Liverpool take on Wolverhampton Wanderers later today with a chance to cement their lead at the top of the Premier League table. It is a position many had fancied, but few had banked on Jürgen Klopp’s side being in come Christmas time, especially considering the threat a record-setting Manchester City juggernaut posed to any semblance of competitiveness.
And yet, here the Mersysiders are, a point up on the champions at the start of a crucial four-game, 13 day stretch into the New Year. The secret sauce of the Reds’ success—readily apparent to even the most casual fans—has been the combination of a vastly-improved defense and a squad chock-full of strong-willed leaders.
From the international captains, Virgil Van Dijk, Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson, to seasoned professionals like club vice-captain James Milner and Gini Wijnaldum, Liverpool do not lack for personality and rocks to lean on when holding onto a slim lead or chasing a goal.
Of these, Klopp’s two most expensive signings, Van Dijk and Alisson have stood out, with the former a nailed-on future club captain and the latter a guaranteed presence between the sticks for years to come.
The German manager made sure to emphasize the abundance of leaders in the dressing room but alluded to the defender and the goalkeeper’s ever-presence on the team sheet contributing to the team’s consistency on the pitch.
“I always say it is never about one player or a second player,” Klopp said speaking to the Liverpool ECHO.
“It helps massively in our case that Ali and Virg are fantastic boys who ‘solved’ our problems if you like, but in a **** dressing room there is no chance. That’s how it is.
“[Henderson] didn’t start against United and [Milner] didn’t play because of injury, but if you see who is talking in our dressing room before a game...
“When the music is loud and people are shouting it is Milly and Hendo. Now Virg starts too, even Ali throws in a few words. It is always the same players, whether they play or don’t play, their job never changes.”
Sky Sports pundit, Danny described these leadership traits in more detail, highlighting the communication skills in the first team:
”I think what they’ve got are throwback characters. They’ve got the world-class players, they’ve got the Van Dijks, but what they’ve also got - and Van Dijk is one as well - they’ve got leaders, characters, communicators,” Higginbotham said on the show, The Debate.
”Whenever you watch Liverpool, the communication is incredible. The forward players are allowed to get on with things. They near enough attack with a six, but you can you see the four players behind the ball are all communicating.
”That’s something that doesn’t really get talked about as much in the game now because it’s starting to die out. It gives you such an advantage, because the communication, the leadership, the understanding of how the team is expected to play is so important.
”In-game managers are a massive thing. For all the form Van Dijk’s been in, having that leadership qualities within the team cannot be understated.”