The Reds have made their best start to a season in 28 years but there is a realisation within the camp, from top to bottom, that there is more to come
The message coming out of Liverpool could not be clearer.
Despite starting the new Premier League season flawlessly, heading into the international break top of the table, looking good and feeling good, nobody could accuse Jurgen Klopp and his players of getting carried away.
Following their latest victory, at Leicester on Saturday, the Reds boss was at pains to point out that a good start is exactly that: a start.
“Result-wise it could not have been better,” Klopp said. “Performance-wise, we know that we can improve.”
It’s a mantra he has repeated after each of his side’s last three games, and one his players were swift to repeat in the mixed zone at the King Power Stadium.
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“It’s all about getting results,” said defender Joe Gomez, one of the stars of the opening weeks of the campaign. “We’re not always going to have the best performances but we’ll take the result any day of the week. I’m happy we’ve had a good run so far but it’s about continuing it now.”
Andy Robertson was next. “We’re still a work in progress,” admitted the new Scotland captain. “I think there’s a lot more to come.”
Finally came Gini Wijnaldum, washbag in hand, trademark smile on face. Same message.
“We have to do things better,” he said. “But the result is the most important thing.”
Encouraging, indeed, for Liverpool supporters desperate to see their side challenge for the big honours this season. Complacency, it seems, will not be tolerated at Anfield.
Klopp’s team, by their manager’s own admission, are far from perfect, but they are clearly improving. To their speed and attacking excellence they appear to have added other things; steel, organisation, nous.
Perspective, too. If there’s one thing Liverpool could be accused of down the years, it is allowing themselves to get carried away by a good run of form. Without a title win since 1990, there have been false dawns aplenty on Merseyside.
Important, then, that this team, good as it is, appear ready to avoid the same pitfalls. Klopp said before their second game of the season, away at Crystal Palace, that the good publicity they have been receiving must be ignored. “It makes no sense to celebrate all week and then fall hard,” he pointed out. Liverpool responded by grinding out a 2-0 win at Selhurst Park.
His players, clearly, are listening, and it reflects well on their progress that, having made their best start to a season in 28 years, there is still plenty of talk as to what they can do better, where they can improve and what will happen when they eventually hit top gear.
“We have to grow,” Wijnaldum says. “In these kind of situations, the next time we have to make it less hard for ourselves. You have to play football, and that has to be improved during the season.”
That quote could easily have come from Klopp, who believes his team’s work with the ball so far this season has fallen short of the high standards set across the past two years, and who is now ready to start rotating his squad having used only 12 starters in their opening four fixtures.
He accepts that a condensed, World Cup-affected summer has not helped matters. Several players, including the likes of Roberto Firmino and Jordan Henderson, are still, in effect, having their pre-season now, working their way to optimal fitness. In that sense the latest international break is far from ideal.
“We have to show how fit we are,” says Wijnaldum. “For me personally it was harder to play 90 minutes in the beginning because during pre-season I was getting injured on my quad. I think it was harder for me for other players. But so far it’s going well for all of us.
“We know that the training sessions are hard and really competitive. But I think that makes us better, not only as a team, but as players because you have to compete against your team, good players.”
When Liverpool return to action after the international break, they will be thrown headlong into a three-week whirlwind of huge fixtures. In 23 days, they will face Tottenham, Paris Saint-Germain, Southampton, Chelsea (twice), Napoli and Manchester City. It could be a defining period.
“I think in these kind of periods you need your whole squad,” says Wijnaldum, who has started all four games so far. “They are not only big games, but there are a lot of them. It’s going to be a really important period for us.”
The good news is that he and his team-mates, not to mention their manager, appear ready for it. So far, so good, but the real challenges lie ahead. Liverpool look like contenders this season, but you won’t catch anyone at Anfield getting carried away just yet.
Rightly so. There will be plenty of twists and turns to come. For now, Liverpool can enjoy their progress, safe in the knowledge that their best is yet to come.