The past few days have been quite heady for Liverpool supporters. LFC are top of the table with breathing room. A clear six points between them and Tottenham and seven - as well as having erased the gap in goal difference - with presumed title rivals and defending champions Manchester City. These are, in fact, the best of times and has contributed to what has undoubtedly been a rather jubilant holiday season for Liverpool fans across the globe.
But Jurgen Klopp insisted at the pre-Arsenal press conference that neither he nor the lads in Red believe they have won a single thing. Stressing the importance of other goals - another year of Champions League qualification, for one - as well as a desire to continue to progress as a unit in playing and imposing their style of football, the gaffer believed other talk of major accolades to be a bit premature.
Asked specifically about the title race and the mentality of the squad following the great rash of results over the past few days, Klopp had this to say.
Not a lot, to be honest. We didn’t think about the distance to other teams before it because it is just too early to think about it. If we are six points ahead with one game to go it is a big moment! In the moment, nothing happens. To explain our situation, I am not sure if we spoke about targets before the season [started] but it is clear with a team like Liverpool, the size of the club and the quality of the team you should go for Champions League qualification. That was our target, 100 per cent. We did it twice in a row and we wanted to do it a third time in a row. We wanted to improve as a team, play better football, be more consistent, be more stable – all that stuff. We are still on that way, nothing else.
I would expect nothing less from a master coach and leader like Jurgen. Supreme focus on the task at hand. Insistence on not looking too far forward. Paying proper respect to the opponents at your doorstep.
This is all great. Especially considering that Arsenal look to be coming together under Unai Emery, finding themselves owners of their own 6 point gap for the Europa League spot ahead of Manchester United, and only two points shy of Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea for the final Champions League spot. This Arsenal may not be the same club as the one that found themselves securely in the Top 4 with the same consistency as Bobby Cox’s Braves found themselves to be the class of the National League East, but they do seem to have found their identity under their new manager.
Which means that, as ever, Saturday’s task will not be an easy one. And with what could be the title decider a mere few days away, Liverpool will need to marshal all of their mental reserve to stay focused.
Because two successive wins just might be enough to ensure that the rest of the season sees Liverpool firmly in the driver’s seat as captains of their own future.