Is The Title Done And Dusted? Not A Bit Of It

You can tell that Liverpool are getting close to their first top-flight title since 1991 and their first ever of the Premier League era. How? By looking at the responses to our win at Selhurst Park on Saturday afternoon. The Eagles did exactly what I expected them to do, sitting back and inviting the pressure before trying to hit us on the break. They would have taken the lead, too, if not for the idiocy of Jordan Ayew in pushing Dejan Lovren in the back. It was a needless, pointless thing to do and I can’t believe that the conversation since then hasn’t been about his moronic behaviour rather than whether or not the Video Assistant Referee was right to disallow the goal. There’s no place on the pitch in which a player is allowed to push another on in the back regardless of the location of the ball and get away with it. If had been the other way around my anger would have been directed at the pusher, not the VAR.

With Roy Hodgson, who wouldn’t give Liverpool a cold after his time in charge of the club, readily saying that it was the correct decision to overrule the goal, why are opposition fans so furious about it? Because we’re edging closer to a title, that’s why. We’re eight points clear of Leicester City in second, nine points clear of Manchester City in third and eleven points clear of Chelsea in fourth. We’re only a third of the way through the season, but that’s a very healthy buffer to have built up. For opposition supporters and a hostile press, ‘Successfully Run Club Is Performing Well’ isn’t a sexy headline. ‘Referees Want Liverpool To Win’, on the other hand, is perfect. It both taints any victory we achieve and also excludes other clubs for failing to be as well run as we are. Everyone expected oil-rich City to win the title repeatedly until Guardiola left, so we’re upsetting the apple cart. Nothing’s won yet, though.

We’re The Only Team In The Top Four Without A Premier League Title

There are many reasons why I’m taking nothing for granted this season, but the main one is that all of the chasing pack know what it takes to win a Premier League title. Yes, the Reds have eight top-flight titles to their name, but none of the current squad other than James Milner can lay claim to a winners’ medal. The same is not true of the Chelsea, City or Leicester squads, all of which are bulging with players that know exactly what it takes to lift the big shiny thing at the end of the campaign. We do know what it takes to rack up ninety-seven points and to get across the line in order to lift a European Cup, so I’m not suggesting that we’re serial bottlers or anything. Yet if things start to bunch up at the top of the league then the other three squads are filled with players that have more experience of squeaky bum time than we do. It’s a good job we’re an amazing football team.

Experience matters, which is why Jürgen Klopp was considered to be a better manager than Mauricio Pochettino even before besting him in the Champions League final. His league winners’ medals from Germany meant that he was a manager with trophies to his name, where the Argentine had none. It’s a daft thing to focus on, but it does make a difference when players are turning to the man in charge to ask what they need to do. It’s also why Milner is such an important squad player for us, knowing what it takes to get the win at all costs. I have a supreme level of confidence in this team, with the lads showing that they can win in all sorts of circumstances. I thoroughly believe that they have what it takes to win the title, but I’m taking nothing for granted and won’t be happy until it’s officially been declared to the case.

City Aren’t Our Only Challengers

Since the beginning of last season, we’ve lost just one game. I’m not expecting us to go unbeaten this time around, but who we lose to and when we drop points could be crucial. We’re eight points ahead of Leicester City, but they’ll be targeting our trip to the King Power on Boxing Day as an opportunity to claw some points back. If they can remain within touching distance until that point then a win would move them within five point or maybe more. That’s not as significant a lead as eight points. That’s not just me being negatively minded, either. When the Foxes did actually win the title in 2015-2016 everyone spent the entire season saying that they’d fall away, that the squad wasn’t good enough to win the title. They didn’t fall away and Jamie Vardy and co were crowned Premier League champions.

Just as with Liverpool in 2013-2014, they don’t have European football to worry about. Between now and our match against them we have a likely four more games than they do, thanks to our two remaining Champions League matches and our participation in the Club World Cup. When we drew 3-3 with Everton towards the end of November in ’13-’14 we were four points off the top and City were nine points away from first, though they had a game in hand. We all know what happened in the end, with Brendan Rodgers learning his lesson along the way. Yes, it was ‘only Scottish football’ but not many other managers go an entire season unbeaten domestically north of the border, so I’m loathe to dismiss his achievements up there. Of course I have an immense amount of faith in this Liverpool team, but I’m not counting my chickens.

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Manchester City know how to make up a nine point deficit in the league. Leicester City know how to keep going when everyone expects them to drop away. Chelsea know how to win titles that require them to battle. The only people acting as if Liverpool have already won the title are opposition supporters convincing themselves that the officials are on our side when anyone sensible knows that’s a nonsense. There’s a long way left to go, so let’s enjoy every second of it.

One Response
  1. November 27, 2019

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