As some followers of this blog will know, I play Football Manager, and on FM 2019, I’ve recently led my beloved Liverpool to two consecutive league titles, including in the 19/20 season (the one playing out in real life right now). I secured that particular title on the final day of the season – which is a far cry from how the season is progressing in reality.
In reality, Liverpool are 16 (sixteen) points clear at the top, after 22 games of a 38 game season. Liverpool also have a game in hand on their closest rivals. There have been just two points dropped all season, away from home at Old Trafford, the venue of Liverpool’s most bitter rivals, Manchester United. To put that into perspective, imagine a Formula 1 season where one driver wins 10 of the first 11 races of a 20 race season, and finishes second in the other.
After today’s win over Man Utd at Anfield, it’s quite understandable why so many fans are declaring we’ll definitely become league champions for the first time in thirty years. Jurgen Klopp’s side is relentless and hungry, in a way very few sides in the history of the game have ever been. Klopp has been given time to mould Liverpool, an unusual state of affairs in the modern game, and that time has been well spent. It’s not only via the signings and the young players brought into the squad, it’s in the ethos and the mentality – Klopp has got his side playing the kind of football that won his Borussia Dortmund side the Bundesliga title in Germany, at a time when Bayern Munich were unquestionably top dogs. He’s identified weaknesses in the squad and resolved them. His energy and passion helped Liverpool win the Champions League last season, earning Liverpool the title of European champions. If, as is almost inevitable, he wins the Premier League title, Klopp will have forever cemented his place in Liverpool folklore.
Yet, despite the advantage Liverpool enjoy, I can’t quite personally call it yet. Teams have collapsed from dominant positions before. Complacency, followed by a defeat or two, leads to nerves, which leads to more dropped points, and suddenly a clear lead becomes narrowed. I’m sure Klopp is doing so, but I’d be telling the players that nothing is won until it’s actually won – until it becomes mathematically impossible for the Reds to be caught, we have not won anything.
Still, we’ve had an astonishing season. Our nearest rivals have dropped points left, right and centre, which is beyond our power to influence, but gratefully received. We’ve been determined, in a manner perhaps lacking in previous years, including winning matches late on, because of a refusal to accept anything less than victory. It should be our year – Now we just have to make sure of it.