No doubt, Liverpool have deserved every praise the team has received this season for an unprecedented run to a first title of the Premier League era. But help has come from all unimaginable sources along the way.
From inexplicable errors from opposition defences and goalkeepers that led to winning goals, to unforeseen capitulations from the main title contender, Manchester City including missing a penalty at Anfield that averted a loss for the home side. The handwriting now appears to be on the wall. It’s proving to be the Reds’ season and with one hand already on the trophy, only them can give the league crown away at this point.
But if the first part of the campaign is anything to go by, that’s not going to happen. And the Sky Blues will have nobody but themselves to blame for letting go of their title. That’s rather unfortunate given the fact that Pep Guardiola’s men had raised hopes in many quarters of getting one over the Merseysiders by handing them a first league defeat of the campaign. Alas! For City, defending the title looks very unlikely now.
Despite doing their own job of picking up the needed points, Jurgen Klopp’s men didn’t do anything extraordinary to that effect. They have just watched the enemy self-destruct. Losing four league games in nine is not one of the qualities of a team poised to win the league. As much as there was still hope of closing a four-point gap at the top of the table, bridging seven points is a different matter. Not with the form Liverpool has displayed anyway.
How does a title-chasing team capitulate so badly in the middle of the race and expect to still get the prize at the end of the day? It does happen once in a while, especially when the opposition does same. But when the opposition is this determined and ruthless, there’s usually no chance.
Losing 2-1 to Newcastle United after taking a first minute lead in the game is simply not what Man City should be doing. For a team that has been struggling in the league this season, the Sky Blues should be taking them to the cleaners the way Liverpool did weeks ago with a 4-0 whitewash. Rafael Benitéz’s strugglers should be no match for City.
Guardiola has built an excellent team that has drawn praise from far and near. Yet, that by no means signifies that the team is perfect. There are still visible weaknesses or errors that need to be corrected. One of such is passing the ball too much just for the sake of it. There’s too much passing of the ball sideways and backwards when the going gets tough and too little goalmouth action. It breeds confidence in the opposition.
One of the lessons City and Guardiola can take from this game is the need to be more direct. It’s one of the clear differences between City and Liverpool this season and nothing stops Guardiola from learning a thing or two from his nemesis. The Reds have been all business this time around and go for the jugular as soon as possible. That’s why the team has been so deadly.
Of course, one is not saying City cannot lose fair and square. Losing is part of the game and any team no matter how good will lose at some point. Even the 2004 Arsenal invincibles eventually lost the following season. In fact, the team lost several times in other competitions the very season it was unbeaten in the league. But that’s no excuse to get in the habit of losing or become very inconsistent.
As it stands, the Cityzens have been their own worst enemy. And if Liverpool wins the league in May that would be one of the key reasons why. The Reds can afford to lose two of their remaining 15 games and still emerge champions. In that sense, it will be more about City’s failings handing the Merseysiders the title than their own excellence. And that's not taking anything away from the great season they are having.