'I don’t understand the pessimism around the team' - Mark Lawrenson hits back at Liverpool's critics
Mark Lawrenson believes Jurgen Klopp should be crowned as Premier League Manager of the Year even if his Liverpool side come up short in their battle to dethrone champions Manchester City.
Liverpool rode their luck to beat Tottenham in Sunday's dramatic Premier League game at Anfield, inspiring former Liverpool and Ireland defender Lawrenson to suggest the negativity bubbling around Klopp’s side in recent weeks has been misplaced.
Speaking at the launch of BT Sport film 'Two Tribes' that will look at football on Merseyside in the 1980s, Lawrenson insists Liverpool should not be accused of throwing away their chance to end the club’s 29-year wait for a league title if they finish behind City when the final ball is kicked.
"Anyone who says Liverpool have bottled it if they end up finishing second in the Premier League is talking absolute nonsense," Lawrenson told the Sunday World.
"Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have been brilliant this season, simply brilliant. To get anywhere close to this City team is incredible and in any other era, they would be well on their way to winning the title after collecting 79 points in their first 32 games.
"What I don’t understand is the pessimism around a team that is top of the table at a time when they are up against one of the best club sides we have ever seen in this country.
"People say Liverpool are not playing well, the flair of last season has been lost, but none of that matters.
"If they win their last seven league games and don’t win the title, you have to say they were beaten by the better side, but don't say they are failures.
"They could end up with more than 90 points and finish second. How can that be seen as failure?
"Liverpool have come an awful long way and given what they have done so far, I’d say Klopp should be Manager of the Year, even if he finishes second.
"They have closed the gap on City to a point where they are right with them now and deserve so much credit for doing what many believed was impossible against Pep Guardiola’s dream team.
"It’s indicative of the way this great game of ours is analysed and pulled apart that everything is treated in such a cold and clinical way. If you win a trophy, you are a genius....if you lose a final, you are a failure, but football has more layers than that.
"People pay far too much attention to statistics and I see the panic over Mohamed Salah not scoring for a few games. I’d say, look at the bigger picture. He is a crucial part of a front three that is scoring goals and ripped Bayern Munich apart away from home a couple of weeks back, so he can’t be playing that bad.
"They are playing winning football this season. What more do you want? You can’t have Salah, Bobby Firmino and Sadio Mane scoring a hat-trick each every weekend, but that just isn’t how football works.
"Liverpool have given themselves a chance to win their first league title in three decades and I just hope the critics wake up and realise they have been incredible this season, whatever happens from here."
Lawrenson fears City will win their final seven Premier League matches and end Liverpool’s hopes of a first title since 1990, but he believes Klopp has put the foundations in place for success to flow at the club over the next few years.
"City are the favourites to win the league now and there is a very good chance they will win their final eight games to defend their title, but Liverpool can win enough games between now and May 12th to make sure they will be waiting if there is a slip up from Guardiola’s side," added Lawrenson.
"There is a very simple formula for what Liverpool need to do in their final seven Premier League games and also in the Champions League and it evolves around winning, winning and more winning.
"Anything else won’t do and that’s the challenge they are up against trying to take on this incredible Manchester City side."
Mark Lawrenson has contributed to the BT Sport documentary Two Tribes, looking at Merseyside football in the 1980s on BT Sport 1.