This season Liverpool football club look as primed as ever to break a 29 year drought in domestic English football and claim the league title, an achievement that would restore the large credibility they once had at the back-end of the 20th century.
It’ll be the first for the club in the Premier League era, and after winning their 18th in 1990 it seemed more than likely they’d manage a league title or two once the Premier League was established – but that hasn’t been the case.
The Reds had a successful summer which saw four players arrive, who have all played their part in the club’s strong start to the season, which saw them go 20 games unbeaten. Centre half Virgil van Dijk’s meteoric rise in the back as a reliable defender and a leader has rid the Reds of their Achilles heel over the past five or so years, and that’s all lead to a four point lead on top of the table over Manchester City, which no one in their right mind should have predicted.
City’s incredible 2017-18 campaign and massive advantage when it came to quality in the starting 11, suggested they were comfortable favourites for the league once again. So far that isn’t the case and City’s position in second place at the moment has created a sense of hope and belief for a few scousers who bleed red. That hope has since created expectation for some, the expectation that Liverpool will manage to win something, and therefore failing to win anything is a failure in itself.
That is simply wrong.
A question that burns just a little bit more than ‘are Liverpool going to win the Premier League, finally?’, at least for me, is ‘what will be the reaction if, from their current position, they don’t win the league?’ Regardless, it should be positive. With or without silverware, it’s not hard to notice their successes right now as well as over the last few years since the arrival of manager Jürgen Klopp.
In his first two full seasons in charge at Melwood, manager Jürgen Klopp has elevated Liverpool’s performances which have seen them succeed in their own right, nabbing two consecutive Champions League qualifications along with a Champions League final appearance last year. People who take notice, people who know football, know that, when it’s calculated and delved into, Liverpool’s time under Klopp has been anything but a failure, against the grain of what others may believe.
Across those two seasons, Liverpool’s league record is 43-22-11(with a 62-25-12 record adding this season’s results so far), with an average of 75.5 total points. That sum is only beaten once by a Liverpool side in the eight seasons since Rafa Benítez departed as manager, with Brendan Rodgers’ 2013-14 team, who were supported and ultimately were too reliant on the wondrous Luis Suarez, finishing second with 84 points and two behind eventual champions Manchester City.
Right now Liverpool’s on track to make 99 points for the season, the second highest by any club since the Premier League era began. If they find themselves losing three or four games, which is highly unlikely given their form at the moment, that’s still a sum of 87 or 90 points – astounding for a second placed team.
The team that Klopp has assembled is the best the Reds have had since 2009, when the likes of Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano and a Fernando Torres (when he was still a world-class striker) played alongside club legends in Steven Gerrard, Jamie Carragher and Pepe Reina. Liverpool have themselves a world-class goalkeeper in Alisson for the first time since Reina commanded the posts, which finally settles a horrendously unreliable defence that has been so since Carragher retired in 2013. The midfield is undoubtedly the deepest in the league, and is still waiting on the return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who as a forward driving force in the midfield at the back end of last season, was impressive as immediate cover for Coutinho’s departure to Barcelona.
The likes of Naby Keïta and Xherdan Shaqiri have shown flashes, and yet it’s fair to say they’re far from their best. What does that tell you? That Liverpool’s team as a unit have so much room to get better, even when it feels improbable given how good they’ve been.
The position Liverpool had fallen into once Benitez, becoming a consistent 6th to 8th placed side and watching on as City and Tottenham became part of a new Premier League ‘big five’, was simply torturous. Klopp’s work since needs to be applauded in all ways possible, even if a title is missed out on at the conclusion of this season.
Liverpool will be strong favourites along with City to win next season’s league title, even if they fail to win it this year. Klopp’s built consistent success that is supported by a great culture and it’s sticking around for some time. If you ask me, that’s success in every right.