Liverpool’s performances in the early stages of this campaign may not have been pretty, but with the club sitting level on points with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League and having earned two victories from two games in the Champions League, Kopites have plenty of reasons for hope on all fronts this season.
Their battling victory over Manchester United last month was the perfect example of how Liverpool have overpowered teams with their grit and determination so far. Breathtaking football has not been the name of the game for Benitez’s team, but the worshipers of Anfield will not mind one bit if the team continue to collect maximum points so regularly. After all, football is first and foremost is a results business.
Against United at Anfield Benitez ordered his soldiers to be physical with Ferguson’s boys, harass them whenever they were on the ball, and never give them time and space. Gerrard and Torres watched on from the sidelines as Liverpool’s midfield maestro Javier Mascherano led his comrades to a gutsy win in which the superstars of Old Trafford were bullied by the fired up warriors of Merseyside. Liverpool did play some nice football when they had the chance to, but they were only able to seize opportunities to do this as a result of hard work to win the ball back.
A victory over the European champions was just what the doctor ordered for Liverpool. It has given them a much needed injection of confidence, because some of the club’s players had many doubts flowing through their bloodstreams beforehand. The performances prior to the much celebrated win on that Saturday lunchtime a few weeks ago were of a team who had no reason to believe a good season lay ahead. But an own goal from Wes Brown and a late Ryan Babel strike turned everything around. It gave them a reason to believe. And probably the best reason they could have probably found.
Liverpool had been winning games before Ferguson was silenced, but their triumphs over Standard Liege, Sunderland and Middleborough were all very fortunate in many respects. They played poorly, created very little and were outplayed for long periods. They relied on the raw quality possessed by the likes of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres to salvage the wins and earn them the credibility of being a team who can play poorly but still claim all three points. Those types of teams are usually classed as champion teams.
But nobody in and around the club, from Benitez to a season-ticket holder in the Kop, was under any illusions that the victories would just keep coming when so many players were underperforming. It just does not happen like that.
But Benitez’s tactical ideas finally clicked into gear against United and the team has not looked back since, bar a disappointing goalless draw at home to Stoke City that would have propelled them to the top of the Premier League. Two wins in the Champions League and victory in the Merseyside derby across Stanley Park have been added since the defeat of United, and the confidence seems to be on an all-time high when only weeks ago it appeared to be on the verge of sinking.
Those unconvincing early wins are looking ever so crucial now though, as added together with the more fulfilled recent victories it equals an unbeaten record and joint-top positions in the two major competitions. A Carling Cup fourth-round spot has also been secured.
Of course, it is only a start for Liverpool. If somebody was to predict the remainder of the campaign based on what has happened so far then their results would most likely prove very inaccurate come May. Manchester United lie in the bottom half of the table just like they did at this stage last season, and look what happened domestically and continentally when the trophies were counted up for them.
Liverpool have certainly not achieved anything yet. A good start it has been, but that is only a platform to go out and win silverware. The hard work is still to come for Benitez and his men, but with a new-found spark of confidence, the added quality of Albert Riera on the left-hand side of midfield, and a habit of winning when playing poorly, Liverpool have no reason to write off a history making campaign. Everybody at Anfield must believe though.