Don’t Worry About The Destination, Just Enjoy The Journey

I want Liverpool to win the league title. I would sacrifice the club’s place in the FA Cup and the Champions League if it meant they could lift the Premier League trophy at the end of this season. I imagine there are a number of you that feel similarly. It is the one competition of worth that I haven’t seen the Reds lift during my adult lifetime. I haven’t been able to celebrate us being the champions of England with a beer in my hand and I desperately want to. The very possibility of it is consuming my every waking thought at the moment, to the point when Christmas seems an irrelevance as the sooner it’s over the sooner I’ll be able to head to Anfield to see us take on Newcastle. This feels like our best chance since 1990 to find ourselves top of the table on the final day of the season and we’re all incredibly excited at the very possibility that it might happen.

Yet it’s also natural to be caught up in the fear of that situation. I loved the 2013-2014 run-in. I’d convinced myself that we were going to win it, referring to us as the ‘champions elect’ throughout and feeling as though nothing could stop us once we beat Manchester City. The loss to Chelsea hurt, but I still believed that we might be able to turn it around. The moment that Luis Suarez grabbed the ball out of the net after we’d scored our third against Crystal Palace was genuinely thrilling; the mad lunatic seemed to think we might be able to score 20 and turn the goal difference around in one game. Yet I was also absolutely devastated when we didn’t win the title, suffering some sort of football-version of post traumatic stress. The idea of going through that again fills me with dread, but then I realised that if we don’t enjoy the journey then what’s the point in even bothering?

This Liverpool Team Is Genuinely Sensational

We all loved the blood and thunder Liverpool team of last season, the one that destroyed side after side in the Champions League and raced into a 4-1 lead over Manchester City at Anfield. It’s perhaps memories of that side that have caused a lot of us to be disappointed with the team at times this season, constantly talking about the fact that we’ll ‘click’ at some point. Yet the reality is that that team would never have been able to sustain a title challenge in the same way that this one is. It was like building a beautiful home on quicksand; thrilling to look at but never likely to be sustainable. You only need to look at the stats of this current crop of players to know how good it really is. We have never, in the history of the top-flight, started as well as this. The fact that City and Tottenham remain in touching distance of us might be confusing some people into thinking we’re not actually all that good but we really, really are.

It is legitimately possible that the Reds could finish the season with in excess of 100 points and still not win the title. If that happens, we’ll have won more than thirty of the thirty-eight games we’ll have played, but some people will think it’s been a rubbish season because we didn’t lift the trophy. If we finish with more than 100 points and don’t win the title then you absolutely have to hold up your hands and say that the better team won it. It would be a massive shame if you spent the entire campaign caught up in the idea of winning the title and stressing over each and every twist and turn of the fortunes of the teams involved in it and therefore failed to enjoy the impressiveness of this squad. Whatever the challenge it’s presented with, it seems to be able to cope well, which is a great thing to watch play out in real time. Enjoy it.

This Isn’t Just A Flash In The Pan

The thing that broke my heart so decisively in 2013-2014 was the fact that it felt like a one-time chance. No one sensible expected a title challenge and when it happened it was more because of the mercurial nature of Luis Suarez as a football and his combinations with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge than anything even remotely to do with defensively solidity or the balance of the team. It felt like it was very much ‘of the moment’ and that once that moment had passed we wouldn’t see its likes again. That Suarez left for Barcelona that summer and we haven’t seen Sturridge come close to hitting that form again seems to prove the point.

Jürgen Klopp’s team might well be filled with talented players, and Mo Salah seems to be the most obvious example, but it is far more balanced than Brendan Rodgers’ team ever was. That balance has seen the Reds produce a title challenging team over the course of the past thirty-eight games across the 2017-2018 season and this one. The problem we’ve got is that Manchester City have been even more impressive over the same period and that Mauricio Pochettino’s side is only four points ‘worse’ than us. Any other season and we’d be ahead of the rest by some distance and the feeling of a procession that City enjoyed last season might have flooded to us, but here we are. The key thing for me is that even if we miss out this time around we should still be there or there about next time out, too. It’s no longer an all-or-nothing scenario.

The Journey Is A Thrilling One

We have played eighteen games so far this season, winning fifteen and drawing three. We are unbeaten at Christmas and have the joint-best defensive record at this stage of any Premier League side ever. In the history of the English top-flight a team has only had more than forty-eight points on three occasions, so we’re watching one of the best teams ever strut its stuff. The final destination might well prove to be unfulfilling, but surely that’s a reason to admire what’s happening on a weekly basis rather than get caught up in the ‘what-ifs’ of it all? I don’t think we’ll go all season unbeaten. I would imagine that a loss to Spurs or City might be influential in the final outcome of the title’s destination, yes equally we have the ability to beat both of them and put clear daylight between us. Pondering that for too long will leave you tearing your hair out.

Those that argue that silverware is the be-all-and-end-all often do so because they’re either watching turgid football but winning trophies (hello Manchester United) or else haven’t won a trophy for years and simply don’t like that we’re good, such as Everton. You simply will not convince me that supporters of the Red Devils have enjoyed the past three years under José Mourinho more than Spurs fans have under Pochettino on the back of the EFL Cup and Europa League double that they achieved in 2016-2017. Supporters of the London club have been able to watch thrilling football and their team win game after game, whilst United’s followers have seen their club lift trophies but been bored to death in the process. The point being that the journey is sometimes even more thrilling than the final destination.

We’re Four Points Clear Of One Of The Best Sides Ever

We can sit and debate the dubious nature of Manchester City’s success under the financial doping of their oil-rich owners until we’re blue in the face, but the means they used to collect their squad is irrelevant; the simple fact is that last season Pep Guardiola got his team playing some of the best football that the English game has ever witnessed. The first Premier League side to break the one hundred points barrier in a campaign, many were happy to declare them to be the champions-elect this season when they started in a similar manner. Even the majority of Liverpool supporters seemed to feel as though there was little-to-no chance that the Cityzens would drop many points and that we would just need to hang onto their coattails for as long as possible. It was about stopping them from getting too far away from us, not about us taking over them.

That this Liverpool team heads into Christmas Day with a four point lead over City is, therefore, somewhat astonishing. It’s not just that we’ve pulled away from them but that we’ve given ourselves the leeway of being able to lose one of our games against Newcastle, Arsenal and them and still be a point clear as long as we match their other results. Many thought the game at The Etihad would be our chance to get ahead of them but instead it’s likely to be their chance to make up some ground on us. That’s not taking anything for granted against a Newcastle side that Rafa Benitez will have drilled to within an inch of its life nor an excellent Arsenal team that’s got an attack that any team would be wary of. This is gearing up to be a truly sensational season, but I don’t want anyone to miss out on the fun of the journey because they’re too worried about what might happen at the end of it.

Merry Christmas

Writing this piece as I am on Christmas Eve, it’s likely that we’ll have played both the Magpies and Gunners by the time I write my next piece. I dearly hope that we can take maximum points from those games and go The Etihad with a four point lead over City at the very least. Whatever happens, I hope you have a brilliant Christmas, filled with love and laughter. If you’re liable to struggle at this time of year for whatever reason then please remember that that’s absolutely ok and there are loads of people out there for you to talk to. You’re not on your own.

It’s Christmas Time

For now, up the top-of-the-table Reds!

One Response
  1. December 24, 2018

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