Many pundits and fans have claimed Liverpool’s season will not be that impressive if they’re knocked out Europe and ‘only’ win the Premier League. Ben Webb begs to differ.
After thirty years of dreaming, the wait for that ever-elusive Premier League title is finally within touching distance, with a mere two wins enough to clinch it.
Liverpool have been ruthless in their hunt to end the hoodoo this season; breaking numerous records along the way and turning what was expected to be (at best) a two-horse race, into a foregone conclusion by January.
It’s a level of dominance and consistency that no expert saw coming, which was justified at the time by Liverpool’s lack of strengthening during the summer transfer window. But here we are.
After years of exasperatingly hanging on to optimism, we’re in a league of our own, and rival fans and some media outlets (unsurprisingly) are desperate to downplay the twenty-five-point gap. Try as they might, the figures will be etched into the record books for eternity and prove beyond doubt, and bias, just how special this team really is.
The go-to of late seems to be the suggestion that the Premier League is of poor quality, and that’s the driving force behind Liverpool’s standout season. An instant demise of excellence, from last season to now.
It’s a theory that disregards the supposed lack of quality in the league when others strolled their way to victory – like the 2017/18 season, where Manchester City were untouchable. Only now has the standard drastically dropped off…apparently.
It’s not a poor league, it’s a league with one exceptional team, having an extraordinary season.
Liverpool losing a single league game all season must equal a poor quality of opposition, surely? Although Liverpool, like Manchester City, have both lost to teams in the relegation zone, which contradicts the statement and proves that even the worst teams (points wise) can overcome the big hitters.
People forget that before Christmas, there were essentially three teams fighting at the Premier League’s summit: Liverpool, City and Leicester. I’d argue that the evidence is there to suggest that, in terms of results, the league is as unpredictable as ever.
A good example would be Manchester City losing to Manchester United, and failing to score. Not many would’ve seen that coming. Or Watford giving Liverpool nightmares and ending our hopes of invincibility one week, then losing one-nil to Crystal Palace the next.
There’s a real irony in calling the league poor, after both European finals last season were contested solely by English teams for the first time in history. It’s not a poor league, it’s a league with one exceptional team, having an extraordinary season.
Even if you dismiss the above evidence, why, if the success has been built on lack of opposing quality, have Liverpool been consistently reaching the pinnacle of European football? Facing the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona, Paris Saint German, Roma, Manchester City and Real Madrid – and beating (almost) all of them.
Is European football poor? No – and Liverpool being in consecutive finals only cements their status as one of the top teams in World football.
Another vexation of mine is the media's newfound obsession with the idea that lifting the Premier League trophy, in isolation, is not enough to be considered a great team. As if the exact same team didn’t lift the most prestigious trophy in club football last season and haven’t won the Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup in the meantime.
It’s genuinely as if Liverpool’s dominance has given pundits too much thinking time, hence all the ridiculous comparisons with past teams and the depreciation of their accolades. It’s genuinely baffling.
Would the Arsenal’s invincible team succumb to Jürgen’s lads? Would the treble-winning Manchester United team dismantle Liverpool? No-one knows, it only facilitates others to devalue what Liverpool are achieving, by comparing them with some of the Premier Leagues best squads, during their handpicked best seasons.
It should be a compliment, really. These are the best teams the Premier League has ever witnessed, and Liverpool are continually compared with them. But it feels like a forced agenda, insinuating Liverpool must exceed their successful counterparts to be remembered as an all-time great.
I’ve also seen the word ‘luck’ thrown around, as if any title-winning side worth their salt doesn’t occasionally have something go in their favour.
In reality, this team could well be under Jürgen Klopp’s stewardship for another four seasons, and becoming English, European and World champions may well signify the beginning of a period of sustained dominance. Compare us after Klopp’s tenure, that’d be much fairer.
I’ve also seen the word ‘luck’ thrown around, as if any title-winning side worth their salt doesn’t one, occasionally have something go in their favour, and two, create their own good fortune via tirelessly grafting and fighting until the tide turns in their favour.
This shouldn’t be used as a stick to beat them with, but as a positive attribute. That trait of never giving up, regardless of the situation, is exactly what the best teams do. It was a formidable characteristic throughout Sir Alex Ferguson’s career with United. Good performance, bad performance, they always (annoyingly) found a way.
That’s typical Liverpool now. Milner has been the latest to exemplify this, showing a sheer force of will to produce a match-winning goal-line clearance against Bournemouth. That’s not a fluke, that’s desire.
The comeback against Barcelona – Lionel Messi’s Barcelona – that’s not an act of the footballing Gods, that’s determination and grit. It’s a winning mentality and culture that’s embedded within this squad of players.
Forget all this luck malarkey, to go unbeaten in forty-four matches is unprecedented, and has little to do with lady luck. It should be admired, not disparaged.
Then we get the opposite – lose a few games and we’re in a full-blown crisis. After going unbeaten for forty-four matches, a handful of losses have been completely blown out of proportion.
Liverpool have gone unbeaten in fifty-five games at Anfield and won twenty-two in a row – a new record in the English top flight. In that time, they’ve also never lost a two-legged tie in Europe, which is sensational, considering the teams they’ve faced. They are human, and like all great teams of the past, they occasionally lose.
To contextualise how magnificent this team is – and to debunk this ‘crisis’ nonsense – Liverpool have obtained 109 points from their last 114 in the Premier League, reached back-to-back Champions League finals, and the last time they faced defeat at Anfield is nearing the three-year mark.
That’s the true context of this team’s credentials. That’s what will be recorded in the history books for future generations to read – not excuses, bias or lucky ‘ol Liverpool, Just *facts* (*to be read in Rafa Benitez’s dulcet tone).
The Premier League might well be in the bag, but I’m not doubting this team’s ambition to crave another successful European campaign. Atlético will be firmly in their sights, and Liverpool will be desperate to overturn the first-leg deficit. Another Anfield showdown beckons…
Follow Liverpool writer Ben Webb on Twitter @BenWebbLFC