It might seem more sensible, more normal, to be concerned about the big games. To be concerned about facing off against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal. For Liverpool, though, in recent seasons it hasn’t been the big games that have been the problem.
Instead it’s been the sides that on paper they’re expected to beat that have caused them the most problems. So far this season, though—at least outside the Burnley slip-up—they’ve managed to improve their return against the bottom half, something Phil Thompson says is key.
“That might sound easy, but when you look at it, Liverpool have [always] dealt with the tougher games, they always seem to win those ones,” the former Liverpool defender noted in his Sky Sports column addressing the Reds’ chances of mounting a serious title challenge.
“But the lesser teams,” Thompson added, “Newcastle, Watford, Swansea last season for example, we get taken apart. And it demoralises the team. Jurgen seems to have sorted that out, and that I think was one of the major issues at the start of the season.”
They won’t get the chance to right the wrongs of last season’s Newcastle results—a loss and a draw—at least not unless they end up facing them in the EFL Cup semi-finals or final. Swansea and Watford, though, they will certainly get the chance to improve their results against.
Against Swansea, they’ve already turned last season’s road defeat into a 2-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium. Now, they’ve got a home date against Watford, another game that on paper they should be able to win; another chance to prove their title credentials.
And, to likely nobody’s surprise, Thompson says it’s Jürgen Klopp who is the biggest reason for this turnaround in results against the sides Liverpool should be expected to beat—and for the fact that, at the start of November, they appear legitimate title challengers.
“He has everybody believing,” he added. “The fans, the players, he seems to work so well with them. They are able to prepare for games, they have great recovery time, and you can feel it here for Anfield at home games. He is probably the most important thing.”