Liverpool fans have often been the subject of much ridicule in recent years, as calls of ‘it’s our year’ have preceded failed title bids. The Merseyside club have come exceptionally close twice in recent years, under Brendan Rodgers in 2013/14, and last season under Klopp, but there is a feeling that this campaign may finally be the one to end Liverpool’s 30 year wait for a league title.
Klopp’s men find themselves eight points ahead of last year’s domestic quadruple winners, Manchester City, after only eight games of the season. There may be 30 matches left to play, as both sets of managers are keen to point out, but this is the biggest advantage any side has ever had at this stage of a Premier League season.
Liverpool recorded their 17th consecutive victory in the league on Saturday as James Milner’s injury time penalty sealed the three points against an impressive Leicester. Their enigmatic German manager was in jubilant mood after the final whistle blew, praising his team and key players:
If winning eight games in a row is easy, people would do it all the time. It isn’t easy.
Klopp also kept his composure though and remained realistic about his side’s chances, “But 30 games still to come.” He added.
Liverpool, of course, were only allowed to extend their lead to such a wide margin after City fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Wolves. The Midlands club have a reputation for taking points from the big sides after enjoying successful results on several occasions when playing the top six last season. Guardiola admitted after the match that, “it was a bad day.”
His side have been unlucky with injuries, especially in the defensive areas, with Aymeric Laporte being side-lined for many months and John Stones picking up a fairly lengthy problem soon after. Combine these casualties with the loss of captain and leader, Vincent Kompany in the summer, and it is easy to understand why City are struggling defensively. The makeshift partnership of Nicolas Otamendi and Fernandinho came under scrutiny again as the Brazilian midfielder looked exposed playing in an unfamiliar position, and the rashness of his South American compatriot beside him offered little support.
Pep was keen to refute these theories though, insisting the fault lied elsewhere, “We suffered because we lost the possession in front of them in positions that we cannot lose it. No central defender can sustain these types of balls that we lose. It’s not about that. They were good.”
Whilst the former Barcelona manager is right, the response and recovery from his centre-backs wasn’t good enough, and not for the first time. City will have to provide a lot more protection to their stand-in centre-half’s until Laporte and Stones can regain full fitness if they want to be crowned champions for a third year in a row. Guardiola is a born winner and has proved that wherever he has gone. The Spaniard is in no mood to relinquish the Premier League trophy just yet, stating “I know these guys. They are still incredibly involved and they can still do it. The distance is big, I know that. For many circumstances, they (Liverpool) didn’t drop points. It is better not to think one team is eight points ahead. It is only October.”
It may only be October but the lead is already a vast one. There must surely be a point where Klopp, the Liverpool players and fans alike all demand, rather than hope, that this is finally their year.
City could beat Liverpool in both of their future meetings and still be two points adrift. Of course, Liverpool will drop points outside of those sets of fixtures, but City certainly will too. It may be now or never for Klopp as his time on Merseyside is expected to come to an end in the summer of 2022 when his contract expires, and the financial might of City, and tactical nous of Guardiola, will surely return with a vengeance next season.
If Liverpool don’t claim their maiden Premier League title when the campaign draws to a close in May, they will surely cement themselves as the modern era’s nearly men. Klopp will join the likes of Rafa Benitez and Brendan Rodgers in managers who have taken the Reds so close, but not quite made it. Of course, there is no shame in losing out to such a magnificent side like the one that currently inhabits the Etihad. It was talked about as the best to ever grace the English game last year and with good reason, but this Liverpool team runs them close.
Their genius will, however, be partially forgotten about if they fail to land the biggest domestic prize. Nobody remembers second place after all. Klopp and his men need to ensure this fait doesn’t bestow upon them. The pressure is now on and they need to seize their chance to etch their name into Merseyside folk law, as the title is there’s to lose.