Why Liverpool might end up as Premier League champions....and why they probably won't
Published 26/09/2016 | 17:26
It doesn’t take much for Liverpool fans to start believing their team is on the brink of Premier League title glory and their sparkling start to the season has got a few Reds hearts beating on Merseyside once again.
Liverpool’s Premier League victories against Arsenal, Chelsea, Leicester and Hull have come amid some thrillingly exciting displays and the Anfield dreamers are starting to believe this could be the season that ends the club’s enduring wait for a maiden Premier League title.
Here is your Independent.ie guide to the reasons why Jurgen Klopp and his players could get to next May as champions of England….and a few sobering reasons to explain why it probably won’t happen.
THE KLOPP FACTOR
Let’s be honest, it is hard not to like Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.
That beaming smile, his jovial post match interviews after a win and (almost more comically) his angry and often spiteful press briefings after a defeat make for captivating viewing.
Having attended thousands of press conferences down the years, I can confirm that most of them are incredibly dull, with the manager and the journalists on hand rarely working to the same agenda, which ensures that neither are entirely comfortable in to be sitting in the same room.
Klopp appears to be different and, more significantly, he backs up his charm off the pitch with a winning formula on it.
In a summer when Liverpool broke even on their transfer trading, Klopp appears to have taken his team up a few levels with shrewd purchases and a football philosophy that is great to watch when it is in full flow.
How can you not like Klopp? Not even the journos are safe from a slip up with him around pic.twitter.com/augcIQMeE5— M.A.J (@UItraSuristic) September 23, 2016
Never under-estimate the advantage Liverpool will have over their rivals as they enjoy another week free of European football ahead of next Saturday’s game against Swansea.
As Liverpool proved as they so nearly won the Premier League title back in 2014 and as Leicester demonstrated with their improbable march to the top prize in English football last May, having no European commitments is a huge advantage in the pursuit of domestic honours.
Klopp will have plenty of time to work with his players on the training ground, he can give them extra days off and still have time to make the odd appearances as a TV pundit on Sky Sports.
Since Klopp joined, Liverpool have scored the second most goals in the Premier League. pic.twitter.com/ZUHbhEndEs— TheODDSbible (@TheOddsBible) July 8, 2016
NO SUPERSTAR NAMES
Liverpool’s squad is more than big enough to cope with the demands of two domestic cup competitions and the Premier League, with Klopp building a side lacking undroppable names who he cannot do without.
Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge carried Liverpool’s title challenge two years ago and the absence of those to stellar names would be derailed Brendan Rodgers’ team, yet Klopp has a different formula this time.
If Sturridge is out injured (which he tends to be on days ending in Y), Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane can form a fluid and potent attacking quartet that has proved it can score goals against the best teams in the Premier League.
If Klopp needs a Plan B, he has Sturridge, Divock Origi and Danny Ings waiting in the wings to offer a different attacking flavour.
Superstars can win you big trophies, but relying on their influence can be perilous as you are always one hamstring pull away from disaster. Liverpool should not have that problem this season.
The signing of Joel Matip has given the centre of Liverpool’s defence more power this season, with the Cameroon international making a big impression in his first few weeks at Anfield.
He does a remarkable fine impression of former Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand and if he turns out to be anywhere near as good as the six-time Premier League winner, Liverpool will have a gem on their hands.
Liverpool’s aerial strength has been improved by the partnership of Matip and Dejan Lovren, with the latter of the duo starting to come to the fore after his shaky start at Liverpool.
Liverpool’s left-back problem remains, but their back-line is much better protected than it was at times last season by Liverpool’s hard working midfield unit.
And now for the negatives……
THE LEFT BACK ISSUE
Is James Milner a reliable option in the left-back position for the long-term?
The lamentable performances of Alberto Moreno in the left sided role for much of last season and at the start of this campaign means Klopp has needed to be inventive in a bid to plug a major hole in his team and Milner is the stop-gap solution for now.
The long-term plan must be to find a top class left-back and if Moreno is asked to fill in again for Milner if he picks up an injury, his presence in the Liverpool team could destabilise a settled defensive line.
THE KLOPP WORKLOAD
Liverpool’s closing down of the ball and their high pressing style has been wonderful to watch so far this season, but can these players sustain this level of enthusiasm throughout a grueling Premier League title push?
Injuries are inevitable when you ask players to perform at the high-octane levels Klopp demanding English season and there is always a danger that an injury crisis may set in featuring a few key players in the cold winter months.
Emre Can, Lucas, Sturridge and Origi are some of the classy options Klopp has on the bench, but his first pick starters will need to stay fit if the title is to return to Liverpool for the first time since 1990.
We don’t have to think back too long to recall the euphoria that enveloped Liverpool FC as they threatened to win their first Premier League title in 2014.
Fans from all over the world were planning trips to the final game of the season at Anfield ahead of what was expected to be a trophy presentation to captain Steven Gerrard, with the desperation for glory pouring pressure on Rogers and his players in the final games of the season.
Would Liverpool handle the pressure better if they are in a similarly promising position next April? As yet, we don’t have an answer to that question.
THE MAN CITY SURGE
Can anyone back against Pep Guardiola's Man City to be crowned as Premier League champions this season?
Liverpool and Tottenham have been the most impressive teams aside from City up to this point, but Guardiola's side have bene in a class of their own as they have collected six wins from six matches so far.
City face a big test against Tottenham at White Hart Lane this weekend, with Liverpool and the rest of the Premier League hoping some flaws are exposed in their hitherto unblemished make-up.
The Liverpool team we are seeing in action right now may appear to be good enough to challenge for the Premier League title, but their road to glory is likely to be strewn with obstacles along the way.
A top four finish in a season when Chelsea look certain to be less than effective once again seems like a more realistic prospect that a title challenge for Liverpool, with Man City the clear title favourites at this early stage.
However, Klopp’s team may well be more realistic contenders for the Premier League title than Leicester City were this time last year and as we all know, Claudio Ranieri’s Foxes ended up as champions.