Remember those yearly "we can make the top four" comments and interviews by Liverpool players that were proven to be far removed from the bitter reality to come? Well, Nathaniel Clyne believes that Liverpool have a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League title. In an interview with Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports, the England international shared his belief that maintaining momentum could lead to a successful season.
"I don't see why not. We've got the squad of players to fight for the title," Clyne replied after being asked about the club's title chances. "If we keep playing how we are then hopefully we can be in amongst it at the end of the season."
Liverpool have been playing well and running hard under Jürgen Klopp this season, providing plenty of entertainment in the process. With the exception of one match, this has reaped rewards in both Premier League and EFL Cup action so far this season. The way Klopp has set Liverpool up to play is clear, and even better, it's working.
"Everyone knows their roles and you can see how it's working and paying off on the field," Clyne said. "There's a serious side to him [Klopp] on the pitch. If someone's not doing what he's asked, he'll let them know.
"We really make life difficult for the opposition and play at 100 miles an hour. We're entertaining to watch."
Liverpool have made a good start to the season beating Arsenal, Leicester City, and Chelsea along with a creditable draw away to Tottenham Hotspur. Yet this start should be tempered by the fact that Burnley's sole victory this season has come against Liverpool. To put this into context, Sean Dyche's side haven't been able to beat Swansea City, Accrington Stanley, Chelsea, Hull City, or Leicester City in an admittedly young campaign.
Although Clyne later spoke of the club's "bouncebackability" in responding well to the defeat at Turf Moor, challenging for the title requires more than recovering from such reversals. Liverpool and Arsenal combined to inflict the only defeats suffered Claudio Ranieri's fairy-tale champions last season, and Chelsea were bested by just West Bromwich Albion, Tottenham, and Newcastle the season before.
Liverpool's average this decade? 10.83 league defeats per season. In the past two seasons where the champions have lost just three league games, Liverpool recorded an average of 11 defeats over 38 league games. Clean sheets and picking up three points instead of zero away to teams such as Burnley are probably good ideas for teams aiming to succeed Leicester in 2016/17.
While it can be heartening to hear that players believe and have confidence in their colleagues, repeated performances and results provide a clearer and more concrete message. Liverpool are doing well right now, but now is the time to play down any perceived chances of challenging for the league title, continue to play good football, get results, build momentum, and watch on as pressure consumes rivals.