Three months can be a long time in football. Cast your mind back to the first week of February and Liverpool's season was heading towards a dead-end street.
They began the month with a listless performance against Leicester where they lost 2-0. In their next league game, they coughed up a two-goal lead to draw with second-bottom Sunderland at home. This was also the game that fans poured out of Anfield as a protest over the ticket prices for the following season.
If that wasn’t bad enough, a few days later they were knocked out of the FA Cup in a fourth round replay against West Ham, conceding a goal in the final minute of extra time. After that game, there was a fair bit of discussion over exactly how much Jurgen Klopp had improved the team since taking over from Brendan Rodgers started to take place.
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Although that was a grossly unfair comparison after just over three months in the job, football is a results business and fans want to see progress along the way. However, at that stage, the club sat a point above Watford in the Premier League and a lost season looked inevitable.
Brighter days were soon to be on the horizon. The club overturned their decision on raising ticket prices, and their general form has improved - losing just four times in twenty games in all competitions since the cup defeat. It took some time, but the manager began to instil a new level of confidence in the squad.
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Klopp has judged performances on face value compared to what occurred in the past, giving everyone a clean sheet when he arrived. Dejan Lovren and Divock Origi are the two players who have flourished the most since the German’s appointment.
Lovren is now seen to be the number one defender at the club, a far cry from six months prior when the majority of fans could not wait to see the back of him. Meanwhile, prior to his season-ending injury, Origi was keeping Daniel Sturridge and Christian Benteke on the bench, not a bad effort for a 20-year old in his first season in the Premier League.
In hindsight, the FA Cup defeat has somewhat been a blessing in disguise as it corresponded with the resumption of the Europa League. For quite a while, Liverpool have displayed an inability to focus on two competitions at once. When they have done well in the league, they have gone out early in the cup competitions and vice versa. This season has continued that sequence.
With the Capital One Cup concluding at the end of February, Klopp has been able to focus on just a singular cup competition, while using a mixture of youth and experience in the league games. During which period the club has thrived in the Europe League, beating opposition that on paper, they should struggle against.
The more this season progresses, the more parallels to the Liverpool team of 2004/5 that appear. That year produced a very average league season under manager Rafael Benitez, but their best performances came in Europe.
The last thing that Klopp would want Liverpool to be referred to is just a ‘cup team’. Everyone knows that the league is the bread and butter and what success is usually measured on.
Nevertheless, as a starting point, two cup finals at the beginning of his reign has to be regarded as a success.
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