Are Liverpool genuine Premier League title contenders?
Holly Thackeray | 17 October 2016
Are Liverpool now genuine Premier League title contenders?
It has been all too easy to refer to Liverpool as fallen giants, as the Merseysiders have not lifted an English top-flight league title since 1990, but there have been several domestic and European cups clinched in the intervening years.
Now with Jurgen Klopp at the helm, the Reds have begun to rise from the ruins of Brendan Rodgers’ hot and cold reign, having made Europa League and League Cup finals under the German in his debut season.
The next step, aside from silverware in those competitions, has to be to restore the Anfield outfit to former division glories with a first ever Premier League title.
Odds for Liverpool to be crowned PL champions had previously been slashed from 8/1 to 13/2 with Coral after the Reds romped to an opening day 4-3 victory against Arsenal at the Emirates. Now, the Reds are 4/1 second favourites ahead of Monday’s Northwest derby rivals Manchester United (all the way back at 14/1).
Liverpool have surged in betting thanks to just one defeat from seven PL games so far this season, while they drubbed reigning champions Leicester 4-1.
So, have bookies, fans and punters alike jumped the gun? Or are Klopp’s contingent now genuine Premier League title contenders? Coral experts consider.
Forwards fantastic but flattering to deceive?
As the old adage goes, you can only beat what’s in front of you. Yet Liverpool were being lauded for humbling Arsenal despite their severe defensive depletion, plus hammering an out-of-sorts Leicester and threadbare Hull City.
It is oddly a draw with in-form Tottenham that is perhaps their most impressive result this term, as beating Chelsea, who have had the Blues this season, looks less landmark now in hindsight.
As for their opening Arsenal scalp, the Gunners are hardly renowned for their rearguard composure at the best of times, but when they were missing such vital puzzle pieces as Laurent Koscielny, Arsene Wenger’s team were always going to be fair game from the start.
Still, the Reds managed to out-gun a Gunners team containing the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott, already improving upon their two draws with the London club from last season.
Despite Man Utd’S current lesser league standing, it is the cauldron atmosphere of the derby that will be the biggest test of the rampant Reds forwards’ mettle.
All the talk has been about Klopp’s decision not to field a traditional centre forward, instead opting for a formidable roster of rotating and fluid attacking talent in Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho with Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Lallana starting as adventurous midfielders.
Mischievous Mane has proven a lively outlet for the Liverpudlians and is 13/2 to notch first versus Man Utd, on three goals in the league alongside Coutinho and Firmino. Though it is actually utility man James Milner (6/1 anytime) who leads the scorer charts with four.
Any strikers to stake a claim?
Sharing the scoring burden between wingmen and playmakers is all well and good, and Klopp certainly has plenty to pick from, but are any of his attacking options truly prolific enough to fire the team to glory?
Joint with Premier League leaders Manchester City for goals scored (18), the Reds still lack a recognised and proven striker like Sergio Aguero. Well, one that can be a regular starter anyway.
Sturridge (5/1 for the final say) has all the tools but, at the moment, not the injury record to be that man and is without a PL strike this season.
Promising Divock Origi is also yet to open his PL account for the campaign and is far from a finished product, with Danny Ings not yet back in contention. While all of Mane, Firmino, Coutinho and Wijnaldum have it all to prove about their consistency.
Liverpool could still well rue bundling Christian Benteke off to Crystal Palace, as the big Belgian looks to be finding his shooting boots again.
Under Klopp, Liverpool boast team play and spirit in spades, and as Leicester showed, a collective effort can take you all the way. But it is worth noting that the Foxes still had 24-goal Jamie Vardy and 17-goal Riyad Mahrez to count on.
So, we’ll reserve judgement on this apparent elite attack until they’ve played on the pitch for more than a few months.
Rearguard wobbles still the Reds’ undoing
On the evidence of Liverpool’s’ outings so far, not much has changed since last season, aside from a dash more flair and confidence. Still capable of bombarding opponents with an inter-changing attack and plenty of pressing, spectators should be in for boundless excitement.
However, Klopp’s cohorts are still putting in the kind of slack performances at the back that resulted in losing points, and games, to the likes of Southampton last season.
Liverpool have yet to show they can also be patient and pick their moments, which is why even splashing the cash on defence may not make a huge difference.
Still, the Reds have forked out some quite extravagant fees on Mane and co this summer, which does look justified. But, spending more on the rearguard would not go amiss.
Lack of concentration and over-commitment to attack was what saw Arsenal almost enjoy a great comeback in the season opener, and Man Utd have the capability to be ruthless on the counter attack.
Alberto Moreno is the obvious option to be replaced at left back after losing his slot to Milner, as for all the width he brings bombing forwards there is little in the way of timing or defensive nous.
Milner’s return from injury has made all the difference, but he is far from a natural full back, which suggests Liverpool are still a few quality additions away from challenging.
The shrewd signing of Joel Matip and Dejan Lovren’s dramatically improved form have been a revelation for the Reds rearguard but depth in top quality centre back partners still lack. Those names do not quite yet instil the kind of confidence required to guarantee medals, especially with what still looks a soft centre of Wijnaldum and Lallana alongside Jordan Henderson in the middle of the park.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s power and stature, plus the pace and ingenuity of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, will arguably be the biggest acid test for not only Liverpool’s defence and attack, but their title aspirations as a whole.
Reds fans – what do you think of Jurgen Klopp’s chances? Are Liverpool Premier League title contenders?