At the halfway point of the season Liverpool are sitting in the top four, and the target is to still be there when the final whistle blows on the last day of the season.
But just being fourth now doesn’t quite tell the full story. Liverpool have surprised a lot of people this season, of that I have no doubt. Two of the toughest fixtures in any team’s Premier League season have meant we have dropped six points off top spot, but occupying that position over Christmas was an impressive feat and a just reward for our efforts so far.
The start of the season saw us scraping a few 1-0 wins from unspectacular performances, but getting the results was an important test of character. And since then, we have only improved and have been scoring goals for fun, often brushing teams aside by three or four goal margins. The defence has been leaky, and we’ve had the odd upset, but overall our football has been fantastic.
It says a lot that our away trip to Man City, who have been simply unstoppable at home, is being lauded as one of the best games this season for the neutral, as two attacking teams went at each other hammer and tong, and the general consensus being that we were very unlucky to leave empty handed. Whereas fixtures between other top teams this season have often been very muted affairs with defences being on top. We showed no such fear, and for much of the game we outplayed the Manchester club in their own back yard.
The result didn’t come though, nor did it away to Chelsea or Arsenal, while trips to Everton, Newcastle and Swansea only saw us manage draws. Playing these teams away from home in the first half of the season could be seeing as beneficial, as it means they all now have to come to Anfield, where so far we have been at our best.
Convincing wins against West Brom, Fulham, West Ham and Norwich are among the highlights, as we have won every game at home this season bar an early blip against Southampton. But as with playing the top teams away, these have been lower table sides that we have beaten. You can only beat what is put in front of you and we have done that, but we would have been very disappointed if we hadn’t.
The reason the second half of this season is so interesting, is that we will see where our true form lies. There is no shame in dropping a few points away to the top teams in the league. And if we really are as good at home as we have so far demonstrated, we should expect to even this out with a few wins against the likes of Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and Everton at Anfield. And looking at our away trips, you would expect us to still get the better of your Fulham’s, Crystal Palace’s and Cardiff’s at their ground.
However, if in fact our form has come from playing weak opposition at home who have struggled against our quality, we may find these teams a different kettle of fish when we go to visit them with their own fans behind them. Especially now that these teams are starting to fight tooth and nail for points to avoid lingering near the relegation places. They will see their home games as absolute must wins. So it may be that we should expect to drop a few more points against those sides than in the respective home ties.
Then if the bigger sides come to Anfield showing a bit more fight and quality than the previous visitors, we may also have to expect more dropped points on our turf too.
So on paper our second half of the season may seem more straightforward, but I am erring on the side of caution. Of course, what I have taken out of the equation to look at it this way is our own qualities. Which, make no mistake, I have full confidence in. We have the mentality, the determination and the talent to keep up our good form. And with players returning from injury, hopefully a couple of new additions in the transfer window, and the best striker in the world banging them in up front, we should never underestimate ourselves.
For me though, title talk is a bit premature, and if someone offered me fourth place right now I would bite their hands off, and consider that a very successful season indeed.