Liverpool are top of the table and kicked off both the New Year and the back half of the Premier League season with a raucous win over Newcastle at Anfield. The Reds essentially kept doing what put them at the top of the table to close out 2023 by managing to battle past a team that was much more content with sitting back and playing spoiler than engaging in anything that looked like football.
Liverpool are now likely to stay top of the table all by their lonesome for at least two weeks with the break for the FA Cup and League Cup matches. Jurgen Klopp’s squad will look forward to another match against Arsenal next Sunday in the 3rd round of the FA Cup and then the first leg of their tie against Fulham the Wednesday after. With all Premier League matches held until the weekend after the first leg of League Cup matches, Villa won’t have the opportunity to meet the Reds at the top of the table until they face Everton on the 14th of January.
I’ve said it often but, in a bit of what’s old is new, Liverpool being this successful so quickly after a massive squad overhaul is something special. Doing so in a league that, thanks to Manchester City’s obscene wealth, requires near perfection on a weekly basis to merely hang on in the league adds yet one more layer of special to a campaign that feels quite memorable already.
Jurgen Klopp has managed to build a team that feels mentally resilient and fully focused only on what they are capable of doing as a unit. It is reminiscent of Bill Shankly’s own desire to create a club that plays with verve and personality. Today’s match certainly would’ve made the old gaffer proud given the intensity with which the players worked to win balls, keep the pressure, and find their way to a win.
The goals themselves also point to a club that trusts each other and embodies Klopp’s insistence on the team over individuals. Darwin Nunez and Diogo Jota nabbed assists as strikers by making the extra pass. It is a supremely unselfish team, so much so that it almost makes the initial successful iteration of Jurgen’s Reds feel more disjointed. Granted, we’re talking Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino as strike partners to Mohamed Salah and I’m not meaning to suggest that that legendary trio were selfish, but there was no waffling in the plays by Darwin and Diogo today: the players are absolutely drilled into making the best footballing play available and it shows.
And a final feather in the cap of the Same Old Reds is the continued development of Curtis Jones. The Other Scouser in the team had already had a rather transformative experience over the summer as he captained the England U21s to the Euro Championship and most have been quite excited to know that opportunities would abound in the side given the turnover in the midfield.
But taking that opportunity is still a different thing and one can say that Curtis has definitely stepped up to claim his chance with both hands. Much like Jarell Quansah this year and the growth of Trent Alexander-Arnold before him, Curtis is yet one more example of Klopp’s ability to shepherd and bring along young players through the Academy and into the first team. It also likely speaks to why Klopp and Company felt comfortable entering the season with what many felt was a team that was at least one quality player light in the midfield department. If Jones continues the run of form through 2024 that seemed to be peaking as we closed the book on 2023, fans will have few complaints.
So here we are, standing at dawn of a new year. And one that points to a brighter run-in than the previous year.