Two Matches In & The Title Race Has Already Started

Looking back at the weekend’s results, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I heard Gary Lineker, Jermaine Jenas and Danny Murphy chuckling about Jürgen Klopp’s comments regarding Burnley’s physicality, suggesting that the German was merely engaging in ‘mind games’ ahead of the weekend. When asked about it, Jenas declared that they had watching the match and didn’t see any of the ‘wrestling’ moves that the manager was talking about. Ignoring the fact that these people are paid eye-watering sums of money to spout this nonsense and really should do even the slightest bit of research before talking about it on national television, when has our manager ever engaged in mind-games? He doesn’t approach things in the same way as Alex Ferguson or José Mourinho, instead preferring to stick to the things that he can do something about.

Even so, I can well understand his frustration at the manner in which Mike Dean refereed the game. Dean, who is well-known for his self-flagellating manner, was keen the live up to the Football Association’s new diktat that more should be ignored in matches in order to allow the game to flow. Most football supporters would agree that allowing a match to have more of a flow to it is key to our entertainment, but that doesn’t mean that referees should ignore blatant fouls in order to do so. The Professional Game Match Officials have made such a mess of the Video Assistant Referee system that they’re now tying themselves in knots to over-correct. It’s not hard to call a foul a foul and a penalty a penalty, but the standard of refereeing in this country means that it has become so. A player grabbing someone on the opposition and throwing them to the floor is a foul and Jürgen Klopp was right to point out as much.

Saturday Is Massive

I’m not going to say that Saturday’s match against Chelsea is a title-decider, because that would clearly be ludicrous. What I do think, though, is that the outcome of it could have a big say on where this season’s Premier League trophy ends up going. Only an idiot would rule Manchester City out of the title race because they lost to Tottenham Hotspur in their opening game, yet I am currently of the opinion that the side that wins the mini-league of big six clubs will end up taking home the title. The reality is that Chelsea, Liverpool and City are well-placed to beat most of the bottom twelve or thirteen sides virtually every time they play them, though a few exceptions will crop up along the way. As a result, what happens when the top sides face each other might end up being the deciding factor as to which team will finish at the top of the table. It is with this thought process in mind that the outcome of Saturday evening’s match between Liverpool and Chelsea is important.

We could lose the game and still go on to win the title, just as we could lose it and miss out on a title win regardless. It doesn’t need to be made into a bigger match than it already is by calling it a title-decider just three games into the new season. We also saw last time out how you can be very much involved in the title conversation, finishing top at Christmas, only to miss out when the silverware is handed out come May. For Liverpool, though, there is a conversation to be had about the importance of remaining in the conversation. With City having lost to Spurs and Manchester United dropping points to Southampton, a win against the Londoners would allow us to lay down a marker for the rest of the title-chasers to follow. City play Arsenal in the lunchtime kick-off, so will likely be level on points with us before our clash with Thomas Tuchel’s side. Pulling back out in front of them and taking three points from Chelsea at the same time could be huge in the title race.

Liverpool’s Squad Is Up To The Challenge

It is currently the done thing in certain sections of the Liverpool fanbase to put down the club’s squad. A lack of massive spending to match what the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City have spent has led some people to believe that this Liverpool squad isn’t good enough to compete. That is in spite of the fact that it is a better squad than we had the season we got ninety-seven points and won the Champions League, as well as being a better squad than the one that actually won the title. Over the past couple of years, we’ve added Kostas Tsimikas, Diogo Jota, Thiago Alcantara and Ibrahima Konate, all whilst losing none of our best players. In fact, we’ve tied most of our top performers down to long-term contracts, as well as finding the space to give Harvey Elliott room to perform for the Reds. I’m not at all worried about the state of our squad heading into the rest of the season.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d always like one more than we’ve actually got and if I was Michael Edwards I’d be pushing the boat out to bring in another attacker as well as a midfield option. I’m just not sure that the squad as it currently is is as weak as some of our supporters are suggesting, based on nothing more than the fact that we haven’t spent vast sums of money. The title race is already underway, even though we’ve only played two games of the Premier League campaign. We obviously could suffer a season of freak injuries like we did last time out, but it seems unlikely and if we’re able to keep everyone fit, as well as get a tune out of players such as Naby Keïta and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, I think our squad is more than capable of challenging for the top honours. For all of the money that Pep Guardiola has spent, there are only a handful of players that I’d take from Manchester City to Anfield. Now we need to demonstrate that dominance against Chelsea.

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