Are Liverpool back as Premier League challenger?
The season may be young, but the standings are already looking as expected (margin of error +/- Everton). Liverpool are one of three teams with 10 points and a +8 goal differential in four games, held in the lead only by goals scored. Manchester City favorites are just a point behind.
In recent seasons we’ve seen how important a good start can be. We saw Chelsea run away with the title in 2016/17, and City did the same in 2017/18. Liverpool decided to try this bold strategy in 2019/20, winning 26 of their first 27, and ended their three-decade title drought in the process.
The point is that a “quick start” often translates into a “title winning form” when fall turns into winter, and recent seasons have proven that you much prefer to drive the train rather than try to ride. come from behind.
However, there are open questions about the quality of this Liverpool side and the quality of the other contenders. Manchester City, despite a shocking defeat to Spurs on Matchday 1, are returning to their best. We have seen firsthand how great Chelsea are. And, sigh, even Manchester United seem up for a challenge.
Of course, there is rarely a three-horse race for the title, let alone a four-horse race. As the pages of the calendar inevitably turn, the suitors will inevitably fall. The trick is to keep moving forward, leading the pack, until everyone else gives up or runs out of time.
At the start of the season, most pundits saw Liverpool finish in fourth place of the other three teams listed above. It’s a strange phenomenon, and one that seems to afflict the Reds more than any other ‘big’ team in England: No matter how impressive Liverpool look, no matter how impressive their actual achievements are, there are always skeptics. in the press.
These pundits love to ignore one thing, the thing that is arguably Liverpool’s biggest psychological advantage over the rest: They are the only side to face Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and win. Without Jurgen Klopp and those Reds, England would currently be watching City win their fifth consecutive title. And probably earn it.
Sure, the teams beat City in one-off matches, like Chelsea did to win their second European Cup, but no one contested week after week, not just one season, but two.
I’m not saying United and Chelsea can’t keep pace with City. I’m saying they have yet to prove that they can.
Liverpool have proven it. But of course they have to prove it again, especially after last year’s injury-riddled campaign.
I don’t have the answers other than to say that Liverpool are as good a bet as anyone to beat City to the title. Liverpool look solid at the back again as evidenced by their 3 clean sheets so far, and their attackers are all finding the back of the net. Even Divock Origi got an assist.
Liverpool fans might regret the draw against a resolute 10-man Chelsea squad, but that ultimately won’t decide the title. Where Liverpool fell last season, and where they can make the biggest improvement this season, is against the lower and middle sides. Like Norwich City. Like Burnley. Like Leeds United. And like Crystal Palace.
Three more points tomorrow, and continue to put pressure on the other contenders, until they crack the first. Rinse and repeat. Time will tell if Liverpool are the one feeling the pressure or the one building it up.