Liverpool closed out the month of November and can now greet December with at least two matches a week from now until the New Year. It is a period of the schedule some of us - me, I’m talking about me - have been eyeing with anxiety given that unlike other title contenders that might have had similar success in their previous year (ex: Manchester City), we aren’t as deep. And looking at the other title contenders now - Leicester City and Chelsea - the run of commitments in other competitions isn’t as loaded as it is for Liverpool.
In fact, for Liverpool’s closest challenger, the only competition of note that the Foxes have on their schedule beyond the Premier League is the Carabao Cup. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s December fixture list is clogged due to the Premier League, Champions League, Carabao Cup, and Club World Cup. In fact, counting Liverpool’s match against Brighton, Liverpool will have played 10 matches in 30 days.
The pressure, then, is well and truly on. By the end of this Saturday, December 7th, Liverpool will have played three matches in the Premier League, taking them to just two fixtures shy of the halfway mark. It is the latest period in the season where dramatic swings in the table position can take place.
It is a period, then, where finding a way through the fixture slog may reveal if this will be Liverpool’s best chance at a title in the Premier League Era by putting more daylight between themselves and their rivals. Or, it could be the period where Liverpool come crashing back to earth.
Liverpool’s match against Brighton kicked everything off and, as was mentioned, thankfully set the journey off in the right direction. Liverpool managed to put more space between themselves and the two challengers that, on paper, most fans might peg as the most dangerous to the Reds’ title hopes: Chelsea and Manchester City. Those two clubs are recent title winners after wall.
But by the close of the run of matches, Liverpool managed only to push the pace of the title race and keep their closest rival - Leicester City - at the same distance as when they entered the weekend. It’s a small thing, to be able to keep everyone else chasing instead of giving up ground, but it’s a vital thing.
Especially for a team in the hunt for a title. And maybe doubly so for a Liverpool squad in search of their first Premier League title. Each league match in this campaign has been a delight in that Liverpool have never given its fans much to worry about. Not so much about the result, mind, but more that even if we fall behind or we match to fluff a shot in front of net, the grit and commitment are on display. And with the the quality on hand within Klopp’s squad, it’s only a matter of time until the work will yield results.
I don’t think any Liverpool fan would have imagined that the club would be sitting in December as the sole unbeaten club in the league, having taking 40 out of a possible 42 points. It’s an astounding return given that the club haven’t looked like a juggernaut at all on their way to amassing that point total. They’ve been beneficiaries of good fortune, lucky bounces, and favorable calls.
But Liverpool’s work and effort and preparation have all put them in a position to cash in on those lucky bounces and fortunate VAR interpretations. Liverpool have done all the work to make those moments count. And now they’ve got a massive point total to show for it.
It’s fitting for a Catholic like myself to think about this section of the calendar as a time for big moves and of great import. This year, when we turned the calendar over to December, members of my faith began to celebrate the season of Advent - a period in our liturgical calendar that is typified as a season of waiting and of preparation for the birth of Christ.
Liverpool’s match against Brighton closed out what we might call a period of “ordinary time” in the Premier League - a season in which all clubs have a chance at the big prize and the only thing that can well and truly happen is for a club to play themselves out of contention. Entering December, where the fixtures come thick and fast, this is the season where we see the table harden before our eyes.
As it stands, Liverpool are atop the table with a gap of 8 points separating them and their closest rival in Leicester and 11 points in front of Manchester City, the defending Premier League winners. Liverpool securing the three points to open up this period is important because among the matches during this slate is the Merseyside Derby. And even with an Everton side that’s ailing a bit at the moment, it’s hard to look at that match and take it lightly.
Beyond that, though, is Liverpool’s re-match against Leicester on Boxing Day. It’s a match that, prior to this season, I doubt many fans had circled. But with there Foxes surprising this season under Brendan Rodgers and, again, being the closest to Liverpool, it’s got the makings of a match that could be one of the last major hurdles to Liverpool either running away with the title or finally being forced back into the pack of those chasing them.
It’s a big month, then. So let’s breathe in deep, Reds. And remember: all of the work before has helped to prepare the way forward.