It’s been a long time since my beloved Liverpool football club stood upon the top step of the English football pyramid. In fact, the last time they did so, I wasn’t even ten years old, and back then, football wasn’t really on my radar. Since then there have been teams with great potential and some great players (Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Sami Hypia, and of course Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres), but all too often, I’ve witnessed either a false dawn, or watched as Liverpool went close, but could not quite cross the finish line in first.
Last season was a case in point. The combined performance of Mo Salah, Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane was incredible. Trent Alexander-Arnold stamped his authority on game after game. Jordan Henderson was the quiet, unassuming yet reliable figure in the middle of the pitch. Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk were rocks in defence, and Andrew Robertson continued to demonstrate why he is one of the best left-backs in the world. Yet, despite just one defeat, the Reds missed out on the title by one point.
However, the 18/19 season did yield a major trophy, as Liverpool won the Champions League, earning the honour and title of European champions for the sixth time in the club’s rich history. Cracking that particular nut was massive vindication for manager Jurgen Klopp, who had gone close in the competition before (including in the preceding season with Liverpool). This was inevitably a massive lift to the team, who deserved a trophy that season.
Now, Liverpool have an astonishing 22 point lead in the standings. To put that into perspective, Liverpool could lose their next seven games, and nearest rivals Manchester City could win their next seven games, and Liverpool would still lead the standings, albeit by one a point. I’ve watched as the Reds have dropped only two points all season, winning all but one game. The scale of the dominance eclipses what’s been achieved in the Premier League so far. No one has controlled a season like this – not the all-conquering Man Utd sides, not Arsenal’s Invincibles.
Not every win has been a powerful statement – Liverpool have equalled Man City’s run of 18 consecutive league wins, but have scored 15 fewer goals in the process – but there’s a relentless spirit to the Reds. They press, they probe, they push and they fight, until the final whistle. As a team and as individuals, there is raw hunger and determination, married to the talent. The players are an extension of Klopp’s passion and demand for victory.
Yet despite this remarkable, seemingly inevitable march to a long-overdue title, I have refused to accept Liverpool will win definitely win the title. As mentioned earlier, I’ve witnessed many a false dawn. It seems absurd to doubt it, but I didn’t want to jinx things either. Letting my guard down would make failure all the worse. Now though, I’ll admit, I felt slightly emotional walking to work, contemplating how it will feel when thirty years of near misses, mediocrity and wasted potential is banished in the most emphatic way.
The challenge will be to ensure this is not a one-off. To establish Liverpool’s place on top of the perch requires four or five titles over the next seven or eight years, ideally with two or three on the bounce. That’s a subject for the future. For now, let’s enjoy a beautiful display of authority from a beautiful team.