Let’s start this article off with a claim that will make us appear very foolish by May if something goes wrong:- Liverpool Football Club will be Premier League Champions in 2020. We may be writing this right at the end of 2019, but there’s almost nothing realistic that could happen between now and the end of May that could cause Liverpool to surrender their enormous lead.
Manchester City appeared to be imperious as they swept to the title last season. As great as Liverpool were, City were better. The Manchester club went on a history-making run of consecutive wins to bring the title home, and even appeared to strengthen their side over the summer, but for whatever reason, they’re just not the same this time around. Perhaps winning the league last season took everything they had. Perhaps, as some journalists have suggested, they’re missing Vincent Kompany and his calming defensive presence. Either way, they’re too far behind to mount a serious challenge.
In their absence, Leicester City are doing the best they can, and they’re up to the dizzying heights of second. Nobody thought they’d ever come close to repeating the dream-like success of 2016, but they seem likely to claim a Champions League berth at the very least. Jamie Vardy is once again at the peak of his powers. James Maddison looks like he could be the future of England’s midfield, and Ben Chilwell plays with the maturity of a fullback with ten years more experience. They, too, however, are too far back to catch Liverpool.
What is it about this Liverpool team that makes them so good, though? Why is it that nobody has been able even to stay close to them, let alone catch them?
The Van Dijk Factor
Defenders do a largely unappreciated job. They’re not usually the star players on a team. That honor generally goes to a striker or failing that, a particularly flashy attacking midfielders. Defenders are supposed to keep the ball away from the goal, feed it forward, and then go back to sentinel duty. Virgil van Dijk isn’t like that. Looking at him now, one doesn’t so much wonder about what took Liverpool so long to take him from Southampton as wonder about how he managed to spend so long at Celtic and Southampton in the first place. It’s a question he asked himself back in 2017 and didn’t have a good answer to. Van Dijk is, unquestionably, the best defender in the world. He was a genuine contender for the Ballon D’or and featured in almost every player’s Team of the Year at the PFA Awards. He stops goals, he scores goals, and he arranges the team around him. Having Van Dijk on the pitch means conceding goals is less likely than it would be without him. If the team doesn’t concede, the team doesn’t lose.
That Forward Line
Liverpool’s forward line is so good that Roberto Firminho can rarely be assured of a starting place in it. The Brazilian would waltz (or should that be samba?) into the first eleven at Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and perhaps even Manchester City if Sergio Aguero were unavailable, and yet he struggles for minutes at Anfield. That’s because Sadio Mane and Mo Salah are so imperious. You could argue that their roles have switched in the past year – Salah was once the main man with Mane supporting him, but Mane now plays like the bigger goal threat – but they’re the best one-two punch in the English Premier League. With the exception of Barcelona’s forwards, they’re probably the best one-two punch in the world. With Firminho and even Origi playing backup, Liverpool always look likely to score. Scoring goals wins games.
The Habit Of Winning
There’s a theory in sports, and in gambling, that wins lead to wins. That’s how form develops. You might have come across a system in online slots called ‘collapsing wins.’ With a ‘collapsing wins’ system, every time you make a winning combination on website such as Dove Casino, all the symbols involved in the win disappear, and new ones take their place. Frequently, that causes another win, and the process repeats itself over and over until there are no more wins to be found. It’s a quirky attraction in online slots, but it mirrors the reality of winning at competitive sports. With every win, your confidence grows. The longer your winning streak, the more your opponents fear you. Their confidence dips. Psychologically, the battle has already been won before you step foot onto the field. Liverpool hasn’t looked back since they were crowned champions of Europe in May. They play like they believe that they’re the best team on the continent. Frequently, their opponents play like they know they’re playing a superior side. The result becomes an inevitability.
Lest we forget, Jurgen Klopp didn’t come to Anfield as an untested, unknown quantity. The popular German knew he had a rebuilding project on his hands, but he’ll also have come with the intention of winning the league. He’s a natural-born winner, and his track record proves that. He won two league titles and three domestic cups in his native Germany, and German football is highly competitive. He’d been a runner up in the Champions League before and had a burning desire to win it. Klopp’s philosophy of attractive, attacking football fits the bill perfectly at Anfield, but it wasn’t born there. He brought that with him when he came. The manager knows how it feels to win, and he clearly has the ability to share that feeling with his players. This season, we’re finally seeing the fruits of his labor domestically.
There are other factors we could consider, too. Robertson and Alexander-Arnold are two of the finest fullbacks you’ll find at any club in world football. No team could hope to have a better senior model pro for young players to look up to than James Milner. Chamberlain appears to be getting back to his best at the ideal time. Henderson, the quiet, unassuming captain, is doing a job so good that he almost goes unnoticed at times. Everyone at Anfield has hit their best stride at the perfect time – and that’s why they’re going to win the league. At last.