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A Quarter-Term Report on Liverpool

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring the third goal with his team-mate Steven Gerrard during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield on November 9, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistNovember 13, 2013

It was 2:42 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, and so John W. Henry wouldn’t have been aware of what he’d just done. In Boston, he’d have hit that little blue Tweet button and gone to bed, oblivious to the fuss he’d just created.

Twitter isn’t a place for the calm, measured response, and so when Liverpool’s American owner would have woken up he’d have done so to a fair bit of vitriol in his Mentions section, but each and every comment would prove to be worth it.

Henry’s humorous, dismissive put-down of Arsenal’s ham-fisted attempts at signing Luis Suarez over the summer suddenly put the ball back in Liverpool’s court.

This was about much more than just a sulking Uruguayan forward, however talented he may be.

This was about Liverpool still mattering as an elite club, still being seen as a desirable home for the best players on the planet and still able to resist overtures from clubs they would feel to be on a par with for their best players.

That tweet from Henry, and Liverpool’s resilient, admirable approach over the Suarez summer saga are what has brought the club here; to second in the Premier League with 23 points from 11 games, a tally almost twice as many as the 12 points in 11 matches they’d picked up this time last year. Indeed, it was a week before Christmas until Liverpool could amass this total last season.

Obviously the Suarez situation, standoff and subsequent stalemate isn’t the lone reason for this improvement.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 26:  Daniel Sturridge of Liverpool celebrates scoring his team''s fourth goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion at Anfield on October 26, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

For that you need to look at the solid integration of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, Reds renaissances for the likes of Kolo Toure, Martin Skrtel and Jordan Henderson, the majesty of Philippe Coutinho, the appetite of Steven Gerrard and the hunger of Daniel Sturridge, a goalscorer who is combining both a desire to make up for lost time with a youthful, vibrant energy that brings a smile to your face.

All of those and more have played their part in a team that suddenly looks focused, a team playing with an intensity and desire that looks destined for some form of success, whatever that may be.

There are still the creases to iron out, of course, with the Reds’ two league defeats this season showcasing them warts and all.

The home loss to Southampton highlighted the fact that Brendan Rodgers―still in just his third season as a top-flight manager―can make mistakes (and fielding a back four of Toure, Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Mamadou Sakho was certainly that), while the more recent reverse at Arsenal underlined that the really top teams in the land can still possess more quality on their day.

Rodgers refused to be too downhearted following that Emirates setback, though, with an emphatic response delivered in last weekend’s 4-0 hammering of Fulham.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 09:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates scoring the third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Fulham at Anfield on November 9, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Key to that, and indeed everything else going forward, will be Suarez.

Relations with the club now seem to have cooled following the summer’s various boiling points, and while that may have come in the form of a promise to the forward that he’ll be playing in the Champions League next season regardless of where Liverpool finish this campaign, it is good to see an at-times troubled soul back playing with a smile on his face.

Such a smile usually means trouble for opposition defences, and with Suarez in the kind of form he’s in―eight goals in six Premier League games since returning from his ban, 15 in his last 12 at Anfield―who’s to say that he won’t be able to keep the Reds near the upper reaches of the table on his own?

Question marks still remain over this Liverpool team―Has the switch to a back four against Fulham killed off the three-at-the-back for good? Are they just a team of flat-track bullies? Just what do you do with Victor Moses?―but focusing on them just takes attention away from just how enjoyable it is watching them at the moment, just ask the owner.

“Daniel & Luis - most dangerous tandem in football,” tweeted Henry on Saturday evening.

He’s clearly enjoyed the season so far, and perhaps the biggest compliment you can pay to this Liverpool side is that plenty of people, including him, can’t wait to see how the rest of it goes.

“So far so good” is a bit of cliche, but as far as Liverpool and 2013/14 are concerned, it is also a statement of fact.

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