Liverpool title push: how the stars have aligned for Jurgen Klopp
New manager instilled belief at Anfield, but it is form, fixtures and fans that will be key to a Liverpool title challenge
In the knee-jerk world of football, pundits are often guilty of getting carried away, but there is a groundswell of opinion that suggests Liverpool could become genuine title contenders.
The latest plank in the argument came at St Mary's where the Reds routed Southampton 6-1 in the Capital One Cup. It was a "riotous victory" says Dominic Fifield of The Guardian. "A scenario that only recently would have been considered utterly outlandish can feel more plausible... talk of an immediate challenge for the title cannot be dismissed quite so readily."
Much of the feel-good factor at Liverpool is down to Jurgen Klopp and he has installed a sense of belief among the players, but many observers believe that the stars are aligning for Liverpool away from Anfield.
Klopp's revitalised side are suddenly only six points off the top of the table in "a title race where none of the traditional contenders has really built up a proper head of steam", says Fifield. "With Chelsea horribly off the pace and those members of the established elite above the Merseyside club rather inconsistent, this season is starting to feel like an opportunity."
The same word "opportunity" is used by Alistair Tweedale in the Daily Telegraph, who points out that Liverpool have the fixture list in their favour. Liverpool have already played away at Arsenal, Man United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Man City this campaign, notes the paper. "That's last season's top five and their local rivals, which means their remaining games on the road all appear winnable on paper."
Liverpool fans could be forgiven if they look at the rest of the season's fixtures and "genuinely believe their team should win each and every one".
The Reds have been in magnificent form on the road under Klopp but Liverpool's home form will be key to their title challenge. They have struggled in front of the Kop in recent seasons, but as Yahoo Sport notes, Klopp has already taken steps to make Anfield a more intimidating place, upbraiding the Reds support for leaving early.
"The manager made a point not to blame the fans directly, but his message came through loud and clear," says Shahan Ahmed for the website. "Klopp did not fear the fans. Instead, he would take them to task and hold them accountable – just like a manager holds players accountable." Klopp's "new era of accountability" does not only apply to the players, it seems.
Something "very good" is happening to Liverpool, believes BBC pundit Steve Claridge, the Daily Express reports. "The challenge for Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool now is to find a way to break down teams who will go to Anfield, sit deep and not allow Liverpool to play through them," he says.
But with the fans on side, the fixtures in their favour and their rivals wobbling, Klopp's hand may prove to be a winning one.
Daniel Sturridge is back from injury, Philippe Coutinho is finally looking like a match-winning playmaker and there are young players coming through, notes Tweedale of the Telegraph.
Dominic Fifield of the Guardian points out that the win over Southampton was achieved without the involvement of Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino, James Milner, Nathaniel Clyne and Coutinho, while Jordan Henderson was a late substitute. Talk of a Liverpool title push no longer sounds "ludicrous".