Following Liverpool’s epic 4-3 win over newly promoted Leeds at Anfield, many fans were doubting whether the Reds could compete for the title as ruthlessly as they did last year.
The game was end-to-end, with both teams attacking each other with great intensity.
However, at the back, Liverpool were poor, with even the usually calm and collected Virgil Van Dijk making a costly mistake which allowed striker Patrick Bamford to score Leeds’ second.
Centre-half Joe Gomez made several errors, whilst the prodigious Trent Alexander-Arnold was made largely redundant by Leeds’ 4-1-4-1 formation.
This performance was another sign of cracks beginning to appear in the Liverpool defence, with the Reds conceding 15 goals in the 10 matches since football returned in late June.
Even though this is Leeds’ first time in the Premier League since 2004, the Yorkshire side played a high-octane, exciting brand of football.
However, when looking at it plainly, Liverpool, the champions of England, should have beaten the second division victors with ease.
And so, the naysayers crept in, with pundits continuing to drill home the prediction that Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City would likely win the league ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Reds fans were crying out for Klopp and owners Fenway Sports Group to make a signing so as not to go backwards by standing still.
All of Liverpool’s closest rivals – especially their next opponents Chelsea – had added several players to their ranks over the summer.
The signing of 24-year-old Greek left-back Kostas Tsimikas from Olympiakos was a good piece of business for Liverpool, but it only reinforced one position.
Many viewed that a backup attacker to cover for the world-famous Liverpool front-three would be necessary, as well as a fourth-choice centre-back to replace the recently-departed Dejan Lovren too.
But it all changed on Thursday of last week.
Liverpool had long been interested in Spanish midfielder Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich, who had expressed his interest for a new challenge.
The 29-year-old rejected a new contract with Bayern, and coach Hansi Flick knew he had to offload the midfielder before he was poached on a free transfer in January.
The Athletic journalist James Pearce reported on Thursday morning that Liverpool had finally agreed a deal with the German club, and Thiago was on his way to Merseyside.
EXCLUSIVE: Liverpool have now made their move for Thiago Alcantara. Understand that a fee of around 30million Euros has been agreed with Bayern Munich for the Spain international. What a signing for the Premier League champions. https://t.co/l7XMlrBPKj
— James Pearce (@JamesPearceLFC) September 17, 2020
The fee at £20 million but potentially rising to more was an absolute bargain for a player who is widely considered to be inside the top five midfielders in world football.
The signing of a player at the peak of his powers was uncharacteristic for Klopp, with the German previously only signing players who were on the younger side and with a high ceiling of potential.
Before Reds fans even had time to process Thiago’s arrival, multiple journalists had also confirmed that a deal for 23-year-old Portuguese winger Diogo Jota had been struck with Wolverhampton.
Jota was to arrive on a five-year contract for a fee of £41 million that could rise with bonuses, with young defender Ki-Jana Hoever going the other way for a fee of £9.5 million with potential to rise as well.
In the space of two days, Liverpool had completely quashed all talk of the side becoming stagnant and had added two quality players into the mix.
Sunday’s match against Chelsea finally rolled around, and many pundits were predicting a close affair, with Chelsea’s bundle of new signings being touted to give Liverpool a run for their money.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out pre-game aside from Thiago being named as a sub was Fabinho, a no-nonsense defensive midfielder with great anticipatory vision, starting alongside van Dijk in central defence.
Against Chelsea’s rapid new striker Timo Werner, there were question marks over whether the Liverpool defence could keep Chelsea under wraps.
And keep under wraps they did.
Fabinho’s fantastic reading of the game meant that whatever Werner and co. tried, he was always one step ahead of them.
Klopp decided to take off Jordan Henderson at half-time for new boy Thiago, a decision that the German saw as the right one to make.
“[Thiago was] top. [He had] top, top timing, I would say in a game like this” Klopp said in the tunnel post-game.
“He is fit so that is not the main problem and he just has to get used to our system.”
“But when they went a man down they played a perfect game, we decided to bring him on and I liked the game a lot.”
Thiago’s timing was so good that he broke a Premier League record for the most passes in 45 minutes.
A selection of @Thiago6 passes from Sunday's debut 🤤🤤
You're welcome, Reds 😁 pic.twitter.com/CkzGiRlI0J
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) September 22, 2020
Helped by the 45th minute sending-off of centre-back Andreas Christensen, the Reds saw out the rest of the game somewhat comfortably and claimed victory thanks to a Sadio Mane brace.
The reason for the ‘somewhat’ being a penalty being awarded to Chelsea in the 73rd minute following contact between Thiago and Werner.
However, goalkeeper Alisson got down to save Jorginho’s penalty and kept the Reds’ clean sheet intact.
In hindsight, it is incredible to see the difference a week can make.
From scraping past a newly promoted side to beating their rivals away from home, Liverpool have mostly silenced their critics.
The question remains however, can they retain the coveted Premier League title?
Winning the title last year was the top priority for Klopp, with fans desperate to finally put to rest the hoodoo that the Reds had with the Premier League.
This year, it is expected that Liverpool will be keen to avenge their disappointing round-of-16 exit in last year’s Champions League to Atletico Madrid and reinforce their status as European royalty once again.
However, being able to gloat about winning back-to-back titles, and more importantly, equal Manchester United as having won the most league titles (20) could prove more tantalising.
Everybody knows that title wins are made up of sacrifice, determination, and a truckload of luck. The fact of the matter is Liverpool have displayed all these things during Klopp’s tenure.
And with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City breathing down their necks, the biggest team on Merseyside will have to pull out another super-human effort to beat out their rivals again this year.
Can they win it? There is no doubt they can.
Will they win it? Well, that remains to be seen.