In the Premier League era, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are always the bridesmaids, never the bride. Since the league’s inception only Arsenal, Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have taken the crown.
Amazingly, 18 time winners of the top flight Liverpool have only managed to achieve the runners-up spot and Spurs have previously been satisfied with Champions League qualification. That could all be about to change.
Liverpool have been victim of false dawns before, most recently under Brendan Rodgers when a Steven Gerrard slip saw their title challenge fail at the final hurdle. In a short space of time the Northern Irishman went from manager of the year in the eyes of Kopites to a gleaming toothed waster of money.
Despite allowing Rodgers to strengthen his version of the squad in the summer, Fenway Sports Group decided to cut their loses early into this season. It’s a sign of the cruel times we live in but not many supporters were asking for him to be retained. In all fairness to the board they didn’t replace him for coach with an equal reputation or credentials.
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Carlo Ancelotti aside, the Anfield club managed to secure the services of the best available manager in club football. In Jurgen Klopp they found an upgrade. This didn’t lead to a period of immediate short-term optimism. Fans and observers alike agreed it would take time to implement his methods and root out the weaker members of his squad.
That cautionary air was removed last weekend when they walked over Manchester City at the Etihad. Klopp’s team inflicted City’s heaviest home defeat since they left Maine Road and made them appear a class below.
One match alone wouldn’t usually give rise to immediate title talk but this is a strange year and they are helped by the teams around them.
The reigning champions have all but disappeared. Chelsea’s return to form has yet to occur, with each passing week their target changes from retaining the title to qualifying for Europe. Arsenal are showing all the reasons why the they haven’t mounted a serious challenge in years. Whenever they look like they’ve turned a corner, points get dropped in places they shouldn’t.
Manchester United are lacking a spark which places question marks over their ability to go the distance. They are managing to satisfy an old football cliché of collecting points when not playing particularly well, the problem is there’s little sign they will start to play better at any point.
The team that could have ran away with it by now, Manchester City, have been grounded by their own ineptitude. A combination of indifferent performances from their players, injuries, and concerns Pellegrini can’t motivate his dressing or formulate a Plan B, leaves them in danger of becoming the new Arsenal.
What goes against Liverpool capitalising on all of this is how they are still fresh under Klopp. There are bound to be hurdles that will catch them by surprise and after the honeymoon period a phase of levelling out may follow. A team not bound by this are Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham.
They have been under the radar all season, even after beating Manchester City 4-1 themselves. The talk was always how they should manage to finish top four if teams, like Chelsea, have weak seasons. It’s been their ability to underwhelm whilst remaining methodical that has allowed them to arrive in the hot-seat without pressure.
The have gone 12 league games without losing after an unlucky opening day fixture at Old Trafford. They had every right to feel aggrieved after returning home empty handed that day. Perhaps the two draws that followed helped divert attention away from their ability.
It took their second 4-1 victory of the campaign to bring them back into focus. They are the side least likely to lose at this moment in time. Pochettino has answered his doubters in the best possible way: by keeping his head down and getting results.
SERIOUS TITLE WINNING FEARS
— Spooky (@Spooky23) November 23, 2015
This isn’t the best Spurs squad the Premier League has seen but it’s solid and is best placed to benefit from the floundering form of those that will be expecting to finish above them. They are long overdue a title win, the last came in 1961.
For Spurs and Liverpool this season has presented a real opportunity to join the list of Premier League champions. Of course, all this depends on current league leaders Leicester City going through a bad patch.