After Manchester City’s stroll to the Premier League title last season there was one question all summer, is there a team that is capable of closing the 19-point gap City developed between themselves and 2nd placed Manchester United? 81 points wasn’t a terrible total from Mourinho’s team but a total of 100 points through the season was an unbeatable record from Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
With a Champions League final the season before paired with a summer that saw big money signings like Alisson, Fabinho and Naby Keita; many people’s eyes were firmly on Liverpool being the next best team to dethrone City especially considering their record against the Citizens in the previous season. Klopp’s team have duly obliged so far – 11 games in the team has 8 wins and 3 draws, they are still unbeaten and their total of 27 points here would be enough to see them top in 98 of the previous football league seasons.
Alas, here we are; still two points behind City and even in third place behind Chelsea who have come flying out the blocks under new manager Sarri. After 11 games last season Liverpool were already 12 points off the top of the table so to have already closed this gap by 10 points is impressive right? Well not exactly…
For the sake of this comparison the teams relegated last season were replaced with the team that came up and theoretically replaced them (Swansea as the highest placed relegated team = Wolves who were the highest placed promoted team for example.) From looking at that Liverpool have gained an extra four points from the corresponding fixtures from last season with a +4 better goal difference. City on the other hand have still somehow managed to improve and squeeze an extra point from the same fixtures last season, with 29 points and a +8 better goal difference.
So, whilst it seems like Liverpool have managed to so far close the gap, the fixtures that matter are yet to come up. Liverpool finished the season 25 points behind Manchester City last season so as it stands, they have managed to claw back three points in their favour, so where can the extra 22 points come from?
A draw away to Chelsea and wins against Cardiff and Spurs are a good start to gaining ground but Liverpool will be looking towards games like Wolves away, Fulham away and Burnley at home to improve and pick up points that they should really be picking up anyway. Liverpool were the team with the second least amount of defeats last season but just drew too many games to be further up the table, all that’s needed is to turn those draws into wins – it sounds simple enough because it is.
On six occasions last season, Liverpool threw away a lead and ultimately drew the game; on five of those occasions the reds were leading with 15 minutes to go and then conceded. Those are the types of games that are going to decide who wins the Premier League title, it happened all the time for United under Ferguson and happened on countless occasions for City last year – when the game seems done someone would find a goal from nowhere to turn one point into three. Liverpool don’t even need to do that, they just need to keep it out of their own net.
With the defence looking settled and Alisson added to the back five this is the best Liverpool have looked at the back for years. Hopefully it means that there will be less last-minute goals conceded and more last-minute winners. If we’re going to get close to City then we need to keep matching them week by week and really test what they’re made of, they were impressive last season but they had an easy ride; teams were playing to only lose by one or two goals and nobody mounted enough of a challenge to even make them break out of a canter. It’s all well and good being this close early days but it needs to get to February/March and we still need to be nipping at their heels.
To ask this team to match City’s output from last season is a mountain of a task – especially at the first time of asking. The highest point tally from a second placed team is 89 from Manchester United in 2012, it is very capable Liverpool could surpass the 90 points mark this season and find themselves without a Premier League winners medal, if that’s the case then you can only take your hat off to whoever takes first place. There seems to be a feeling around some of the fanbase that it’s now or never to win the Premier League, like if we don’t do it this season then we’re never going to do it under Klopp.
It’s false thinking, this squad is the best equipped to win the Premier League that Liverpool have arguably ever had and the difference between this team and say 13/14 or 08/09 Liverpool is that nobody is going anywhere, in previous title challenging seasons the team has lost quality players after the fact and its spiraled down from there. Unless something drastic happens, Liverpool aren’t going to lose their best players next summer and if this season doesn’t end with a Premier League title, then we can go again the season after.
Unfortunately for us, we are witnessing arguably the best team the Premier League has ever seen and it could easily turn into a dynasty. It’s not a defeatist attitude to have thinking that we could lose out this season but nobody’s head should fall off if it happens. This squad is built for the long haul and it’s going to bear fruit for this Klopp team eventually.
Article by Louis Connor