Jamie Carragher believes recent criticism of Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp was unfair, and feels his former club are back on track following their weekend win over Bournemouth.
The Reds responded well after back-to-back draws with Leicester and West Ham, beating the Cherries 3-0 with a display of confidence, composure and class at Anfield on Saturday.
Though they would subsequently lose top spot following Manchester City’s thrashing of Chelsea 24 hours later, it was a result - and a performance - to reassure those who had raised doubts about Klopp’s side in the wake of those two drawn games.
Carragher had posted on Twitter after the West Ham game, urging supporters to remain calm in the heat of the title race. Liverpool still have their destiny in their own hands with 12 league games remaining, and the Kop legend says he was bemused by the way in which critics, and indeed some fans, seemed to turn on his former club at the first sign of trouble.
“What did they think was going to happen?” Carragher said. “Liverpool were not going to win 14 straight games to the end of the season. They were going to drop points, things are going to happen, nerves are going to kick in. And that’s for everyone, not just Liverpool.
“The criticism from outside is harsh on the team and the manager. What they’ve done this season is unbelievable. To actually be up there with City, a team who had 100 points last season and who will be close to that again this time, is remarkable.
“To talk about nerves and stuff like that is unfair. They’re not going to win every game. But at this moment, Liverpool are the only team in the country that can say ‘if we win every game, we win the league’.
“There’s still time to go, but it’s not a bad place to be at this stage. And the win against Bournemouth just puts that negativity and the talk of nerves and all that to bed.”
The league title, of course, always eluded Carragher during his 17-year playing career. Liverpool went close in his first season as a professional, 1996-97, and again in 2008-09, but saw Manchester United lift the trophy on both occasions.
They went even closer in 2013-14, a year after Carragher had retired. Then, Brendan Rodgers’ side led the table as late as the final week of the campaign, but were overhauled by Manchester City.
Comparisons with this year are inevitable, especially as it is City who stand in their way once more, but Carragher sees one key difference between Klopp’s team and the one which fell short five years ago.
“This team is a lot stronger defensively,” he said. “Yes, that’s been a bit of a worry of late, where we have looked a little bit more open. But I think injuries have played a part in that, to be honest.
“Trent [Alexander-Arnold] is back now, and we can hopefully get that solidity back. If we get that back, we’ll be fine really.
“The 2013-14 team didn’t have that. Attacking-wise there is probably not a lot between the two teams, but it didn’t have that base you could rely on. [This team] haven’t had that the last few games, and that shows.
“If you don’t have that base then you can see players get a little bit nervous in games because you feel like the opposition can score at any time. If you play in a team where you don’t feel you’ll concede, I think the whole team relaxes and thinks that one goal or two goals will be enough.”
Liverpool are next in Premier League action in a fortnight’s time, when they travel to face a rejuvenated Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Carragher caused a stir on social media recently when comparing the two sides, suggesting that United have the edge in terms of squad depth.
“I think I should just qualify that a little bit!” he smiled. “I think in attacking areas, United have a bit more quality off the bench. The reason I’m using them as an example is that they’re not going for the league, and we are.
“I think we’ve known for a long time that our front three are imperative to what we do this season. And, touch wood, none of them have picked up a serious knock this season, and I think we’ll need that to continue until the end.
“That’s not being negative, it’s just a fact. I think 11 v 11, we’re better than United, we’ve proved that this season, and I think we are as good as City. It’s maybe just that little bit of quality in reserve.”
On Saturday 23rd March 2019 the LFC Foundation will welcome AC Milan’s legends team, Milan Glorie, to Anfield for the third official LFC Foundation Legends game.
Tickets for the game are on sale now, priced at £22 for Adults, £5 for Juniors and £15 for Over 65s. For details and to purchase tickets visit: https://www.liverpoolfc.com/news/tickets/328746-tickets-liverpool-legends-ac-milan