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The Long Road from Doubt to Belief

Jürgen Klopp set out to turn doubters to believers, but it’s hard to let go of your nerves when you’re a Liverpool fan.

Liverpool Training Session - UEFA Europa League Final Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Last season, Liverpool headed to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City on the first of May. The Reds were flying high in Europe, in the semi-finals of the Europa League. They were in good form in the league. Fans were regularly greeting the team bus ahead of home games with flares and flags and singing. There was hope and there was expectation.

Then the match against Swansea kicked off. Liverpool were down a pair of goals after just 33 minutes, and when they began to climb back into the game in the second half with a 65th minute marker from Christian Benteke, it took just two minutes for Swansea to notch their third. Ten minutes later, Liverpool were down to ten men. The game was over.

It’s the sort of result Liverpool fans had become accustomed to. Not the specific opponent, but the timing and manner of it. The fact that any time Liverpool seem to be rounding into top form, there’s a massive let down lurking just around the corner. That when things seem to be going a little too well or a little too smoothly, it’s time to get nervous.

Now, at the end of second month of the 2016-17 Premier League season and preparing to face Swansea on the first of October, things are going well. Really well. Liverpool have defeated Arsenal and Chelsea. They fought Tottenham to a draw at White Hart Lane. They got past Hull City in impressive fashion, avoiding a potential let down. It feels like it might be time to start getting nervous.

The very fact that Liverpool were so impressive in swatting Hull aside feels like cause to be concerned on at least some level when really it should have been a performance to fill fans with confidence. And it should have. Yet it’s hard to fully shake the feeling that just when things begin to feel like they’re going too well, that’s when the other shoe drops.

It might not always even be a result. It can be the club finally shaking off the ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillet, bringing in Kenny Dalglish as manager, and then just when things are looking up Fernando Torres hands in a transfer request. It’s a Luis Suarez suspension. It’s an unsettling rumour leaking in the press ahead of an important game.

Perhaps, though, this time it will be different. Doubters to believers. Hull City, after all, was different. Hull City was the game almost every Liverpool fan was worried was that other shoe about to drop. Instead, Jürgen Klopp preached anger at the thought that Hull were coming to take Liverpool’s points, and the players bought in. Swansea will face that same anger.

“We shouldn’t compare the game last year,” the Liverpool manager insisted while taking time out from his preparations for Saturday’s match to talk to the press. “It was a difficult week, and we had to make changes. When we played at Swansea it wasn’t the perfect moment. Now we have no excuses. We have time to recover. We have time to prepare.”

Time to prepare, and time to get angry at the idea of a struggling side sat 17th in the table with just four points to show for their season so far might steal Liverpool’s points on Saturday. That they might use Liverpool’s largess as a way to get their own season back on track after a rough start. That they might be the reminder that things right now are going a little too well.

Having faced one of the most difficult openings of any Premier League side, with a win on Saturday Liverpool could enter the October break in second. Hope would be justified. Title talk, just beginning to simmer, would be unavoidable. And, just maybe, this time around it wouldn’t be that things were going too well. This time, they’d just be going really well.

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