Putting four unanswered goals past Newcastle United on Boxing Day to hang on to top spot was reason enough for Anfield to celebrate, but the usual Scouse exuberance was dialed up that much more just moments past the final whistle as the news from the King Power Stadium filtered through the stands to the Liverpool faithful.
An unheard of second loss on the bounce for title rivals Manchester City meant that the Reds had not only opened a once inconceivable seven-point lead over Pep Guardiola’s side, but that the billionaires from just around the corner took a tumble in to third place.
What was just minutes prior a precarious grasp, turned in to an honest to goodness grip — albeit one that will be tough to keep.
And, also one that we have no time to savour. Title charges can stutter over the festive fixture calendar and Liverpool’s engine will be given a through examination over the next week with Arsenal visiting Merseyside on Saturday before the Reds travel to the Etihad Stadium on January 3rd to kick-off the New Year in style.
The Gunners, who drew with Brighton and Hove Albion last time out, are winless in their last three outings and haven’t taken all three-points in a meeting with the Anfield outfit in their last seven — a statistic that doesn’t bode particularly well for the North London side.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have won each of their matches since a 1-1 draw with Arsenal in at the Emirates Stadium back in November and at the midway point in the season have bettered their tally from the previous campaign by a whopping 16-points.
“We played the first part of the season unbeaten – that’s all good and we feel it, it feels really good,” said Reds boss Jurgen Klopp, speaking to the press at Melwood earlier today. “The only little problem we have is the second part of the season starts [on Saturday],” he continued with a knowing smile. “What we did so far, we will do again and again and again. We’ll really be completely focused on the next game.”
That they’ve conceded almost twenty less goals at this point is telling in itself, but for all the talk of the Reds attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah not quite hitting the dizzying heights we’ve become accustomed to, it’s a bit of a surprise to know that they’ve found the back of the net twice more than when they’d really “clicked” by this point last year.
Although he knows it as well as the rest of us, that’s not what Arsenal manager Unai Emery wants to hear as the Spaniard tries to navigate a defensive crisis with the likes of Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding and Shkodran Mustafi all expected to miss the trip to Merseyside.
It’s hard to keep Liverpool contained on the best of days, but away from home and with arguably your most consistent defenders watching from the stands? Obviously that’s not impossible, but it’s a big, big ask.