> LIverpool skipper hoping Klopp’s new era can banish memories of near miss
IT WAS on his way out of Anfield late on Sunday afternoon when Jordan Henderson faced the inevitable question from a reporter asking for a comparison between Jürgen Klopp’s new Premier League leaders and the last Liverpool team who came close to ending the club’s long wait for the league title.
“The team of 2013/14 is in the past,” said Henderson, the Liverpool captain. Needless to say, he was whistling in the wind.
At a club with Liverpool’s keen sense of history, comparisons are inevitable when the prospect of another tilt at that elusive first League championship since 1990 looms.
Three times before in this century Liverpol have been Premier League runners-up – in 2001, 2009 and 2014 – and a statistical comparison suggests the current team’s credentials are as credible as any of their predecessors’.
After all, only Rafa Benítez’s 2008/09 side managed the 26point haul that Klopp’s men have earned from their first 11 matches; at this stage in 2001/02 and 2013/14 Liverpool were three points worse off.
Another positive point of comparison is Liverpool’s outstanding scoring record so far this term.
With 30 goals already, they have a tally unmatched by any Liverpool team after 11 League fixtures since the fondly remembered championshipwinning side of 1987/88 which featured the front three of Peter Beardsley, John Barnes and John Aldridge.
It was a more recent trio – Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling – whom Henderson was asked to draw a comparison with, given his position as a survivor of that near miss in 2014 under Brendan Rodgers.
Today, Anfield has another world-class front three in Roberto Firmino, Philippe Coutinho and Sadio Mane according to Henderson, who believes Liverpool’s current attacking players are “unstoppable” on their day.
They certainly were against a Watford side who had no answer to the pace and movement and intensity of Liverpool’s forward play.
“They are world-class players,” said Henderson. “Their understanding of the game, not only going forward, but also the work rate they all give for the team in terms of pressing and winning the ball back high up the pitch.
“They all help the team defensively.
“The three of them are fantastic at that and then going forward they are unstoppable when they are on it.
“I see them every day,” he added. “It’s a pleasure to be playing with them.
“It’s our job to ensure that we offer protection for them when they are going forward and expressing themselves.
“As a team I feel as though we have a lot of quality and in the final third they’ve been brilliant over the past few weeks.”
Henderson was correct to add that “we were very good throughout the whole team” and while doubts remain about a defence which has leaked 14 goals – more than at this stage of any of their three previous 21st century title pushes – it was impossible not to admire the relentless energy displayed across the pitch, which was embodied by Adam Lallana, roaming brilliantly behind the front three.
Only Kevin De Bruyne has more Premier League assists than Lallana’s five, though it is Mane, the £30 million (RM156m) summer recruit from Southampton, who leads Liverpool’s scoring chart with six.
The lightning-fast Senegal forward is well on course to surpass his Premier League tally for each of his two seasons at St Mary’s – where he scored 10, then 11 – and has “gone up another level” at Anfield according to Henderson.
“He was a big talent at Southampton. From the performances he put in and the goals he scored, you could see the ability he had,” the skipper said.
“Since he’s come here he’s gone up another level and you have to give credit to the manager and to his staff for that, as well as to Sadio himself for the work he’s put in.
“He’s gone up another level tactically and in terms of intelligence.
I’m sure Sadio would tell you the same. But he’s also put in the hard work and that’s what’s getting him the rewards.”
The same could be said the entire Liverpool team as Anfield regulars begin to dream again. – The Independent
Liverpool skipper Jordan Henderson (centre) in action with Watford’s Troy Deeney (left) during Sunday’s English Premier League match at Anfield. –