Plenty of reasons for Liverpool supporters to be optimistic this season

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On the evidence of Liverpool’s first two games of the season, it is certainly fair to assume that inconsistency would continue to plague Jurgen Klopp’s men. The Reds produced a stunning display at the Emirates Stadium on the opening weekend in which they put four past the Gunners in the space of twenty minutes, only to fall flat at the hands of newly promoted Burnley, against whom they created few chances.

If any two games summed up Liverpool’s previous season, these two did. The Reds were brilliant against the tougher sides last season, yet struggled against the so-called “smaller” sides. They ran out 4-1 winners at the Etihad Stadium against Manchester City, but fell by three goals to Watford, who finished mid-table. The Reds dominated Chelsea, the defending champions that season, at Stanford Bridge, but were unable to see off the likes of Sunderland and Newcastle at home, despite two goal leads against both sides. A poor display would end any of the previous week’s optimism from a thrilling victory.

The first two games of the season suggested that the Reds’ struggles with inconsistency would continue. Dominant displays against England’s top sides, yet poor showings against the lesser sides were the theme of last season, just as they were in Liverpool’s first two games.

Despite convincing performances against Spurs and current champions Leicester City, in which they earned a 1-1 draw and a 4-1 victory respectively, some doubts still remained. Few doubted their ability against top sides. What would truly distinguish this season’s Liverpool from that of last season would be how they fared against sides against whom they are expected to take all three points.

The manner of their victories against Hull City and in particularly Swansea City, sides that Liverpool are expected to beat, demonstrated an improvement from last season. The Reds swept aside Hull, and put the game to bed by half time at which point they led by three goals. When Hull pulled one back shortly after the break, memories of fixtures against Sunderland, Newcastle, and Southampton must have entered the back of some supporters’ minds. However, the Reds did not succumb to the pressure and slight nerves that typically accompany the reduction of a lead, as they did far too often last season. Rather, they responded brilliantly and restored their three goal lead seconds after Hull’s goal. James Milner than added a fifth with his second penalty of the game.

Their reply to conceding a goal not only took an entirely different form than it did last season, but produced an entirely different result. While they managed to drop numerous points from winning positions last season, their ability to see out the game is the mark of club ready to compete at the top once more.

Their victory over Swansea established their credentials perhaps even more so than their performance against the Tigers the previous week. Aside from one thrilling turnaround against Borussia Dortmund, had Liverpool played as poorly as they did in the first half last season, they would have returned to Anfield empty handed. Rarely had the Reds earned victory last season with a poor performance.

However, despite a one goal deficit at half time, they departed the Liberty Stadium with all three points in the bag. At half time, the Reds were deservedly down a goal, but by full time deserved winners.

Their ability to seal a victory in such circumstances highlights their credentials to compete at the top of the table for the first time in three years. Top sides will not always play well. However, what allows them to maintain their positions at the top of the table is their capability to win games despite a poor performance and to improve as the game wears on. Liverpool were seldom able to do so last season, but certainly did against Swansea. Should they continue to apply this ability for the remainder of the season, they could find themselves pretty high up the table.

Despite some phenomenal performances against top sides last year, what ultimately prevented a high finish was the lack of results against the league’s weaker teams. Should they make a habit out of quelling any hopes for their opponents to comeback and improving as games progress, as they did in their last two fixtures, then Klopp’s men will certainly find themselves among the top places in the league.

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