If we follow social media memes during international breaks, the general feeling we get is that fans hate them. Football fans show withdrawal symptoms during these time periods that have been sprinkled at regular intervals in a season’s calendar by the authorities that be. They show this by channelling their ennui into memes of various hues, but all showing their impatience about club football restarting. Fans, of course, love the tournaments like World Cup, Euro and Copa America, but these international breaks that are required to give shape to those tournaments, are not as appreciated.
However, I feel that these breaks are useful – not just to ensure that those summer tournaments get the best teams playing – but also as two week-windows during which managers and fans can evaluate their team’s performance better. Otherwise, the hectic English football season does not allow any time for them to objectively, truly understand where their teams stand. Everyone gets sucked into the emotion their team’s most recent form has generated and everyone, sometimes even the manager, is consumed by that emotion. Well, at least till the time a break arrives. Which is why I would recommend using your bonus code 2017 for the league title if your club is not playing European football.
Take the case of Liverpool. Before the September international break, they had some early season successes, which meant that the supporters, as well as the manager, sounded pretty positive during the September break. The Reds had defeated Hoffenheim twice and thrashed Arsenal at home in the last game before the break. Hence the optimism. But, there were some basic problems with Liverpool’s football and they were laid bare in the seven matches that they played between that international break and the current one. Problems at the back persisted and as the bad form continued, problems started cropping up in the attack as well.
This led to Liverpool losing two of those seven games (all comp) and drawing four, while winning only one. Considering the Reds’ ambitions this season, this is really worrying form. This has caused much grief among the Reds’ fans and has left the usually affable Klopp also snapping at reporters in post-match conferences. So, just like Liverpool fans could not see the weaker aspects of their side, is it possible that they have become too negative in this current break?
I personally feel they have. Not that the draws and especially the loss against Manchester City were not utterly confounding but I feel that these results have not left Liverpool as out of reach of the top-four as they could have and on the field Liverpool have the ingredients to churn up some positive results, if the form of a few Liverpool players improves. Here are three reasons, which I think should inspire some optimism among the Reds.
The League Table
Given the hyper-ventilation we see from the Reds’ fans we see on social media, it is easy for an uninitiated Premier League observer to conclude that Liverpool must at least be in the second half of the table if not in the relegation zone. But the fact is that the Reds are sitting seventh after playing seven, with 12 points and goal difference of 1. The only team above them that would not be a top-four rival is Burnley. Although they are seven points off the teams from Manchester, they are just two points away from the third-placed Spurs and just a point below Arsenal and Chelsea. They need to start winning, yes. But they just need a couple of other fixtures to go their way and they are back in top-four or at least in a fight for it.
Similarly, in the Champions League group, they are second behind Sevilla and two points from the top. The next two games they play are against Maribor. While being knocked out of the League Cup is unfortunate, it also reduces the early season fixture-congestion that the other winning teams are going to face until November. Thus, Liverpool are within sight of top-four and they can still reach the last 16 in the Champions League. I do not think those are reasons enough for panic or frustration.
League Results Against Same Opponents from Last Year
Last season Liverpool started the season really strong, thus making the comparison between first seven matches across season a moot point. But for the same fixtures from last year, I feel that Liverpool have gained similar points. While the home loss to Manchester City and away draw to Watford amount to a loss of five points, a home win against Crystal Palace and an away win against Leicester City amount to a gain of six. Arsenal lost at Anfield in both the seasons. Burnley lost at Anfield last season, but drew this time, so again a net loss of two points. Newcastle is a promoted side and Reds drew away against them. There is no direct comparison for this fixture but Liverpool did lose away to a promoted side – Burnley and drew against another – Hull City last season.
Since this last fixture is not comparable, we can drop it from the comparison. Thus, the Reds have gained two fewer points than last season in the six comparable games. I feel that if someone had said to the fans before the league started, that their team will suffer shoddy form but still drop only two points from last year’s comparable fixtures, not too many of them would have minded.
Theoretically, a Better Team than Last Season
Before the September break, I would not have to write anything under this header, as most fans would agree. But today, I might need to illustrate this. The Reds kept Coutinho and bolstered their attack with Salah. Sturridge and Ings are fit and can ready to play. Despite last season’s better start, Liverpool xG in first seven games was 15.41. This season, it is 15.92, which is third-best in the league.
With Coutinho moving to midfield and Milner being relieved of his left-back duties by Robertson, Reds’ midfield ranks are also bolstered. While the central defense is an obvious weak spot, but Liverpool have improved their full-back options this season. Thus, the collective drop in form across most positions and lack of central defensive options notwithstanding, Liverpool have indeed improved their squad.
All this is not to suggest that Liverpool are playing fantastic football or will win silverware this season. No, they might succumb to a lost against Manchester United on Saturday and continue their dismal form. But the fact is that their poor run in September has not been as harmful as many assumed it to be. On paper, they have a better team than last year and they have not performed too badly when compared by each fixture either. So instead of seething in frustration and anger, Liverpool fans need to stay positive. They should be hopeful that the players come refreshed after this break. They should also be hopeful that Klopp has used this break to work out a few of the kinks in their setup. These are the reasons why they should stay hopeful.