, the frustration, the inconsistency, the domination without reward, the agonising defensive errors, the muddle in midfield, the tactical experimentation, the players who had to serve time before being sold on, and the weight of history that led Liverpool to where it is now. Top of the league. Liverpool can thrash virtually every side in the league and the next stage is to remain at the top for six more games.
Liverpool travel to West Ham and while everyone associated with the club should focus on one game at a time, it is fitting that Liverpool face Manchester City and Chelsea in the final stretch to possible title glory. We may even owe them a debt of gratitude as we owe Spurs. It is from those defeats that much was absorbed and applied. It is from those first consecutive league losses under Rodgers that an unbeaten streak in 2014 was born. In a way, it was the best way for Liverpool to end 2013. Lose to the best. Learn from the best. Be the best.
On Sunday, Liverpool will hope to continue to show that winning away to Stoke, Fulham, and Cardiff is just what this side does. Whether Liverpool squander a lead or go behind early, victory will come nonetheless. This Liverpool vintage has experienced much together and Sundays in April could be the days where new legends are born. For now, the next game is the most important one but do not forget the games that have moulded this Liverpool side.