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Everything’s the Best: Getting On With It

The Festive Fixture Crunch means there’s no time for air, but Liverpool’s scintillating if ultimately even match against Arsenal etched both teams firmly into this year’s title race.

Liverpool FC v Arsenal FC - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

For much of this season, the collective Footballing Punditry’s estimation of Liverpool’s abilities felt very much one with massive caveats. As the Reds managed to climb their way towards the top of the Premier League table with impressive and gritty results, footballing experts have been slow to affirm what fans have long felt: that this team is good enough to go toe-to-toe with any club in the chase for England’s most coveted prize.

To be fair, we’re at least a year early (and likely two) from challenging on all fronts the way we currently are. And this fixture crush, with the fresh injury to Kostas Tsimikas and the looming absence of Mohamed Salah due to AFCON just into the New Year, things could get ugly in a hurry. In fact, as I’ve noted elsewhere, most fans entering this season would have loved to get to this period in the schedule with the Reds in the position they’re currently in.

The midfield overhaul by Klopp and Co. as well as Trent Alexander-Arnold seemingly working to fix his grip on becoming to the current crop of young Reds what Steven Gerrard meant to him, all seem to be clicking on all cylinders. And it all felt like it nearly came all to the most beautiful fruition on the weekend in the match against their other rivals in the title chase: Arsenal.

In fact, Trent’s long diagonal from deep in the midfield to set up yet another moment of brilliance from the Egyptian King during the 1-1 draw to Arsenal felt quite emblematic of what this season has felt like. Our Scouser in the team has taken yet another leap, showing signs of the type of quality across other areas of the pitch - the ability to change a game on his own - that you assign not just to club favorites or cult heroes, but to the best that have ever played the game. And for Salah’s part, this season has been yet one more opportunity to prove that the first season (and each ensuing one after) was no fluke. The unplayable winger is seemingly bent on making each Ballon d’Or snub more foolish with every goal.

We’re seeing that kind of leap and growth across many areas of the pitch with the likes of Curtis Jones, Harvey Elliott, and Jarell Quansah all looking to increase their ability to influence a match. And the in-season adaptation of our newer recruits has been a revelation.

There were really very few moments to get down about, from my vantage point, from the Arsenal match. I was rightfully called out by a friend and fellow TLO-scribe for my anxiety-ridden post about Mo Salah being away at AFCON last week and the overall team performance in this match really bore out how wrong I was. Every single player acquitted themselves on the day, with very few complaints in general. Wataru Endo displayed high-quality, incisive, progressive passes from the would from the 6. Tsimikas and Ibrahima Konate were terrific and imperious. Joe Gomez managed to work through some early shakiness to deliver some unexpected offensive quality in his appearance at left-back. It was a quality outing front to back.

And while the result on the weekend wasn’t what every fan would have wanted to get out of the match, it really wasn’t very long ago that the pining for 3 points against anyone and everyone was only for the most rose-tinted, glass-wearing wing of the fan base. That we would have gotten to this point so soon after both the disappointing season last year as well as such an extreme overhaul in the midfield is nothing short of a miracle.

I’m not saying those things as a means of lowering the bar as much as providing myself with some much needed perspective. Perspective at a time where we’re not afforded with much time to reflect. By the time this posts, we’ll be only a few hours shy of the next match. And another bit source of information for us to refine our assessment of this team.

For now, though, it’s nice to see that it’s finally dawning on the commentary class that Liverpool are in fact legitimate title challengers. Since we know no one win’s a title at Christmas (and given the histories of both Liverpool and Arsenal, that’s got a bit more of a bitter ring to it), I’ll take being recognized as those in the hunt as a perfect gift for the moment.

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