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Liverpool Head into September with a Solid Start

Liverpool have started well in Brendan Rodgers' third season at the club and by the end of this month, the club could replicate last season's points haul.

Alex Livesey

Last season was one of the best starts Liverpool had to a season for quite a while. A close rival was vanquished early and Simon Mignolet made vital saves to ensure Liverpool secured three points. The penalty save and follow up heroics against Stoke City that preserved a clean sheet as well as secured three points late against Stoke was followed up by a stonking save by a thunderous Christian Benteke shot against Aston Villa.

This season, Simon Mignolet intervened to thwart the excellent Morgan Schneiderlin from turning Southampton's ascendancy at Anfield into something altogether more problematic and prevented a worrying mix up from Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho from resulting in another silly goal conceded late in the first half. Manchester City going ahead against the run of play with minutes to go until the break was enough for one week. Monday mumbles and Sunday shivers would have been too much to bear.

A worrying trip to White Hart Lane garnered three points and a clean sheet in a different manner to the clean sheet and three points Liverpool collected against Manchester United early last season. Yet an early victory against a rival was secured. Sure, Manchester City defeated Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium but Liverpool have often struggled to gain more than a point no matter how well Rodgers' side matched the growing force in English football. In a way, the late goal ensured that Rodgers has not yet lost a game in the Premier League by more than two goals since his first match against West Bromwich Albion* and while this may seem a trite record to maintain, it creates the aura of a side that can be beaten but never battered in terms of scoreline. Is it something worth keeping? Does losing a match by two goals as opposed to three offer any crumbs of comfort for the Liverpool faithful? Perhaps.

Liverpool play Aston Villa next at Anfield when club football resumes after an early season international break. Aston Villa have been curious opponents under Paul Lambert and can spring a surprise when one least expects it. The Midlands club have started well, something that the manager needed in his third season at the club, with 7 points from the opening three league games of the domestic campaign. An away tie at West Ham United and a home derby against Everton round out September's league schedule. Interestingly, if Liverpool manage to pick seven points from nine then last season's points tally from the first six games will be identical to this campaign's. Such parallels may indicate how important it is to start well in a league where building momentum early is crucial.

When José Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea in 2004, he altered the complexity of competition at the sharpest end of the Premier League as his side's started exceptionally well and it was something that the Dark Lord remarked on as his side struggled to match them in his first two seasons. In Mourinho's third season, Manchester United finally got the hang of fast starts to win the title and perhaps this will be key in not only challenging for the title but also finishing in the top four. Liverpool returned to the Champions League by qualifying for the groups stages directly as England's second-placed side last season and replaced Manchester United among England's representatives.

Manchester United have spent heavily on some very good players, albeit in a grossly haphazard and unbalanced transfer strategy and will be determined to regain a seat at Europe's top table. That is not to say that Liverpool will be most at risk but that Liverpool's disjointed rivals will be determined to get back in. If they do, it shouldn't be at Liverpool's expense and looking at the squad Liverpool have assembled in the wake of Luis Suárez's departure, Brendan Rodgers should steer Liverpool to successive Champions League qualifications at the very least. Whatever other sides do should be of no concern to Liverpool as Brendan Rodgers' way of working and the talent in his squad really should not be inferior to four others by May 2015.

It's only three games into the season but the platform provided by a good start will only serve to solidify the notion that this is a side to be both respected and feared. The loss to Manchester City was only Liverpool's second this calendar year and Manuel Pellegrini's side proceeded to lose the next game to Stoke at home. Home ties in the Champions League and League Cup this month pit England's most successful side in Europe against opposition that should be bested if Liverpool turn in performances similar to the ones already displayed in this fledgling season to date. Interestingly, Liverpool's performances have areas where improvement can and should be made in the coming months with a different squad that seems to play with the same intoxicating approach witnessed earlier in the year.

Liverpool have become a team that is known for starting matches quickly and virtually ending games before the half hour mark. It would be welcome for Brendan Rodgers side to also have the reputation as a side that starts its domestic and European campaigns well irrespective of the type of opposition lurking in August and September. This month offers Liverpool with the opportunity to start a campaign strongly for the second season running.

*hat-tip to Hendo Hops for pointing out that Liverpool lost by three goals in Brendan Rodgers' first ever game in the Premier League.

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