After 14 games last season, unbeaten Chelsea were top of the league with a six-point gap over Manchester City. Leicester City were bottom of the table, Southampton's fine start slowed with successive defeats to the Premier League's leading lights, and other teams either in the top four (apart from Manchester City) or a couple of points away from a Champions League place were double figures away from top spot.
This season, much has changed. Leicester City are prevented from sitting at the top of the league by virtue of goal difference, Chelsea are five points above a relegation spot after seven defeats and a goal difference befitting their position, and only six points separate first from sixth. The lack of consistency in the league's top sides no longer offers crumbs of solace to a beleaguered Liverpool manager but gives further encouragement to a manager who both charms and inspires his players and fans.
Jürgen Klopp may impress with his words and personality but won't engage in hyperbole or unnecessary raising of expectations. "We have to play football" will be Liverpool's motto during the next two months. It's still difficult not to discuss what is shaping up to be an exciting period in the season. Every team has tasted defeat, and while Manchester City look like the league's most talented side, Liverpool and Tottenham secured emphatic victories over Manuel Pellegrini's team. The return of Sergio Agüero and David Silva, however, gives the league favourites an edge with somewhat favourable fixtures on the horizon.
Manchester United lack imagination in attack with a more functional, ponderous approach favoured by Louis van Gaal, Claudio Ranieri's thrilling Leicester City face a taxing run of games similar to ones that undid last season's surprise package Southampton this time last year, and Arsenal—without a win in three league games—have lost a few more key players to injury over the past week. Only Tottenham Hotspur—unbeaten since losing their opening game of the season—appear to be free from the perils of injury concerns, rough fixtures, form, or doubts surrounding their approach to the game.
Then there's Liverpool. It shouldn't be forgotten that Jürgen Klopp has steered Liverpool to seven wins in eight matches without the influence of an ageing, influential club legend past his best or a superstar forward who would move on the following season. What Liverpool are doing appears to be both sustainable and beyond the oft-talked about "new manager bump". With time on the training pitch and in the transfer window, performances and results could get better over the next 12 months with a relatively young squad.
Liverpool are running considerably more per game, playing with far more conviction in each area of the team, getting better results, and looking like a team to be respected and feared. The players should be congratulated for their application and endeavours since the former Borussia Dortmund manager took charge at Anfield, but Jürgen Klopp has been central to all that has been good about the club's improvement. The appetite for concerted and consistent counter pressing, away wins that bear the all hallmarks of Klopp's philosophy, renewed confidence within the squad, and a reinvigorated fanbase can be attributed to Klopp.
November was difficult for Arsenal, a side that looked ready to challenge during an impressive run of five straight wins from late September that was halted with a draw in the North London derby in early October. As it stands, Liverpool are in the mix. However, things can change very quickly in the Premier League with only Manchester City looking certain to challenge for the title. Maybe Manchester United or Arsenal will prove to be more than top four challengers. Could Leicester City prove that they won't fall away as Southampton did last season? The talk of Spurs not being quite like the Spurs of old might just last through the season under a bright manager in Mauricio Pochettino.
It all feels like the opening corner of an F1 race where various competitors jostle for position early on even though the halfway point of the league campaign is just a few games away. The woes of the defending champions will probably create a spot enabling entrance to the land of milk and honey, just as Liverpool and Manchester United did in the last two league campaigns. Liverpool probably cannot be considered title challengers as it stands, but Klopp's side currently lies six points off the top and just four away from the top four.
It's refreshing for Liverpool fans to see their side part of the mix at the top with an international break over three months away. The January transfer window opens next month and Liverpool are part of the conversation at the sharp end once again. There are no targets at this stage apart from looking at the next game, but Klopp has helped everyone at the club look towards the top.