There’s always a feeling of euphoria among the fans of any football club that finishes Christmas at the summit of the premier league table.
And, why not!? History has been kind to such teams and since the noughties and as recent as the last season, evinces that the team who tops the charts on Christmas eve, by and large, goes on to win the whole package in May.
In the last 18 seasons since the start of the millennium, 12 sides that sat on top on the day Jesus was born, became the Champions of England come to the business end of the season and none has finished outside of the top 4, the Champions League spots.
Given this side of the history, Liverpool fans shouldn’t be blamed for being overly joyous with some exaggerated sense of entitlement because even better, the last 4 table-toppers half-way have all been the title-holders when all 38 games were played out.
There’s no doubt that Liverpool are one of the most decorated clubs in world football and it’s just unfathomable that they are yet to win the premier league.
The last 10 years have seen eight teams to have won the title when they were looking down on everyone at X-mas. So, which teams were the exceptions to this norm? Yeap, it was Liverpool on both occasions, letting their lead slip in 2008-09 and 2013-14, eventually losing out to Fergie’s Manchester United and Manchester City, respectively.
So, what changed this season:
As good as they were last season in terms of attack; it was glaringly obvious that the defence needed sorting-out. The fans quite often were left with oxymoronic emotions, elevated, every time their forwards wreaked havoc in the final third, whilst playing some unseen attacking football and panic-stricken when the team's defensive duties were called upon. This had to change.
Jurgen Klopp and the board made sure ‘Coutinho-money’ was well spent and well spent it was.
The addition of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson Becker for record-breaking sums in their respective positions made sure that the flood-gates are tightly shut. The Reds have let-in just the seven goals after 18 games this season as opposed to 38 in all of the last. That is some shutting.
Best start to any season
This is Liverpool’s best ever start to a season. They are unbeaten in 18 games in the league and doesn’t look like the cavalcade is going to stop anytime soon.
Football, just like any other sport, is all about the momentum. A winning momentum leads to winning games, winning games leads to winning more games and winning more games leads to the Championship.
Quality and Depth of Squad
Leicester City may not have been able to make a sporting history if any of their key players had been injured in the title-winning season of 2015-16.
It was beggars’ belief what they did that season and any science of reasoning or thought goes out the window so they may have yet won it. But, Leicester were clearly an exception to the norm.
And, all top teams with aspirations know that. Liverpool’s transfer policy in the last few windows has seen quality additions in all the areas of the football pitch but mainly, in the midfield.
With Keita and Fabinho settling in nicely, the Liverpool midfield has now guile and guts. We don’t have to go back too far to see Fabinho’s best performance in a Liverpool shirt and Shaqiri’s 2 goals that saw a certain manager get the sack.
Second half- Strong half!
Klopp, as astute manager as he is, knew what parts of the game needed change if this team were to win the title and he went all out and changed them, ergo made the team better. But, he’d also know what worked and needed continuation.
It has been over three years since the German is at the helm at Liverpool and if one thing has remained consistent in this time period is that Liverpool gets better in the second half of the season.
The points-per-game improves noticeably then. The performances- even better. This must continue.
Forwards playing with cohesion
The attacking trio, especially Mo Salah, has had their critics along the way this season, perhaps unfairly so.
Salah was rushed into the World Cup, even when the Egyptian FA knew full-well that he wasn’t 100 percent fit after the infamous injury he suffered at the hands of Sergio Ramos in the Champions League finals against Real Madrid.
Salah and co. have had a slow start to the campaign but look like they aren’t very far from the attacking displays from the last season that made even their worst of enemies eulogise them. Salah now is the second best goal scorer in the league with 11 goals to his boots.
Wheels coming off for City?
Liverpool are four points clear at the top after Manchester City’s shocking loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Chelsea too lost to a very good Leicester outfit. Although, the Blues aren’t a threat for the title but the Merseyside team must surely be happy to see them at an arm's length so that it remains that way.
What should work incredibly in Liverpool’s favour is, even though they look like a genuine title-contenders and sit pretty on top, they are still the underdogs. And, it’s universal and applies to every living organism that we all do better under less duress.
Pep Guardiola, brilliant manager as he is, has rarely been encountered with a tight contest for the league. This is the first time in some time that Manchester City-as good as they have been- do not look unbeatable and Pep, unruffled.
Liverpool has come very close to winning the league on a few occasions in the past, albeit, from a neutral perspective.
They always had something missing. Sometimes the blame was the ‘lack of character’, other times it was the ‘lack of maturity’ but most times it was the ‘lack of balance’ within the team.
It seems that the team and the fans have finally kissed their goodbyes to these demons and maybe, we can add a new name to the list of the premier league winners come May 2019.