Monday, October 6, 2008

A much different Liverpool

More so than any week yet, the post-match analysis around the world following the amazing comeback win at Eastlands was that Liverpool really might be – for real this time – ready to sustain a challenge for the Premier League this season. Of course, all of us sympathetic to the cause want to believe this. And why shouldn't we? In the past, Liverpool would do well to draw after going down a goal. This year, it seems they go down a goal every week. Sunday, they went down two, but Torres was there, and the red card helped the effort at the end.

(Sidebar: I'm stunned Alonso wasn't seriously injured. Zabaleta went hard studs up into Alonso's planted foot and swept Xabi's free leg with his other. A little higher up, and it could have been another Eduardo. Watching the match again this morning with my coffee, it seemed even more incredible Alonso flipped over instead of seeing his leg shattered.)

Back to what's next: This season seems more like a series of weekly hurdles to be cleared instead of the often-overwhelming focus of "Can they win the league?" In the first weeks, it was conquering the task of coming back from a goal down. They did that fairly dramatically. The next hurdle was getting a result against United. In a delirious fashion, they cleared that one, too. There was a setback against Stoke, but they didn't let that disappointment linger, and the comeback against City will live on in our memories for years.

Next up is adjusting without Skrtel. It's a big task. Agger must find his pre-injury form. Then, at the end of this month, they're away to Chelsea. I would argue they need to keep their eye on these short-term goals. The season must be broken down into a series of goals. Outside Melwood, the teams's free time will see them bombarded with hype about the title challenge. That focus on ending the title drought seems to have crushed them in the past. There's an international break now, so they have some time to let this City victory linger. It shouldn't inflate their heads. Reality could be forcefully reintroduced at the end of the month at Stamford Bridge.

Cautiously optimistic is probably the best way to think now. It was amazing to watch yesterday and a great deal of fun. Is this the year? It's Oct. 6, but level with Chelsea on points is a wonderful spot to be right now.

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