Whether Liverpool win the title in mid-May or narrowly finish as runners-up to an equally rampant Manchester City they remain on course to post just shy of a century of points while losing only once all season. Barring disaster in their last two games Jurgen Klopp’s squad are also set to complete either the second or third best ever Premier League campaign.
All of which staggers the mind and that’s before we consider these three aspects that have somehow been turned from negatives to positives along the way. Here’s a look at the three most staggering aspects of Liverpool’s incredible season…
In late November Martin Keown stated on Football Focus that the partnership between Joe Gomez and his ‘big brother’ Virgil van Dijk could go down as one of the best the Premier League will ever see. It was a bold and premature claim yet so fantastic were the duo that nobody disagreed.
In the 12 Premier League games that the pair started together Liverpool kept seven clean sheets and conceded only four times but even these stats don’t do justice to what our eyes told us. Gomez and van Dijk worked so seamlessly with the 21-year-old learning on the go alongside the immaculate Dutchman. They were a trainee bouncer with immense promise and a guy who had kept door for years without a hint of bother.
Then just a week after Keown’s high praise the young England centre-back succumbed to a serious knee injury that essentially ruled him out for the rest of the campaign and in his place has come Dejan Lovren and Joel Matip. Yet they still boast the meanest defence across the top flight having conceded a substantial 30 less goals than Manchester United before this weekend.
Van Dijk of course deserves a good deal of credit for this, as too does Matip and the much-maligned Lovren. Mostly though the kudos should go to Klopp, a coach who used to be simplified for his ‘heavy metal’ attacking fare.
The Liverpool fan-base has often been exasperated at seeing Klopp regularly favour a workmanlike midfield of Jordan Henderson, Gigi Wijnaldum and James Milner over the more invigorating figures of Naby Keita or Xherdan Shaqiri.
Yet individually the trio have performed brilliantly with Wijnaldum unfortunate not to be included in the recently announced PFA Team of the Year while Henderson has improved immeasurably throughout the course of the season. Milner as always has been Milner.
More pertinently, the endeavour across the middle has been the fundamental reason why Liverpool have managed to find a sustainable equilibrium this term that has benefited them far more than last year’s largely boom and occasional bust.
Keith from C’mon the Hoops throws back to the ‘Battle of Britain’ from the 2003 UEFA Cup quarter-finals in the video below…
Should the Reds avoid an insurmountable loss at Camp Nou on Wednesday then it’s felt that Klopp might be tempted to alter his starting line-up for Newcastle away that comes just three days before the return leg of a Champions League semi-final at Anfield.
Compare this with Manchester City in a similar situation who would likely swap Sergio Aguero for Gabriel Jesus (just the 19 goals for the Brazilian) or Sterling for the explosive Leroy Sane. If Sane was unavailable then how about 2016’s Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez?
The dissimilarity in each club’s attacking options is stunning and when that is extended across all areas of the pitch it only heightens the already considerable admiration for what Liverpool and Klopp have achieved.