Under Jurgen Klopp, can Liverpool finally win the Premier League title?
It’s been a rather long time since Liverpool last won the top flight of English football.
Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Blackburn Rovers and Leicester City all winning titles more recently than the Reds.
A lot of young football fans, including myself, have never witnessed a Liverpool league win, and that is quite incredible considering the amount of success the Merseyside club had, especially during the 1970s and ’80s.
The club have still enjoyed some success since the Premier League era began in 1992, chiefly the unusual treble (League Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Cup) in 2001 and the incredible Champions League comeback in 2005, but haven’t really properly challenged for the league on a consistent basis.
There were the prosperous seasons of 2009/10 and 2012/13, with the latter particularly agonising for Liverpool fans, as, if it weren’t for an unfortunate Steven Gerrard slip, Liverpool could so easily have won the league, having been in control of their own destiny.
Ultimately through no real fault of his own, that moment cost Brendan Rodgers his job in the long-run, as instead of being an Anfield hero, the fans vented their frustration and a poor following season did nothing to help matters.
Last October, former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp was appointed as manager and has instantly begun to stamp his influence on the club, with his infamous and relentless Gegenpressing style of football.
Last season Klopp inherited a squad that wasn’t his, but still managed to steer the Reds to two cup finals which included a memorable win over the German’s former club Dortmund, from the depths of despair.
This season Jurgen has been able to bring in players he likes and let go ones he felt were surplus to requirements, and the Klopp revolution is certainly starting to break out, with goals and creativity squirting out of the current side.
The 2016/17 Premier League season looks set to be one of the closest seasons yet, and was billed as the battle of the two Manchester clubs. Many tipped Liverpool for a top four finish, but such was the hype of Pep Guardiola’s City and Mourinho’s United, that few saw anybody else winning it.
It’s still only early days, but after nine games Liverpool lie equal top of the table, behind Arsenal and Manchester City only on goal difference.
Could this year be Liverpool’s year?
There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it could be, but it will be no easy task.
Liverpool have scored 20 league goals this term, compared to eight at this point last year, and are equal top with leaders City on this count.
The Reds have also already played Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, and were undefeated across these three matches.
But their embarrassing 2-0 loss to Burnley must be a one-off if they are serious about their title credentials.
However, I believe everything is in place for that to be achieved.
There is now a recognised style of play and set-up of Liverpool at the moment, with a 4-3-2-1 formation actively being used, often more in the shape of a 4-3-3 with a false 9 in the shape of Roberto Firmino.
This allows Sadio Mane, who has been a revelation since moving from Southampton, and Philippe Coutinho to create, attack and score from out wide, with midfield cover coming from the rejuvenated Adam Lallana, skipper Jordan Henderson and new recruit Georginio Wijnaldum.
The defence has always been Liverpool’s weakest point, but under Klopp there have been signs of improvement.
Nathaniel Clyne has been a superb right-back since joining Liverpool, while Dejan Lovren has managed to turn his career around on Merseyside after a dreadful start. His new centre-back partner Joel Matip has taken to the Premier League like a duck to water, while the unreliable Alberto Moreno has been replaced by James Milner, who has proved his adaptability slotting into the full-back position.
Simon Mignolet now has strong opposition too, in Lorius Karius. And the bench looks good too, especially going forward with natural strikers Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi both not getting a look in at the moment. Emre Can, Alberto Moreno, Marko Grujic, Danny Ings, Ragnar Klavan and Lucas providing good back up.
Nonetheless, the key factor for Liverpool if they are to lift the Premier League trophy will be their ability to kill a game, and that was in clear evidence last weekend when West Bromwich Albion visited Anfield.
Liverpool were in utter control against the Baggies, and probably should have won three, four or even five-nil. But the final score was 2-1, which is still good for all three points, however, is not utterly convincing, and it puts them in a dangerous position they didn’t need to be in.
Liverpool had chances in the second half but didn’t take them. If they had, they would have killed the game completely, and of course they need to work on set pieces as they still continue to concede them.
All in all, things are looking good at Anfield at the moment. The recent performances and momentum is encouraging, meaning at the very least they should be in this year’s title fight.
Whether they can win it, we will have to wait and see.
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