By Lewis Rooke – @LV_Rooke
So, how the tables have turned from two weeks ago.
The narrative from just a fortnight back was how long could Liverpool realistically keep hold of an all-conquering Manchester City sides coattails, before the inevitable Pep Guardiola-fuelled thrusters kicked in as they rocketed off out of sight in the title race.
Now, Liverpool find themselves seven (yes, seven) points clear in the Premier League hunt – and none other than José Mourinho could lend a major hand in the seemingly never-ending pursuit of the league title.
Liverpool’s resounding victory against Arsenal cemented a place at the top of the Premier League pile as we move into the New Year, buoyed more so as Manchester City fell to a second consecutive unexpected defeat – this time at the hands of Leicester City.
Combined with the loss to Crystal Palace, for the first time in two years Pep Guardiola’s indestructible side are beginning to splinter.
This meltdown could not come at a more opportune time for Liverpool. For so long, José Mourinho has played the Premier League’s class clown.
No longer the sharp-witted Portuguese maestro he was at Chelsea, he became a complete caricature of himself in Manchester – to such an extent it became surprising he didn’t conduct his interviews wearing a massive red nose and oversized shoes. But by god, the media lapped it all up – and he knew it, too.
But now there’s no Mourinho. There is no longer a jester in the court for the circus that is the media to ridicule anymore. The press is a thirsty beast, and it will look for another target to sell the newspapers and gain its all-important clicks – and it need look no further than just down the road from Old Trafford for its next victim.
Manchester City, with two defeats on the bounce prior to their win over Southampton, are arguably the cliche’d ‘crisis club’ of the Premier League title race right now. Two defeats will never end a teams season, yet Manchester City have set a precedent for perfection, and when that is lost there is only one way down.
The intensity of media scrutiny is likely to rain down hard on Pep Guardiola now with José Mourinho not there to take away the heat. It’s this pressure that could paralyse the Citizens in the title race, leaving the door open for Liverpool to win their first elusive Premier League title.
Obviously, talk of winning the league is still premature at this stage in the season. Liverpool fans know more than others that its not over until its mathematically impossible to be caught – the Reds surrendered a five point lead in the 2013/14 Premier League season with just three games to play – so fans will know from experience to avoid getting ahead of themselves.
Yet this season, it feels so different. This is a calmer, more dominant Liverpool side – with winners and leaders in plentiful supply. Jurgen Klopp’s men have the ability to stand behind the jab and win without expending much energy, keeping opponents at arms length but also possess a ruthless ability to go for the knockout and put teams to the sword – as they did with Arsenal on Saturday.
Without doubt, Pep Guardiola will be looking at this and be feeling a spot of the old “squeaky bum” syndrome and asking how does he recover? How does he stop this Liverpool side? How do they get teams to fear them again? These are questions the Spaniard will have to find solutions to, in the meantime the notoriously fickle media will be rooting to find them for him.
Come the end of the season, José Mourinho’s sacking may have been the catalyst for Liverpool’s first ever Premier League title win. Time will only tell if this will be the case…