By Hani Na’eem – @hani_eem
It is remarkable that after the latest twists in this season’s league campaign, the big story is the same one that we had after the first 14 games.
That story is: Liverpool could record their biggest-ever points tally in a Premier League season and still not be champions at the end of it all.
At that time, Liverpool had beaten Everton on a dramatic Anfield afternoon and were looking ahead to their next league opponents, Burnley, knowing that they couldn’t take their feet off the pedal.
Liverpool have now come back to winning ways after beating the Clarets at Anfield following their draw at Goodison Park, and they know that they need to keep pushing to have any chance at winning the title in May.
Perhaps the only thing that’s changed – aside from the numbers – is the outside perception of Liverpool’s endeavours. Right now, many would have you believe Jurgen Klopp’s men are ‘bottling’ it.
The fact remains, though, that the Reds have shown improvements in all departments. With eight games still to go they have recorded more wins than they had at the end of last season, they have the league’s best defence with 17 goals conceded, and are still on course to reaching a club record in terms of Premier League points tally at the end of the season.
Perhaps this is not what many Liverpool fans would want to hear, but it has to be acknowledged and manager Jurgen Klopp has offered his take on it in an interview with Roger Bennett. “Effort has to be valued,” Klopp said after being asked if everything really is about winning.
When you’re a Liverpool fan, it’s hard to sympathize or even agree with Jose Mourinho, for obvious reasons, but his assessment of his Manchester United side’s getting second place behind Pep’s City last season was logical, and it applies to Liverpool’s situation right now.
The Portuguese said that coming second last season was one of his biggest achievements, and – hauntingly – Jurgen Klopp could offer the same assessment should his side come short this year.
The point is, people are quick to refer to Liverpool’s latest slips as the reason why their title pursuit is now out of their hands, but what is worth pointing out is something else entirely. This City squad is arguably the best, most talented the league has ever seen and, realistically, Liverpool have been punching above their weight to be in this position.
City reached a record-breaking 100 Premier League points last season, and some would argue they have a bigger and better squad this time around. Excuses aside, disruptive injuries are much more relevant for teams like Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, and even Chelsea and United than they are for a squad as big and talented as City’s.
What is more important than all this for Liverpool fans is that these arguments are not a concession of the title. Liverpool still have a very good chance of winning the Premier League.
The Reds have only four away fixtures remaining, and all are against sides in the bottom half of the table. I believe home performances for Liverpool have been excellent, and that’s why they could get maximum points from their remaining games.
City on the other hand have to face an in-form Manchester United team away from home, four days after a bout against another heavyweight in Tottenham Hotspur. This, along with City’s more congested fixture list, could prove vital in the final stages of the season.