"We have to change from doubters to believers. Now."
Those were the final words of Jürgen Klopp's first interview as Liverpool's new manager. In a short two months with the charismatic Swabian in charge, Liverpool fans were starting to believe again. The Reds had suffered just one defeat in eleven, and four wins on the trot.
Then Sunday happened.
It was a performance as sloppy and disjointed as any we had seen under Rodgers' last year-plus. Defeat was perhaps a bit harsh, but no more so than victory would have been fortunate. In the span of 90 minutes, the exciting 4-1 and 6-1 away thrashings to Manchester City and Southampton faded from memory, only to leave the bitter taste of a 2-0 defeat to one of the worst teams in the league.
This was bound to happen. Upsets happen. Liverpool cannot just be the beneficiaries of taking points off the best teams in England without also occasionally losing to some of the worst.
The media set out with their torches and pitchforks, as they are wont to do, because the narrative that they created of Liverpool as title contenders has seemingly evaporated. Such is life in the modern football news cycle, where one result can make or break a season, at least until next week.
The loss hurt, no doubt. It hurt our dreams of title glory (which were probably overblown to begin with). It hurt our potential to finish Top 4. It hurt our hearts, and our belief.
But how much did it really hurt?
As fans, we see our team climb or descend the table with every win, loss, or draw. We create caveats and scenarios in our mind, "But X team hasn't played Y," or, "If we can beat Z, then we'll be only 3 points from 4th." However, football is never that simple.
The best teams in the league, the coveted Top 4, will average around 2 points per game or better. In any 3 game set, that's two wins and a loss. Statistically, teams that press for the win, but come up short every third game will be much better off than teams who win one and draw two.
Klopp plays a high-risk, high-reward game. When it works, it can wear out opponents and produce impressive scorelines. When it fails, we see performances like we did against Newcastle, with very little created going forward, and errant passes all over the pitch.
In league play, we now have as many wins and losses under Klopp as we did under Rodgers, in roughly the same number of games (7 to 8). But the losses were by less, and the wins by more. And while the losses under Klopp were to worse competition, the wins under Klopp were against far better. And outside of the league? Klopp has been far more impressive in League Cup and Europa League action.
Fans must remind themselves it's still a work in progress. When Klopp took the Reds to Stamford Bridge, the Etihad, and St. Mary's to produce those results, we saw great things from a rejuvenated squad, and expected those results to continue. I have do doubt we'll continue to see improvement, just like I have no doubt we'll see us similarly crap the bed against an inferior opponent in the not-too-distant future.
The league remains wide open, but we have to come to terms that any talk of trophies or Champions League qualification would require a phenomenal second-half of the season. These things are not outside the realm of possibility, but maybe Klopp can't quite bring the Glory Days™ back to Anfield just yet.