“I want to build a team that’s invincible, so that they have to send a team from bloody Mars to beat us!”Bill Shankly
Liverpool were on the cusp of March before tasting defeat for the first time in the Premier League this season. 27 games undefeated and just one game away from an all-time record of 19 league wins in a row — ended by relegation-threatened Watford.
A performance that smacked of complacency as individual errors cost them three times over.
Little did we know that the season would be temporarily put on hold and 137 days later, Liverpool’s 36th game of the season against Arsenal would echo what was seen to be as a one-off.
Thus a worrying trend has been born in the wake of Liverpool’s first league title in 30 years — bringing about an issue that continues to divide the fanbase.
Should we care about the remaining seven games of the season and Liverpool’s recent dip in form?
As you may have guessed from the title, there’s no real definitive answer as both sides have valid points.
Fans all over the world have waited so long for a league title; Liverpool have spent years being mocked from “this year is our year” and “20 times”.
I doubt any Liverpool fan cared how we’d win the league after all this time, let alone the level of performances after the title was sealed in a record amount of games.
Jurgen Klopp’s team found themselves in the odd position of having seven games left with nothing to play for; no challenger near them with a chasm opened between themselves and City prior to that trip to the Etihad.
The 4-0 loss was far from a rude awakening when the team and fans were drunk on title glory.
It is no wonder Liverpool’s form has dipped — where does the extra drive come from when it’s all said and done? This is a case of a hangover, one that likely won’t dissipate until the start of next season and the hard work starts all over again.
With all the close calls and heartbreak, ironically this title was won in December and that was evident to everyone. The Reds became a steamroller flattening everyone in their path and talk of the greatest side ever were valid given their mighty trajectory.
Football is a titles game, while you want to be the best of all time. For some it doesn’t matter how you get there. Look at Liverpool’s performance in the final in Madrid. or a more recent example of Wycombe Wanderers‘ promotion to the Premier League. The results business doesn’t do subjectives, it doesn’t do style and sadly neither do the history books.
At the same time, the only disappointment is that this Liverpool team did not press on and break records that were there to be claimed. To give themselves and fans further bragging rights.
The record points total. Most home wins. Most wins in a season.
But let’s not forget what records Liverpool have smashed so far, Burnley ended a 24 game run of straight wins at Anfield – spanning February 2019 to July 2020.
Winning the league with seven games to go could be unmatchable, beating the previous record by two clear games.
To do this against one of the best Premier League sides of all sides is insane. Holding a 25 point lead over Pep Guardiola’s side before the league was suspended is other worldly – maybe Mars.
This Liverpool team is one of the all-time greatest Premier League sides regardless of this dip in form for winning the league in unprecedented circumstances.
Yet, three wins from seven games since the restart isn’t in line with the lofty standards that Liverpool have set for themselves across the last two seasons.
Most damning is the drop in quality, squandered chances and lacklustre defending which is not something we’ve associated with this dominant Liverpool side who have only truly been their usual selves against Crystal Palace.
Now they face a Chelsea side gunning for a top-four spot and a Newcastle side with their tails up; it doesn’t look inviting.
If Liverpool can bounce back from losing the title by a single point, they can easily bounce back from this non-issue – especially as they look to “attack the title” next season.
But could this be telling of what’s to come for Liverpool, not a dynasty but a hard-earned, short-lived success? To hark back to Shankly’s words, the “bastion of invincibility” and its aura is beginning to fade and the chink in the armour glistens.
Rival sides will be prepared to capitalise by strengthening in the transfer window, as shown by Chelsea’s acquisition of Timo Werner. Liverpool need to cement their place at the top by starting to move this squad into the next phase.
This will mean making tough decisions and forgetting sentiment. Cult heroes like Divock Origi and Adam Lallana move on, while players that are clearly not good enough for a title-winning side like Xherdan Shaqiri and Dejan Lovren should be replaced with better squad players.
“We don’t destroy our heroes today when we worshipped them yesterday.”Gerard Houllier
An approach one of Liverpool’s greatest might oppose, but this ruthless way is how Sir Alex Ferguson built his sides and maintained dominance for so many years. A model Liverpool will be all too keen to replicate to maintain the perch they worked so hard to climb.