The warning signs were there last year. After the holiday programme saw the Reds squad decimated by a rash of hamstring injuries, Jürgen Klopp's team went through January with three wins, four draws and two losses, struggling to keep up with the busy schedule. Klopp's intense training methods were under fire and his lack of experience with hectic winter schedules were presented as a possible weakness in his managerial skill set. The Reds' patchy form up until that point ensured that the results weren't as jarring as they could've been perceived, and the strong second half of the season allowed the subject to be if not quite put to rest, at least placed in a light coma.
Fast forward a year, and Liverpool have closed out another abysmal January. A solitary win from nine matches — against League 2 opposition at that — four draws, and four losses. Eight goals scored, eleven conceded. Knocked out of both cup competitions, left in the dust by league leaders Chelsea, and bypassed by both Tottenham and Arsenal. Without needing to descend into the darkest depths of Liverpool fan doom mongering, it's fair to say January's been a bad month.
The immediate future looks bright, however. With the exception of fourth choice striker Danny Ings, no senior players are on the injury list. Sadio Mané is back from the AfCoN. And with no cup obligations, the Reds are set to play a total of fifteen games in the last 106 days of the season, or a match every seven days, while their closest competitors all have midweek European football to deal with. With his best XI available for most, if not every match, time to rest, time to train, and time to design specific plans for specific opponents, Jürgen Klopp should be reasonably expected to oversee a boost in form.
“Of course it helps us when we can train,” the manager told the club's official site. “I hope that people can still see that we work together between the games and that we do a little bit.
“Of course it helps us when we can do some things on the training ground," he continuted. "We are looking forward to it. We’ll love these final 15 games – that’s great. But we haven’t won a game next month [yet]. So, we have to start."
Yes, start. And then keep it going. The league title is most definitely gone, but Liverpool have nonetheless had a solid season so far. Coming off a substantial dip in form, they still average two points per game, on pace for a 76 point season, which has never not been enough for Champions League qualification. If the team can recreate something resembling the run they went on between September and January, they'll go into the summer on a high of CL qualification, cash and confidence.
The table is set. All the Reds have to do is execute.