Liverpool FC have enjoyed a blistering start to the 2019/20 Premier League season. At the time of writing, they have won nine of their ten matches and their twenty-eight points gained means that they’ve already opened a sizeable six-point gap over rivals Manchester City.
The top online bookmakers have also taken notice, pricing the Anfield outfit as 4/5 favourites for Premier League glory. However, we’re still not convinced that the Reds will be crowned champions in May. Here are 11 reasons why the celebrations might be put on ice for yet another season.
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Thirty Years of Hurt for Liverpool
You have to go back to the 1989-90 football season to find the last time that Liverpool were champions of England. It hardly bodes well for a team’s title credentials when there’s been such a long drought.
Indeed, younger supporters will never know what it’s like to support a team who has won the Premier League title, with Liverpool having become the modern-day bridesmaids and perhaps an inferiority complex has developed at Anfield
The Reds Blew It Last Season
On 3 January 2019, Liverpool travelled to the Etihad Stadium with a seven-point lead over rivals Manchester City and a victory would have sent them ten clear and made them very strong favourites to land that elusive title.
However, ninety minutes later and the Reds had lost the game 2-1 which allowed Pep Guardiola’s side to cut the gap to four points, with Liverpool then slipping up at home to Leicester and away to West Ham to really hand the initiative to their title rivals.
Therefore, we’ve seen them occupy the position of front runners before although Manchester City won’t be fretting too much about bridging a similar gap.
They also have previous when it comes to blowing up in a recent title race. During the 2013/14 football season, Brendan Rodgers’ side seemed to have things within their grasp after beating Manchester City 3-2 and then winning by the same scoreline at Norwich.
However, despite Steven Gerrard insisting that the team don’t let it slip, it was the captain himself who made the mistake which allowed Chelsea to score and the Reds ended up missing out by two points.
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Is Klopp Better at Winning Cups?
Jurgen Klopp has been a brilliant manager at Anfield and last season’s European Cup triumph means that the German will go down in folklore at the Merseyside club. However, the big question is whether he’s better suited to preparing teams for one-off cup games rather than winning domestic titles.
While Borussia Dortmund won two Bundesliga titles under the 52-year-old, it’s fair to say that the only other strong team in the German top flight was Bayern Munich and there were plenty of other near-misses.
Is the Squad Strong Enough?
There’s no denying that Liverpool have a very good first XI which are more than a match for any other team in the Premier League. The front three have been working brilliantly in tandem for the past two seasons, while the other first-team players bring so much value.
However, there often appears to be a scarcity of options off the bench and that could be a concern if the injuries start to mount up. Adam Lallana actually came off the bench recently at Old Trafford and the midfielder has had a chronic lack of game time thanks to injury.
Divock Origi might be popular with the fans but isn’t on a par with the likes of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, while there isn’t much decent cover when it comes to the full-back positions.
The Defence Rely Too Heavily on Van Dijk
It’s been regularly admitted that any central defender would look good in this Liverpool FC line-up alongside Virgil van Dijk. The Dutchman arrived at Anfield for the princely sum of £75 million and hasn’t looked back since that debut on 5 January 2018 when he scored the winning goal in an FA Cup Merseyside derby against Everton.
Since then, Van Dijk has been regarded as one of the best players in the world, although one wonders how the Liverpool team would fare without their anchor in defence. Those with longer memories will reflect that Klopp’s team before Van Dijk were far more defensively profligate and VVD getting injured could throw a massive spanner in the works.
Teams Are Figuring Out Liverpool
The Reds might have won nine games out of ten, although some of the victories haven’t been particularly convincing. The 1-0 triumph at Bramall Lane was an example of this, with Liverpool huffing and puffing in their attempts to break down the Sheffield United defence before a goalkeeping error allowed Gini Wijnaldum to score the only goal of the game.
Similarly, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was able to figure out the way to stop Liverpool was to nullify the full-backs and ensure they couldn’t come forward, leaving the midfield to try and produce attacking creativity. That 1-1 draw at Old Trafford was nearly a win in favour of Manchester United and other teams will try to adopt similar tactics.
The Midfield Lacks Dynamism
After the famed front three, the most dangerous attacking Liverpool players are Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. The full-backs love to get forward and support Salah, Mane and Firmino, with the former pair illustrating good pace and the ability to supply some mean crosses into the box.
However, the same can’t be said about the team’s midfielders who are strong from a defensive point-of-view but don’t offer a lot of attacking verve. Jordan Henderson and Fabinho are workhorses rather than creative players, while Gini Wijnaldum is often swamped in midfield. The same applies to James Milner and Naby Keita.
Manchester City Have a Better Squad
Manchester City are bidding for a third successive Premier League title and they have a squad capable of challenging hard throughout the season. Although Guardiola’s side have slipped up on more than one occasion, the bench is often littered with quality players who can make a difference to a particular game.
Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are regularly tussling for a starting berth, while Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva would get into any other team yet they’re often left on the bench. Liverpool don’t have a midfielder who is anywhere near as influential as Kevin de Bruyne and they’ll also have to contend with a former employee in Raheem Sterling who has reached a world-class level.
Fixtures Mounting Up for Reds
One of the perks of winning the Champions League is that you get entered into the FIFA Club World Cup and that means that Liverpool will be jetting out to Qatar on the 18 December to play in their semi-final match against one of the other continental champions.
After that match, the Reds are likely to face South American opponents in the final and these extra games that take place just before Christmas are hardly ideal for a team who are already competing on so many fronts. Indeed, Klopp wasn’t exactly thrilled that his second team managed to overcome Arsenal in the EFL Cup which means another game of football in this competition.
With a hectic fixture schedule comes the possibility of players experiencing fatigue or even injuries, with some difficult games also occurring in December and January.
Expectation Levels Are Dangerously High
With the greatest respect to Manchester City supporters, they have never demanded the sort of success that has been achieved over the past few seasons. Some of them would now like the club to forsake the Premier League if it means securing a first Champions League title, although the sheer volume of silverware being won is the stuff of their wildest dreams considering where they were twenty years ago.
However, Liverpool supporters have been hungry for another league title since 1990 and they are constantly aware that their club sit two behind Manchester United when it comes to the total of titles accrued. They have been stuck on 18, while the Red Devils now have 20 under their belt to become the most decorated team in England.
The players will feel this weight of expectation if Liverpool are within touching distance of the title during the final few games of the campaign and we’re not sure if they will be able to live with the nerves and pressure that will accompany these matches.
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Where Have the Clean Sheets Gone?
Liverpool aren’t shutting teams out even with Van Dijk in the side this season. Norwich, Newcastle, Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal all managed to score at Anfield in the Premier League, while Manchester United, Southampton and Chelsea have also found the net against the Reds.
There was mild criticism of the way in which Liverpool had become slightly more defensive last year although that pragmatic approach affected the team’s attacking output. Now the clean sheets have gone west and we’re wondering if that could come back to haunt them.
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