Having overcome one of their biggest bogey teams last weekend and level on points with league leaders Manchester City and Arsenal with a quarter of the season gone, Liverpool look genuine title contenders. There’s a long way to go, and a lot can change, but at the start of November the Reds are one of the frontrunners.
Given their difficult start to the season—playing all of August away from home and facing Arsenal, Tottenham, Leicester, and Chelsea before the end of September—that’s not something even the club’s most hopeful fans were expecting when the season started, and Jamie Carragher thinks that’s a huge mark in their favour.
“They had a tough start so to now be so close to the top of the table gives you great hope going forward,” said Carragher on Monday Night Football. “I think with the start Liverpool had, if someone had said they’d be around the top four, a couple of points off, I think most Liverpool fans would have been delighted.”
The delight wouldn’t have been with just being near the top four. Instead, it would have been for navigating a difficult start and being well positioned to push on as the season wore on given their advantage of not being in Europe this season, an advantage they used to good effect during their 2013-14 title challenge.
“I go back to that season with Brendan Rodgers,” Carragher added. “That’s what nearly took Liverpool to the title—that extra energy, intensity, closing people down, fast football. Against Crystal Palace, the defence wasn’t great, but their intensity and the way they closed people down was reminiscent of a couple of years ago.”
True as that may be, a second half push still requires a strong foundation—something Liverpool built both in 2013-14 and before that in 2008-09. In 2013-14, after ten games, Liverpool were five points behind leaders Arsenal but joint second with Chelsea on 20 points. In 2008-09 they were top with 26 themselves.
Both seasons saw them challenge with strong second half runs, but those seasons also started out with Liverpool positioning themselves well. Something that, despite their difficult start, they have now done again. Now that they’ve managed that, they can begin to try to turn that lack of Europe into a positive.