If Manchester City or Tottenham Hotspur go on an unprecedented winning streak at the same time that the Reds’ league form completely collapses, I’m quite sure that some of their fans will find this article and send it back to me in a condescending manner. I have zero problem with that. That is what football is all about. Those asking for fans of the Premier League to get behind a Liverpool title win are missing one of the fundamental points of being a supporter: absolutely hating everyone other club’s success. I have never understood those fans who say that they ‘want English clubs to do well in Europe’. Give me a humiliating defeat for Manchester United in the final of the Champions League any day of the week. I honestly couldn’t care less if other teams’ supporters are going to revel in it if we miss out on the Premier League title; I’d do it if the situation was reversed.
Honestly Liverpool can’t win this league they will become so unbearable, I pray to God Twitter won’t be called Twitter it will be called Liverpool, Facebook will be called Liverpool, Football will be called Liverpool it can’t happen we can not let them scousers win this league!
— ً (@GuardiolaEra_) 8 December 2018
The other point of being a football supporter, though, is to dare to dream. I think it’s absolutely ludicrous that anyone would not get excited about the possibilities that lie in the future. If football was only about winning a trophy and you weren’t allowed to enjoy the journey to the moment that you see your club lifting some silverware, Evertonians would have stopped going to Goodison in 1995. There are five major trophies that teams can win each season, which is why I find those that mock clubs for winning the League Cup or the Europa League so ridiculous. If Liverpool don’t finish the season at the top of the table then I’ll still have loved this campaign because I’ve got to watch some genuinely scintillating football. The journey is almost always more captivating than the end result, even if that one moment can feel like ecstasy. So I won’t apologies for writing this article, nor for getting excited about what might yet be.
This Is A Sustainable Run
As I wrote in my piece last week, Liverpool’s last serious title challenge in my lifetime was that under Brendan Rodgers in 2013-2014. As with our other title bids in the likes of 2008-2009, it was a one-off; a moment that was self-contained and seemingly never to be repeated. We shot for the moon on both of those occasions and when we came up short it left us all feeling heart-broken, such was the extent to which it seemed as though it was a ‘now or never’ type deal. What gives me the belief that this side might well do what no other Liverpool side in my adult lifetime has done and hold on to lift the trophy at the end of the season is the fact that we have now been in title winning form for the equivalent of a full season, matching Man City’s PPG in the calendar year of 2018.
6 – The most points per game by clubs in the top four tiers of English football in 2018:
Liverpool – 2.38
Manchester City – 2.38
Tottenham Hotspur – 2.24
Manchester United – 1.95
Luton Town – 1.91
Accrington Stanley – 1.87
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) 31 December 2018
Clubs that win the title are, almost always, ones that are able to keep up their effort throughout. In 2013-2014 it always felt like a single loss would see the wheels come off our challenge. Now we’re in a situation where a loss to City on Thursday will mean that we’re still four points ahead of them and six in front of Spurs. Add one more loss to that and it’s still a gap of one point and three points respectively. When you consider that most of us were excited about the possibility of being one point behind Pep Guardiola’s team heading into our game at the Etihad, that really is an incredible turnaround. Jurgen Klopp appears to have taught his cohorts how to win in countless different circumstances, which means that none of the matches still in front of us should hold any sense of fear. This isn’t a one-off, it’s just the way we’re playing nowadays.
History Is on Our Side
I’m always wary of discussing history when it comes to football. It’s a game in which there are too many variables to be confident of anything being definitive. I will never forget, for example, how much the press made of the team that’s top at Christmas going on to win the title back in ’13-’14. Back then the previous time a team was top on Christmas Day but didn’t go on to lift the title was Liverpool in 2008-2009. In fact, we’re the most unsuccessful side in that sense, having been top at Christmas three times in the Premier League era but failing to win it each time. Yet at the same time, there are plenty of indicators that we should at least be getting a little bit excited this time around. In the history of the top-flight, for example, only nine teams have been unbeaten after the first twenty games and eight of them went on to win the title.
No losses in the first 20 days of the English league:
1888-89: Preston North End *
1899-00: Sheffield United
1973-74: Leeds *
1987-88: Liverpool *
1990-91: Arsenal *
2003-04: Arsenal *
2010-11: Man. United *
2017-18: Man. City *
[*] They were champions.
— MisterChip (English) (@MisterChiping) 29 December 2018
It’s still possible that we repeat the trick of Sheffield United in the 1899-1900 campaign, of course, but the stats on that front are very much in our favour. The bookmakers aren’t stupid, either. There’s a reason that they remain in business all of the time and a big part of that is looking at the most likely outcomes and taking them into account when offering their odds. They currently give the Reds a 61.4% chance of being victorious, compared to the 32.5% chance that they’re giving City. Does that mean we might as well stop playing now and everyone agrees to just give us the title? Of course not. But the fact that our current points total means that we need a two points per game average to hit 90 points, with no side having accumulated that many and not won the title, we’re in about as good a position as we could hope to be.
Every Team’s Got To Start Somewhere
It’s easy to forget now, considering they’re the most successful side of the Premier League era, yet before Manchester United won their first title of the new-look division in 1993 they had had to wait twenty-six years since their previous one. It was their eighth title, moving them just one clear of Aston Villa, whose 1981 First Division win meant they had won the top-flight sooner than the Red Devils. Equally, Chelsea’s 2005 league victory came fifty years after they picked up their first one. It’s entirely fair to point out, then, that a team has to win it for the first time at some point if they’re going to win it at all. As much as our rivals might want to say otherwise, we’re one of the country’s most successful teams and the likelihood of us going the rest of our existence without winning the league again is unlikely in the extreme. If we’re going to win it, why not this year?
— Goal (@goal) 1 January 2019
I’m not saying that it will kick-start an era of dominance, though that’s far from being an outrageous statement given the rude health of the club at the moment, but what I am saying is that league titles have to be won at some point and we’re primed to do it this year better than at any previous time since we last lifted the trophy. There’s a reason that supporters of every club go into each season with hope and belief. That was only bolstered by the unexpected and fantastical win of Leicester City back in 2016. Spurs fans have just as much right to think they could lift the trophy this season as we do and even our Blue neighbours were entitled to think that they could spring a surprise before a ball was kicked. Talking of a potential title win isn’t folly, it’s about having confidence in a very talented team and a manager who knows what it takes to beat the big boys.
We’re The Best Team In The Division This Season
It’s so easy to wax lyrical about other teams when they’re performing well, as practically every football supporter discovered last season when Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side were ripping it up week-in, week-out. When it’s your own side doing it, however, it becomes far more difficult to talk about how well they’re playing. There are a myriad of reasons for that, of course. We’re all terrified that we’ll somehow jinx things if we say that our club is doing well. How often have we been told by other people that something we’ve Tweeted or said out loud is risking the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing? I’m going to tell you something now, however: there’s literally no way that I’m influential enough to affect the outcome of something simply by what I write online. Were that to be the case, I’d now be a multimillion living in a mansion with a heated swimming pool and a private jet in the garden.
Can Liverpool go undefeated all season? Am I saying this to jinx them? Yes, yes I am pic.twitter.com/dh34z1zovn
— frank xy (@calcollns) 31 December 2018
That’s why I’ve got no real problem with saying that Liverpool Football Club are playing the best football of any team in the Premier League. It might not have the rock and roll, high pressing excitement that Jurgen Klopp was getting us to do this time last year, nor the relentless pressure-cooker style that the Cityzens tend to opt for, but what we are doing is adapting our game to suit the challenge we’re faced with. If you want to send your boys into be physical with us then we’re more than capable of dealing with that. Should you prefer to try to go long then Virgil van Dijk will head balls out for fun. As long as we can keep it tight at the back, and eight goals conceded in twenty games suggests we can, then our attackers will punish you as soon as they get a chance. Whatever happens from here on in, we’re playing really good football that should be enjoyed.
It’s that squad balance that makes me the most confident of all that, cliche alert, this really could be our year. If you asked Liverpool supporters which player they’d last like to be without for the rest of the campaign I’m fairly certain you’d get a whole host of different answers. I know that Virgil van Dijk has improved our defence immeasurably, for example, but if you offered me his absence or that of Alisson Becker I’m opting for the Dutchman every time. Take Mo Salah out of the attack and I think that Roberto Firmino would step up in his absence. The midfield is arguably the strongest part of our team right now, giving the manager the ability to rotate it as he sees fit and not see a drop off in quality. The combination of the German’s management skills and the squad he’s got to work with means that our fans are absolutely right to be getting carried away.
Pogba and Smalling are the only two outfield players between 24-29 that have played a solid amount of minutes for Man Utd in the Premier League.
Whereas, Alisson, van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum, Firmino, Mané and Salah all fit that description for Liverpool.
— AMKFootball (@AMKFootball) 12 December 2018
Will Liverpool win the title? I honestly have no idea. It’s entirely possible that the wheels come off and Manchester City or Spurs will outperform us at a rate of knots before the end of the season. The only thing I can say with any degree of confidence is that it’s probable we’ll win it. We shouldn’t be afraid of jinxing anything by saying so. If you think you have the power to do so then consider why it is that you think the Reds will definitely drop points before the campaign is over by both Tottenham and City will drop fewer when the evidence of the season so far suggests that the opposite is true. Regardless of what happens from here on out, it’s important to enjoy the ride rather than worry about where we’re going to be at the end of it.