THEY say that home is where the heart is. That certainly rings true at Anfield where down the years Liverpool have seduced fans, made hearts race with anxiety, and on occasion even broken them.
It would be churlish to suggest that The Reds have a shot at the Premier League title this season, what with Manchester City winning all football games that are thrown at them, but a good way of laying the foundations for success is to make your home a fortress and there have been signs that Jürgen Klopp is doing just that.
The topic came up yesterday on The Anfield Wrap’s weekly free show, and the host of that show Neil Atkinson touched on it in his excellent post-Southampton match review, that Liverpool have suddenly discovered how to execute so-called “routine” wins at home.
At home in the league so far this season The Reds have played six, won four and drawn two, conceding just one goal. For a team with such a generally iffy defensive record that single strike against is fairly remarkable, especially considering the 16 conceded away from home. At the current rate they’re on course to concede just three league goals at Anfield across the campaign.
Admittedly football doesn’t work that way and these words could come back to bite me if Chelsea score three next week, but with the way Klopp has his side playing on home turf of late there’s every reason to believe this trend can continue.
The cool, calm and collected nature of recent victories over Huddersfield Town and Southampton has been almost eerie given how few times Liverpool have been capable of gaining such no-nonsense points in the last few years, but it’s also most welcome.
That said, it’s still just a good start. The Reds actually began last season in even more impressive form, winning five and drawing one of their first six at Anfield. An annoying draw with West Ham United aside, the home form remained excellent right up until the devastating loss to Swansea City in January.
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They had shown what they were capable of until that point though, and tidy wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Everton and Middlesbrough in the choppy waters of the second half of the season helped to achieve Champions League qualification. The key this time round will be to try and maintain this form throughout.
One particularly pleasing thing about Saturday as Mo Salah and his mates tore through Southampton was the visitors’ reaction to going one goal down. Shoulders visibly slumped, belief drained and three points were essentially secured.
The Saints aren’t in the best way at the moment, granted, but if Liverpool can have that effect on more visiting sides over the next few weeks and months then they can perhaps make their lives easier by getting into their opponents’ heads before games have even happened.
This was one of Manchester United’s keys to success in previous years, and Liverpool’s for that matter in better times. Build a reputation for being outstandingly ruthless at home, make teams subconsciously certain they’ll have a torrid time and probably lose, then hopefully defeats like Swansea and Crystal Palace last season don’t happen.
The Reds travel to Sevilla for a chance to tie up a Champions League knockout place tomorrow, but will soon be back to host the Premier League title holders. If they can put on another clinic in how to play and win at home then people will have to start taking what this team can achieve with these players and this manager very seriously.
Now, as for the away form, a continuation of the counter-attacking tactics that saw off West Ham might be the way forward, but that’s another article for another time.
Up the fortress-building Reds.
If you’re struggling to think of a Christmas present for a Red in your life then why not get them a copy of my new book on Jürgen Klopp and his first two seasons as manager of Liverpool? Kloppite: One Man’s Quest to turn Doubters into Believers is available from various places where books are sold, such as Amazon.