Liverpool FC are currently, at the halfway point of their Premier League campaign, atop the table with only second-place Arsenal with the ability to displace them before the coming of the New Year. Which is to say that the work of 2023 is officially over for Liverpool and with just the waiting on the unplayed matches to see if they will get to kick-off 2024 in pole position.
Which leaves us with that rare and cherished moment at this point in the calendar where we can take a brief respite and reflect on what’s to come. So, here are a short list of resolutions that might help the Reds keep their stellar form and, maybe, prevent me from having a coronary.
- Get Healthy - The Reds are, as ever, eager to compete on all-fronts. To that end, Jurgen Klopp has taken a masterful turn in terms of managing early, long-term injuries to key players (Andrew Robertson, Thiago Alcantara, and Stefan Bajcetic) by rotating the where possible. The Reds depth, particularly in midfield, but across all departments when you consider the multiple positions that players like Joe Gomez, Darwin Nunez, Diogo Jota, and Cody Gakpo have taken up as well as the growth in young players like Jarell Quansah, Curtis Jones, and Harvey Elliott, has been an absolute saving grace. Klopp has been able to steer the ship through some tough moments, but the quality on offer has to be among the best I’ve seen in my time as a Red. What’s more, seeing this quality matched with a relatively younger core means that we could be on the edge of a special window with this core set of players.
- Share the Load - Piggy-backing off of the last item, recognizing the fact that no title is won off of purely individual work, Liverpool must know that getting production from across the team is what will determine if this start will be one that builds a title challenge into fruition, or serves a learning post for future seasons. The team’s balance has been terrific: no one player necessarily has to be a super star (though, that hasn’t stopped Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson Becker, or Mohamed Salah from distinguishing themselves early as Player of the Year candidates for the club with their stellar play) and it shows with different players taking up the mantle to guide the club to victory on different weeks. The goals all largely feature well-worked passing networks and collaborative ingenuity - necessary against the number of clubs playing a low-block against us this year. With Salah going away to AFCON in 2024, it will be imperative for the club to keep the level of creativity and movement up while allowing for the obvious differences between those folks that will likely take up for the Egyptian King in his absence; Harvey Elliott seems the most obvious front-runner, so it would be good to expect slightly less vertical stretch from him but more play-making, outside-in type of work. I could also see Gakpo or Nunez taking up that spot, with the Uruguayan being a particularly interesting option given his solid left-foot, burst of pace, and strength on the ball. He’s also shown an ability to set other players up (mostly Mo, to be fair) and could be as close to a like-for-like replacement as Klopp’s got on-hand.
- Stay the Course - As I’ve noted earlier, Jurgen Klopp might be turning in his most masterful work as Liverpool coach yet given all of the upheaval and the state of the club entering this year. To this point, Liverpool have sailed through each of their competitions and met each challenge well. They are playing at a level that feels a drop reserved in most competitions, with their turns out against Manchester City and Arsenal being notable exceptions. They are cruising, alive in all competitions, and atop the table at the halfway mark. I’ve said it often but I know most fans would’ve taken this situation if offered to them this past summer. The rotation, tactical flourishes, and growth of key players is really something. So, even if it means dealing with more of the Cardiac Kids (though, please, let’s see more demolitions of lesser competition in 2024 please), I’m ok with it. Because it does feel like we’re in good hands.
Looking forward to the New Year, the Reds have a lot to build upon. But this is where the calendar becomes that much more punishing and it feels like the weight of results that much heavier. This young squad has managed to become Mentality Monsters seemingly overnight. I don’t mean that to blow past the undoubtedly difficult work that’s taking place on and off the pitch daily, but rather to underscore how unique this club seems to be. How it finally feels as though we are seeing what it’s like for a special manager, an all-timer himself, see his vision bearing the fruits from not just the initial work, but the deeper-rooted the changes that take more time to reveal.
Klopp’s had a lot to answer for among the fanbase over the past few years, especially with the departure of Michael Edwards and long-term collaborator Zeljko Buvac. We are firmly in the midst of what it Klopp’s Liverpool. And if this is what the platonic ideal is, well, I’d say we’re all in good hands.