The beginning of the season has been an exciting one for fans of Liverpool FC.
We were treated to a magical piece of skill on opening day when our captain found the postage-stamp corner with a brilliant free kick. Even after fracturing his toe against Toulouse in a Champions League qualifier, Steven Gerrard bossed the game against Chelsea and set up new boy Fernando Torres with a sublime pass.
Before the year started, everyone was wondering, as they have in recent years, how the boys in red would do without their inspirational captain. Add to his absence that of Jamie Carragher, and you have what would in the past have been a recipe for disaster.
But not this season.
It's a testament to Rafa Benitez's squad-building that the team never missed a beat in the second leg of that Champions League qualifier with Toulouse at Anfield. Momo Sissoko bossed the midfield in both today's tie and the weekend's game at Sunderland, showing that he can pass and even score in addition to playing defense. Xabi Alonso wasn't quite up to his own high standards against Sunderland, but he's still considered one of the best passers in the game. Javier Mascherano helped Sissoko control the centre of the park in a reliable, hard-tackling, and classy display.
And let's not forget that new Brazilian Lucas Leiva made his home debut late in the game as a substitute for Sissoko—and gave us a hint of why Rafa and the Brazilian national team (Leiva made his full international debut in a friendly against Algeria last week at age 20) rate him so highly.
Now let's take a look at the defensive end of the pitch.
"We all dream of a team of Carraghers, a team of Carraghers."
Praised by the fans of Liverpool, our vice-captain is just as important to our success as his fellow Scouser Steven Gerrard.
Carragher's no-nonsense defending and willingness to bleed for the cause have made him a favourite of the fans and the manager. Broken ribs suffered in the victory over Sunderland did leave some people worried, though, as centre-half looks to be one position where we may be light on cover.
But credit must go to old boy Sami Hyppia, as he stepped in beside Daniel Agger and did quite well—even managing to get his name on the scoresheet. Agger is another bright spot, having established with Carragher one of the most miserly centre-half pairings in Europe...and the lad has barely passed 20.
All in all, the squad looks stronger than it has in previous seasons. Even with numerous changes, the team came together without a problem against Toulouse, and the new boys showed that they all want to earn one of the game day shirts.
The competition for places looks like it will pose the manager numerous selection headaches.
And for Liverpool supporters, that's a very good thing.