Since the 2000-2001 season, seven teams have been top of the Premier League on Christmas Day and not gone on to win the title. Worryingly for Liverpool, the Reds have had that dubious honour three times and four if you go all the way back to 1992. We were also top last Christmas, of course, and we all know what happened next. Being top of the table when we all eat our sprouts and turkey isn’t a guarantee that you’ll still be there come the final day of the campaign, but it certainly suggests that you’ll be in the conversation. Given the Video Assistant Referee controversies and countless injuries that we’ve had to endure since football restarted, even appearing to be in with a shout of the title feels like a big deal. Jürgen Klopp is a better manager than to be counting his baubles at this stage, but he’ll be delighted his team has responded to adversity so well.
When #LFC lost Virgil van Dijk, obits were submitted for their season. They then lost all their centre-backs, including Fabinho. Alisson for a period. A world class signing in Thiago. The in-form Diogo Jota. Etc. They’re top of the table. The marker of the team is their mentality
— Melissa Reddy (@MelissaReddy_) December 19, 2020
It’s easy to understand why so many are considering the West Bromwich Albion game to be little more than formality when hostilities renew in less than a week’s time, especially on the back of the 7-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace. Yet the arrival of Sam Allardyce into the Hawthorns hot-seat means that they’ll at least be prepared to be more defensively sound than Roy Hodgson’s team managed. It does feel, though, that this Liverpool team has become adapt at working out how to deal with deep-lying defences, as we saw against Tottenham Hotspur. That Leicester City were able to take all three points from José Mourinho’s side certainly means that the table looks a Little bit more comfortable, though I’d very much like Manchester United to start dropping some points. Olé Gunnar Solksjaer might be a rubbish manager, but the squad is more than good enough to compete.
Spreading The Work Load Is Important
In this most truncated of campaigns, where there was virtually no pre-season and the games are coming thick and fast, having a decent squad could be the deciding factor when it comes to the ultimate destination of the Premier League title. It’s why I’m now starting to be ever so slightly concerned about Manchester United, given the strength of their squad and the fact that they seemingly start every match a goal to the good thanks to their never-ending penalties. Whilst Ole Gunnar Solksjaer isn’t a good manager, even he can’t mess up completely when effectively starting games 1-0 up. It’s part of the reason why Jürgen Klopp will have been so annoyed about the injury crisis that we’ve suffered. Not only has it taken players out of the game, it’s also required other players to take on more of a workload than is ideal and therefore putting them at risk of injury.
7 – All seven of Liverpool’s goals were assisted by different players (Mane, Firmino, Robertson, Alexander-Arnold, Salah, Matip & Oxlade-Chamberlain), the first time in Premier League history seven different players have assisted a goal for a team in a match. Feast.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 19, 2020
The burden has to be shared around as much as possible, not just in terms of matches played but also when it comes to goalscoring exploits. It’s why the Crystal Palace match was such a joy to behold, with seven different assisters coming and the likes of Takumi Minamino and Jordan Henderson getting on the scoresheet. When it comes to the latter, who should have won Sports Personality Of The Year, adding goals to his game on a more consistent basis is pretty much the only thing that he could do to elevate himself even further. He is a brilliant captain and an amazing man, being the metronome of a team that has been one of the best in the world for some time now. Indeed, my only worry is how we replace what he offers when he’s injured or rested, given that so many of our more lethargic performances seem to come in his absence.
We’re Only Going To Get Stronger
Whilst I’ve got half an eye on the two Manchester clubs and was pleased to see Spurs lose at the weekend, there’s no question that our rivals will be looking at us and wondering where our weaknesses are. When we lost 7-2 to Aston Villa in that complete freakshow of a match, many of them will have been thinking that this season was a step too far for a side that has got 196 points across two campaigns. Instead of letting our heads drop, though, we’ve re-grouped and been able to shake off that result. Pictures of Virgil van Dijk doing some limited gym work are encouraging, whilst the imminent return of Thiago Alcantara will also be a reason to celebrate. If other sides were hoping that VAR decisions and a raft of injuries would be enough to derail our season then they’re now seeing that this team is made of much stronger stuff. Mentality monsters indeed.
Step by step.. pic.twitter.com/kkFluSl3ZW
— Virgil van Dijk (@VirgilvDijk) December 21, 2020
I firmly believe that there will be a few more twists and turns left in this title race, given the number of bizarre results and scorelines that the season has already thrown up. The question will be about which team is best able to ride the wave of madness, which Jürgen Klopp has shown to be a strong point of his. If we can get players back at the same time as avoiding losing many for long periods then you have to feel that we’ll be we’ll be well-placed to finally dismiss the notion of a Christmas curse once and for all. Combined with last year, another Christmas at the top of the tree followed by a Premier League title will establish this team as one of the best ever, with the motivation of winning the title in front of a crowd enough to drive us on. The win over Palace didn’t just send a message to the rest of the league but also to the squad itself: we’re still the best side in the country.