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Dublin: 11°C Saturday 15 May 2021

Liverpool may not be remembered as one of the great sides - but that won't matter if they win the title

Their aura has been dented amid a slump in form.

Jurgen Klopp celebrates a recent win over Wolves.
Jurgen Klopp celebrates a recent win over Wolves.
Image: David Davies

“LONGING ON A large scale makes history” wrote Don DeLillo, and Jurgen Klopp is about to brush away the unwanted part of Liverpool’s accumulated memory.

After 30 years of yearning and too little learning, Liverpool are four wins from a maiden Premier League coronation and a first league title of any shape since Candy was on their shirts and Jack Charlton was mending relations with David O’Leary.

Liverpool in the Premier League began as the story of a club so addled by the speed of progress they retreated into their own past and supposed exceptionalism.

Whereas Manchester United hurtled along with an autocratic, often unreasonable but usually brilliant manager, Liverpool pined for an old-age centrism and ended up in the ludicrous scenario of appointing two first-team managers. Careful consensus doesn’t build a trophy haul.

In the mid-2000s, the age of oligarchs eventually forced Liverpool to sell out. However jarring the prospect of a compromise on years of revered tradition seemed, the reality was worse as a pair of American charlatans arrived and compared running the club to selling Weetabix.

soccer-barclays-premier-league-liverpool-v-bolton-wanderers-anfield Former Liverpool co-owner Tom Hicks. Source: PA

This dalliance with modernity went horribly awry, with the club rescued by John W. Henry at the High Court after a vexing, toxic couple of years. The rubble was evident on the pitch, as Roy Hodgson and a painfully bad team stumbled from one ignominy to the next.

Let’s pause at 2010 for a moment. Liverpool began the Premier League by clinging to its past and were overwhelmed by Manchester United. Then they sold the family silver to modernity and were almost overwhelmed by Blackpool. Fans would be forgiven for thinking that nothing was ever going to work.

Then the 2013/14 title run arrived like a bolt from the heavens before foundering on its own, elemental surge of fragile emotion. Steven Gerrard’s slip against Chelsea was less an issue than his thwarted redemption effort, as he took a series of long-range pot shots in vain as another title dream melted away in real time.

Now under a more competent group of capitalists, Liverpool finally got pretty much everything right last season. They lost only one game, they gathered more points than they ever had before…and still they didn’t win the league. The age of the oligarchs looked quaint at that point; now they were losing in the era of the oil states.

But this season, it looks like they are actually going to go and do it.

If Liverpool beat four of Bournemouth, Everton, Crystal Palace, Man City, Aston Villa, Brighton, Burnley, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Newcastle, they’ll be champions. Not to go all Mick McCarthy, but if you had offered that to them ahead of the season…

Liverpool won’t go the entire season unbeaten, and if they continue to play as they have in the last month, they will probably be knocked out of the Champions League on Wednesday night.

At the moment they miss Jordan Henderson’s energy, with Fabinho lumbering about with heavy legs. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Sadio Mane look tired, Roberto Firmino’s deft touch has deserted him. As a whole, the team’s focus is waning. Their high defensive line is a high wire act and any lapses in concentration make them too easy to play behind, as Watford and Chelsea have shown in the last week.

They may regress to a more rational points total, and may not in time be whispered in the same breath as the Manchester clubs or Arsenal’s Invincibles in pub debates as to the best Premier League sides of all time.

It seems they won’t have the chaotic release of catharsis that Manchester City had in 2012, they may yet have to play games in empty stadia and it may look anti-climactic to the rest of us. 

They may end up as just another Premier League winner, but given the club’s relatively tortured experience of the competition so far, that will do Liverpool and their supporters just fine.

Premier League fixtures (kick-off 3pm unless stated)

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Liverpool v Bournemouth (12.30pm) 

Wolves v Brighton 

Arsenal v West Ham

Southampton v Newcastle

Sheffield United v Norwich 

Crystal Palace v Watford 

Burnley v Spurs (5.30pm) 


Chelsea v Everton (2pm) 

Manchester United v Manchester City (4.30pm) 


Leicester v Aston Villa (8pm) 


Manchester City v Arsenal (7.30pm)

Originally published at 16.00

About the author:

Gavin Cooney

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