With every passing week, Liverpool are getting better and better. That the Reds would improve under Jurgen Klopp was certain, but very few had imagined that the progress would be this smooth and spectacular.
Liverpool sit atop the Premier League after Round 11. It is a brilliant achievement considering the Reds have picked up points against the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur on the way.
These are the early days, and talks of a potential title challenge are premature. What has really inspired the football fans across the world is the brand of football being played under Klopp. It is soulful, refreshing, and mesmeric at times.
During the halcyon days, Liverpool used to rule the Premier League and Europe at the same time. A gradual decline over two decades has seen them stooping to mediocrity. There have been instances of revival in the past, but those were immediately followed by dark spells of underachievement.
There are a few factors that can go in Liverpool’s favour. A lack of participation in European games gives Klopp more time to work with his players in the training ground. Players now understand what the manager demands from them, and, most importantly, their fitness is being taken care of.
The most interesting aspect of the squad is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This is quite different from the other title races in which Liverpool were involved.
In the 2008/09 season, when Liverpool finished second behind Manchester United, they were heavily reliant on the services of Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres. Likewise, in 2013/14, it was mostly the brilliance of Luis Suárez that propelled them towards a strong title challenge.
The attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Philippe Coutinho, and Roberto Firmino has been almost unstoppable, but other players have chipped in as well with strong contributors like Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, and Emre Can.
The squad depth is another factor why Liverpool can go all the way till the end. Klopp has the bench strength to call upon a top quality player like Daniel Sturridge or Divock Origi if someone gets injured or suspended without hampering the balance of the team.
However, it is not just Klopp who can win the league title this season. Two former Liverpool managers equally have great chances to win the title in their respective leagues.
Rafael Benitez is casting an eye on securing Newcastle United a promotion to the Premier League and the Spaniard may do so by winning the Championship itself. After Round 16, the Magpies are sitting at the top with 37 points, three points clear of second-placed Brighton. They are on a great run at the moment, winning seven matches on the trot, and haven’t lost a game since mid September.
Rafa, a Champions League winner with Liverpool, took a great gamble last season when he took charge of Newcastle. He is an elite level manager and could have gone on to manage any Premier League or a top European club, but chose to take the challenge of resurrecting a team that were once considered one of the giants of English football.
The former Real Madrid manager is loved and worshiped at Liverpool for more than one reason. Leaving aside his effort in revamping the club’s academy, Rafa’s immense contribution to the Hillsborough Family Support Group has made him a legend forever at Merseyside. He is seen as one of Liverpool’s very own. Through Newcastle’s success, he is trying to regain his lost pride, and Liverpool fans will be very happy for him, should he manage to do that.
Brendan Rodgers is the other manager who could end the season winning his first league title with Scottish giants Celtic FC. Celtic already have a healthy 10 points lead over Aberdeen, having played a game less, and the gap will only extend once the season progresses. Since 1984-85, when Aberdeen last won the league, it has always been the duopoly of the two Glasgow clubs that have dominated the SPL.
In absence of a proper title challenger, it is so hard to beat Celtic, and it won’t be a surprise if they secure the title (mathematically) by the end of February or March. Credit should be given where it is due, and Rodgers deserves it completely.
A title after more than two and a half decades will bring tremendous joy to the Liverpool faithful — no surprises there…but if Benitez and Rodgers manage to do the same, nothing could be better from the fans’ perspective.