The 17-day break: Liverpool’s “first step” offers right amount of promise

    Liverpool gave us the response we were looking for against Ajax, the pressure and intensity was finally there to see. But does the 17-day wait between games leave us relieved or wanting more?

    It’s fair to say Jurgen Klopp was not wrong when he assessed the defeat at Napoli as a “real horror show.”

    Honest truths were spoken and they had plenty of time to look themselves in the mirror after the Wolves game was postponed, their chance to strike back had to wait six days.

    We all wanted to see a win on the board, but many wouldn’t have been alone in thinking that it would have to be done by coming behind, such is Liverpool’s proclivity for handing the opposition a head start.

    It didn’t pan out that way, much to Anfield’s genuine delight, and another late winner only served to dish up an injection of dopamine that has been largely kept on ice so far this season.

    The response

    Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp acknowledges the fans after the UEFA Champions League match at Anfield, Liverpool. Picture date: Tuesday September 13, 2022. Martin Rickett/PA Wire/PA Images

    One hand over his heart and the other raised in gratitude, Klopp cut a relieved figure as he took to the Anfield pitch in the aftermath of Liverpool’s late Ajax win.

    Before he crossed that white line he witnessed his side turn up with the intensity befitting of his team, with the aggression and desire to match – that’s what we all wanted to see.

    You could understand the trepidation an undefeated Ajax conjured up for some, as the last time Liverpool laced up their boots it was for the worst performance in Klopp’s tenure.

    But with Thiago pulling the strings, doing the dirty work and geeing up the crowd, Luis Diaz an energizer bunny who never stopped, Kostas Tsimikas an attacking and defensive outlet, Joel Matip making his marauding runs and Mo Salah back on the scoresheet in Europe, a response was well and truly made.

    Thiago Alcantara of Liverpool, vs Ajax during the UEFA Champions League match between Liverpool and Ajax at Anfield on September 13, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom (Photo by Andre Weening/Orange Pictures) Credit: Orange Pics BV/Alamy Live News

    “Much higher intensity, much more aggression, braver, more ready. How I said, everything was better. It was a first step, nothing else, not more, but everything was good,” Klopp assessed.

    And if Ajax scoring with their first and only shot on target was indicative of the current defensive frailties, then Matip’s 89th-minute winner was a homage to the mentality giants of old.

    We got a bit of everything; something to keep us wanting more but also not looking too distrusting at the international break on the horizon, so long as players return fit and healthy.

    A break at just the right time?

    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (hidden) celebrates with team-mates after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

    What of these 17 days without a game, then?

    It’s an awfully long time in a season that will predominantly be played at a pace that comes without the chance to look up and catch your breath.

    Upon Liverpool’s return on October 1, Klopp’s men will play 13 games in 42 days, right up to when domestic football comes to a grinding halt for the World Cup.

    That averages out to a game every 3.2 days – you can sense a full Klopp body shudder from here at that schedule.

    But it’s a period the Reds will have to relish if they are to return from the World Cup period with silverware to fight for.

    Seven league games, four Champions League ties and the opening League Cup fixture are all to come, this run will define what comes next.

    2K0WCMG LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 13: Joel Matip of Liverpool celebrating scoring a late winner during the UEFA Champions League match between Liverpool and Ajax at Anfield on September 13, 2022 in Liverpool, United Kingdom (Photo by Andre Weening/Orange Pictures)

    The manager has said before, you can’t win trophies now but you can certainly set yourself up with the best chance to do so.

    The victory over Ajax has put the wind back in Liverpool’s sails and few would not have been opposed to the prospect of facing newly appointed Graham Potter’s Chelsea on Sunday.

    The damage control at Stamford Bridge started early from their new owners after 10 points from six league games that showed more defensive frailties than Liverpool – not what some headlines would lead you to believe, however.

    But while the wait is to be long and likely excruciating, as every international break is, it does offer Liverpool the chance to reset and refocus once more.

    The postponed match guarantees the Reds head into the break off the back of a win, there are few things worse in football than sitting on a bad performance and result for a couple of weeks.

    LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Tuesday, September 13, 2022: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (L) celebrates with team-mate Joël Matip after scoring the first goal during the UEFA Champions League Group A matchday 2 game between Liverpool FC and AFC Ajax at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

    In addition to that, hopefully, we can welcome back some of those on the injury list and, hopefully, not add any more names to it – surely we have already paid our dues.

    The result in midweek was not a fix-all, nor does it wash away all that came before but it does mean Liverpool have a direction to head in, a renewed common goal after days of what will have been brutal honesty.

    If what we saw against Ajax was the “first step,” then the ones that ought to follow after the international break will be steps worth waiting for.

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