While England’s biggest clubs like Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea have been locking away their fair share of Premier League trophies over the last 30 years, the country’s golden oldie in Liverpool has been plastering up their wounds inflicted by a damaged reputation.
But things took a turn for the ridiculously overdue better in 2020. A couple of months ago passionate Liverpool fans were ready to crack open the Champagne and celebrate a drought-breaking league title, their first since 1990. The club was on track for an historic 2019-20 campaign with many records either broken or set to be.
The season felt finished by Christmas and by March 7, Liverpool held an insurmountable 25-point lead before the all too familiar Covid-19 pandemic wrecked havoc on the sporting world. Everything stopped and rightfully so, the globe turned its head away from sport and onto safety. But whether or not the Merseysiders were going to receive some silverware for their impressive feats and hard work was heavily in question.
Thankfully, the league is returning in a little under a fortnight with nine games left for Liverpool to play, who has the chance to finish the spectacular efforts they started in August. 29 games passed, with 27 wins, one draw and one loss being their record when the league was suspended, the best by any team through 29 games in the league’s history. Skipper Jordan Henderson was having a career year and the favourite for Player of the Season honours. Virgil van Dijk was his colossal best at the back, as expected, and the fullback pairing of Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold took another step forward.
But with success always comes criticism, and this one is a little harder to shake off. There is the growing rhetoric that due to the interrupted season, the legitimacy of Liverpool’s title win – which will come soon enough – is severely lessened. Much like the NBA’s lockout year in 2011-12, when people were quick to criticise LeBron James’ first ring and its ‘fairness’, Liverpool’s headline as champions ‘has not been fully earned’.
Troy Deeney thinks Liverpool’s title is ruined 👀 pic.twitter.com/wUcf7VNvSU
— B/R Football (@brfootball) May 28, 2020
Such a claim would have some weight, if the Reds had not all but secured the crown and blown away the rest of the league before things went south, as well as many records sprinkled on top. Liverpool’s “integrity” as champions should never be questioned, and it is glaringly obvious.
Heading into the 2019-20 season Liverpool were again expected to push Manchester City right to the end, who themselves were widely tipped to make it three in a row. But 12 games in the favour swung the Reds’ way after a convincing 3-1 win over City at Anfield. They held a nine-point lead with 11 wins and a draw propping them atop the table.
The performances to that point were not the most glamorous, as Liverpool found themselves either tied or trailing late on in many encounters, with a flurry of chances failing to find the back of the net. But almost every time, a crucial goal made its way past the opposing keeper. They were a machine that consistently found a way to gain points.
Liverpool’s form continued to trend upwards as the weeks passed and they began setting new records. In early February they opened up a 22-point gap which at the time was the largest in any English football competition ever, before growing to 25 points. By then they had achieved the best start ever, as well most points over a 38 game stretch (which started in the 2018-19 season) and biggest points lead ever.
More records are on their way including most wins and most home wins in a season, most points, earliest title win and biggest winning margin. Two wins out of the final nine games is all they need to secure the title, assuming City manage two wins themselves in that stretch.
One thing that has remained constant since August is the playing field everyone is on. It was level then; it remains level now with everyone entering and coming out of the same pandemic with the same limitations, luxuries and now the same eased situation. No one has been given an advantage.
So what makes things different now that Liverpool can actually, statistically speaking, win the title? What is the problem with sealing an inevitable fate?
Like the 2017-18 season where the winner was crowned well in advance, like the 2011-12 campaign where it came down to the final seconds of the final day, like 2003-04 where the champions were record breakers – every season has its own challenges, ups and downs and ultimately, glory. The winner’s status however is never reduced.
To add ‘fuel to the fire’, the Reds had themselves another record-breaking season in 2018-19 as a runner-up, with 30 wins, seven draws and one loss, falling just two points short of the champions City. That means in a 67 games, the club has won 57, drawn eight and lost two… astounding. Their class has long been known.
The team has not been immune to injury troubles either. Joël Matip and Alisson both missed the early stages of the season, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Dejan Lovren and James Milner spent time on the sidelines and Fabinho and Jordan Henderson, arguably Liverpool’s two most important midfielders, endured long stints out. Henderson’s injury was ongoing up until the league’s suspension.
The revamped and restarted campaign allows Liverpool to lift the trophy in a noisy Anfield if they can get maximum points against Everton (A) and Crystal Palace (H), which is a safe bet. If that does not go to plan, seven other games lie ahead to cement their destiny.
It is just a matter of time until title number 19, and Premier League title number one, officially makes it’s way to Merseyside. It will happen within the next month or two, so prepare yourselves.
Sports writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have a strong passion for a range of codes, including the NBA, NFL, Soccer, Rugby and more.