For years upon years, being a Liverpool fan means going down one of two roads. It's possible you're ashamed, never speak a word about the club you dearly support and live in hope that we finish the season above Everton. However, you could be the passionate Kopite who never shuts up about the history, the style, the poetry of Liverpool Football Club, despite the relatively low league finishes and early cup exits.
Now, I'm proposing a third type of fan: the cautious optimist. I've heard plenty of times the mockery of the Anfield faithful and their claims that "this year will be our year" and I'm going to be honest, despite the fact that I've supported the club since I was little (alongside Celtic), I used to be one of the mockers. Recently, this has changed. Maybe it's the fact that we were top of the table at Christmas, or that Luis Suarez hasn't pulled another stunt yet. Or perhaps, it's just an elated high after demolishing Arsenal at Anfield. Performances this season have made most of us Liverpool skeptics question our previous criticisms, and given us a real boost in terms of our optimism - so here are a few reasons why:
We have a world-class striker partnership
Who'd have thought it? We bought a Chelsea reserve and the "Cannibal of Ajax" - now Suarez And Sturridge (SAS) is a household name in football. As of the FA Cup tie with Arsenal, the duo have scored 42 goals this season so far. Statistics wise, this is right up there with partnerships such as Ronaldo/Bale, Messi/Neymar and Cavani/Ibrahimovic. Like any top drawer partnership, they also rack up a decent number of assists. What sweetens this is Liverpool's ability to keep Suarez at the club, with a rumoured release clause greater than the fee Real Madrid payed for Gareth Bale. If this is true, should Suarez leave the club, it will be for a world record fee.
In particular, ex-academy players Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling have given many a first-teamer a run for their money. This is something you don't see at clubs such as City and Chelsea. Sterling has frequently been present in the team this season, while Flanagan has practically cemented a place in the team given his excellent form covering both the left and right back positions. Plus, I've recently been thinking something I thought I'd never admit - Jordan Henderson is playing well. Add Coutinho to the mix and Liverpool have a brilliant system in place for young players, whether they buy or develop them.
We're winning, even if we play badly
Consider the recent game against Fulham, where Kolo Toure had a shocker in defence, or our win against Stoke last month. We've had a fair few cases where our attack compensates for defence and vice versa. Recently, and in particularly under Kenny Dalglish and Roy Hodgson, we lacked this ability to go for the smash-and-grab win. If anything it's exemplary of the style Brendan Rodgers has the team playing, especially when we consider the dictating role of Steven Gerrard at the back of midfield. When our defence is poor, he drops back and covers, but also plays stellar passes to SAS for brilliant chances.
We're a "project" club
It's a term bandied about among several clubs. But what clubs! Clubs, who like Liverpool, have experienced great success in the past and are now finding form again under ambitious managers with an excellent eye for attractive but technical football. The most prominent examples right now would be Atletico Madrid, Dortmund and Roma, yet we cannot forget Southampton, Bilbao and Leverkusen. The idea is to develop the club patiently and diligently with gradual success. Despite a very slow start under Brendan Rodgers, since last March we've been playing in a consistent system with consistent wins. After all, the great Bill Shankly himself was slow to bring the club to success.
We've even being touted for the title
Ok, I'm not going to get my hopes up, nor are many other Kopites. But it says a lot about how far the club has come since the eighth placed finish under King Kenny. Pundits and opposition fans alike have heaped plenty of praise upon the club, which has been scarce in recent seasons. It certainly helps that we can dispatch clubs like Arsenal, Everton and Spurs with big wins in the league. Furthermore, we've got both City and Chelsea to come at home this season - if Anfield is the fortress it has been so far, you never know.
While everyone is very quick to praise Suarez and Sturridge, Skrtel is my player of the season. He's came back into the first team after a shaky previous season and has been an absolute rock, especially when Agger and Sakho have been out due to injury. This is exemplified in his defensive performance and goals against Arsenal at Anfield. It's safe to say that the Slovakian internation has arguably the best header in the Premier League.
Overall, it's incredibly likely that Liverpool will bring Champions League football to Anfield for the first time in years. That is significant enough, but the fact that we're back to being held in the same regard as the big names again and sitting four points off the top spot in the league, with a phenomenal goal difference, is a testament to the great work of the team and Brendan Rodgers.