Given some of the starts we have experienced in recent seasons (this is our best start to a season under Benitez) the return so far is undoubtedly a marked improvement but I can’t help but feel slightly frustrated – given excellent wins over Manchester United and Everton in particular. Good wins against Sunderland and Middlesborough, despite poor performances, gave six points out of the first six, which was really a necessity if we are to finally mount a serious title challenge.
With fixtures of Aston Villa and Everton away and Manchester United at home, most Liverpool fans would have probably taken seven points from nine especially given recent form against the champions. But the performance against Aston Villa was frustrating even if the result wasn’t a complete disaster. With the brilliant (particularly tactically) win over United followed by an excellent away victory at Marseille morale was high and three points against Stoke seemed all but guaranteed. An, at best, iffy refereeing decision and a slightly toothless performance meant a 0-0 draw was all we could muster.
This game, for me, had worrying memories chiefly of last years home draw with Birmingham and also the away game at Blackburn where huge amounts of possession and plenty of shots on goal resulted in few clear cut chances and no goals. As usual we hold the worst conversion rate in the league with only 7% of our chances finding the back of the net. My mood has been improved hugely of course by a dominant derby win with Torres back on the goal-scoring trail. What price a Robbie Keane goal against Man City to make everything right with the world?
Interestingly our points total in the corresponding fixtures last season was 13 from 18 (using Birmingham instead of Stoke) or 12 from 15 (with Stoke omitted), so perhaps a good start should not be confused with a great one despite our lofty position and unbeaten record.
Next up is an eminently winnable game against PSV, which I will be shocked if we don’t win, followed by a tough looking trip to Manchester City. Liverpool fans can look forward to the probably return of Javier Mascherano and Yossi Benayoun plus surely Steven Gerrard’s 100th goal.