With the ‘Reds’ now favourites to finally capture the hitherto-elusive Premier League trophy, which slipped from their grasp by a single point just six months ago, can Liverpool successfully defend their Champions League title and win the Premier League?
Why have Liverpool Fallen Short in the Past?
Several diverse factors have contributed to Liverpool’s three-decade drought in the hunt for a league title. The rot began in the early 1990s, when Graeme Souness was unable to carry over the legacy left him by Kenny Dalglish, Joe Fagan, Bob Paisley and Bill Shankly.
While the emergence of players like Robbie Fowler and Michael Owen gave Liverpool a lift, Manchester United remained too good to touch, and with Arsenal – and later Chelsea – experiencing better periods of growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Liverpool’s time has seemingly passed.
That itself was a major factor in Liverpool’s psychological issues throughout much of the pre-Klopp era. Regardless, Liverpool still managed two second-place finishes in the 2000s, showing signs of flourishing, with Steven Gerrard as the midfield marshal with a ‘win-or-die’ attitude.
Prior to last season, their only brush with the title in this decade came during the 2013/14 season, when Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez were unplayable almost every week.
The Reds kept pace with eventual winners Manchester City, and in a cruel twist of fate it was Gerrard himself who played a major part, infamously slipping over to hand Chelsea a vital win – and seal defeat for Liverpool – during the penultimate home game of the campaign.
Aside from all but handing the title to Manchester City, that itself marked the continuation of a trend where Liverpool have lost ‘crunch’ games during title races, with their previous failed title challenges stalled by defeats at the hands of title-chasing peers. Last season, sadly for the Reds, was no different. Of all places, their sole league defeat of 2018/19 (and still their only league defeat of 2019 overall) came in January at the Etihad Stadium.
Manchester City beat Liverpool 2-1, but it could easily have been different, with Liverpool just eleven millimetres away from having a potential matchwinner approved by goal line technology. That would ultimately cement the agonising one-point by which Liverpool would fall short, and such fine margins suggested to many Liverpool fans that the club would simply never manage the ‘big one’.
How Liverpool can Finally win the ‘Double’
These days, a 3-0 first-leg deficit is but a minor inconvenience, and if a second-string side finds itself trailing by a two-goal margin at a half-filled Anfield, there is still the absolute certainty that a fightback is on the cards.
It has taken the best part of three years for Jurgen Klopp to steady the ship – and more besides – but this is a side that does not know the meaning of the word ‘defeat’. The Reds are rightful sports spread betting favourites to clinch the title next May, and the hallmarks of a long-term stay at the top are certainly there.
Cold, hard statistics also reflect Liverpool’s genuine potential for a league and European double in 2020. Tellingly, following their 2-1 victory over Tottenham on 27 October, Liverpool go into their potential ‘title decider’ vs Manchester City this Sunday unbeaten in an astounding 45 straight home league games.
Significantly, that number is the longest unbeaten home league run in any of Europe’s ‘top five’ leagues – with the others being Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and Ligue 1. That perceived invincibility on home turf extends to European duties, with Liverpool unbeaten in 16 Champions League games at Anfield.
The Reds’ away form is also highly impressive, having been the undoing of them in their preceding failed title challenges. This season alone, Liverpool are averaging almost just over 2.66 points per away match in the Premier League, prior to the November international break.
A landmark for the New Generation
Times have seldom been this good at Anfield. However, the Reds can’t afford to celebrate just yet, as only those with the shortest of memories will forget how it took just two months for Liverpool’s seven-point Christmas lead to crumble away.
Premier League trophy aside, however, one other important accolade has eluded Liverpool so far this century – and ever since the glorious evening of 30 May 1984.
As the older generation might recall, this was the day that Liverpool lifted their fourth European trophy, but it is also the last time they did so as champions of England. Indeed, with Champions League participation being granted to (at least) England’s top three since 1999, much has been made of just how much the ‘Champions League’ deserves its name,
Liverpool’s runs to their last four post-expansion Champions League finals have come after a finish of third or lower the previous season. While this in no way detracts from Liverpool’s achievements in 2005, and the last two seasons, the club’s culture of success demands superlative levels of dominion at home and abroad.
Klopp knows and respects this, and right now, it seems as though nobody can stop him from honouring that collective demand from the Anfield faithful.