In the known world, there are four continents that are recognised to exist and they are Westeros, Essos, Sothoryos, and Ulthos. In our world, there is only one club that we recognise as possessing the wherewithal to elevate even the most lugubrious of souls. Among our number are many a morose mortal who have hoped, loved, lost, hoped again, lost some more, endured, supported, questioned, self-examined, and battled against those who would claim that all is lost. On Sunday, Liverpool's grip on the seat of kings was at its tightest for nearly a quarter of a century and even if there are others who still hold a legitimate claim to the throne, it now exists for Liverpool to claim.
Liverpool scored a significant if not yet decisive advantage in a memorable battle. One cannot play the Game of Kings and expect to finish with allies intact and in good number. The Football Gods decided to seize Yaya Touré first as he was attempting to write more glorious goalscoring chapters this season. Next was Daniel Sturridge, a man who was uncharacteristically impotent as if he encountered a devious offspring of House Bolton. His blades were not sharp and his hamstring felt an uncomfortable twinge. Jordan Henderson, a nobleman of impeccable standing, committed a grave error in pursuit of rectifying another. Victory came at a cost but most importantly, victory came. All that is left is to feast on its bones and march on.
Such a triumph arrived at the timeliest of moments and the backdrop was like no other. Hillsborough. 25th anniversary. Justice for 96 innocent and ordinary people who just wanted to watch their beloved club at a football game. While our memorials and respectful words can do nothing to assuage the pain felt by the families who have lost those dearest to them, they can be comforted that they will not be forgotten.
Before delving into the more unsavoury elements of Sunday's victorious outing, let us put this victory into context. It was colossal. Truly. Brendan Rodgers has eventually beaten every league side he has faced except for Manchester City and Chelsea. This last sentence was true before Sunday's game but it is no longer. Only Chelsea remain but before Rodgers can complete the set of victories, Norwich City must be vanquished by the furious feet of El Pistolero. Rodgers' league record against Manchester City? Two draws followed by a defeat ending with a win. His record against Chelsea? Exactly the same except for the last part but the symmetry is uncanny. Fiendishly so.
Even more intoxicating was moving into double figures for consecutive wins. Ten wins in a row means Liverpool move into joint third in the all-time English Premier League winning streak list. Of all the sides to have entered double figures, only Liverpool (in 2005/2006) failed to win the title but this season's edition has matched them on ten wins. Arsenal's double winners in 1997/1998 and Chelsea's league-winning machine in 2005/2006 also managed ten straight victories. Liverpool travel to Norwich hoping to join Man United's champions of 1999/2000 and 2008/2009 on eleven straight wins.
This is the level Liverpool are currently operating at and even further ahead, Arsenal's double winners of 2001/2002 won thirteen straight games. Illustrious company. Liverpool are also chasing the strongest ever finish to a Premier League season. Arsenal won 13 straight victories after succumbing to a Jo Tessem equaliser for Southampton at Highbury. That side drew one and won thirteen straight. If Liverpool are to continue to ensure that no other side has a chance of winning the title, they will need to go one better. Arsenal picked up 40 points from an available 42 to score an impressive 2.857 points per game. Can Liverpool pick up 42 available points from the last fourteen games and end on a staggering 3 points per game to round out the season? There are just four games left and approximately 360 minutes plus added on time to do it. The first and most critical stop at this juncture is Norwich but Liverpool are close to making history on a variety of levels.
Liverpool's performance revealed a few cautionary notes and while this may not be the most fitting time to list caveats after winning possibly the best league game of the season, it must be done. Duty invariably calls in a shrill and unsettling voice. Daniel Sturridge has not played particularly well in the last two matches and Liverpool's spiritual number nine has missed chances that were formerly gobbled with wide-toothed glee. When he was forced off with what later transpired to be a hamstring injury, there was a sober realisation. Even when Sturridge is not playing well, he stretches defences with his sharp speed, accurate dribbling, and intelligent movement. His goalscoring prowess dictates that opposition defenders must focus on his movements thereby creating space for another. Iago Aspas and Victor Moses are not adequate replacements.
Luis Suárez is another who demands attention from those who would halt his intense desire for supremacy. When referees are called to join centre backs and full backs to watch his every twist and turn a little too closely then Liverpool suffer. If Liverpool are to win the title then Liverpool's best player will need to be at his mercurial best in the remaining matches and his frustration in pursuit of such cravings can sometimes work against him. In the absence of one half of the best paradoxically individualistic and intermittently selfish striking partnership in English football, Suárez will need to be focused solely on the destroying defences. Perhaps the Premier League's unmatched scorer and creator of goals will thrive on being the sole goalscoring totem in the side but Liverpool revealed to masses watching around the world that when Suarez or Sturridge fail to score, Liverpool can still do it against the best the Premier League has to offer.
Liverpool have a worrying tendency to lose leads this season. Eight games against Swansea City (twice), Everton, Manchester City (twice), Chelsea, Stoke City, and West Bromwich Albion. Three wins, three draws, and two defeats. In those eight games, Liverpool have forfeited two goal leads on three separate occasions but in each game, the referee's final whistle signalled victory. The most galling of lost leads still provided three welcome points and this is the confusing combination presented by Brendan Rodgers' league leaders. They'll give you a chance but if they were convincingly ahead before giving you that very opportunity of equality, they'll snatch it right back from you. Norwich, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, and Newcastle would be wise to proceed with the most cautious of steps.
Liverpool won but should be wary of Sturridge's form even if his very presence is a boon yet he may miss one or more games. Suárez's unnecessary tangling with opposition players is sourced from his greatest strength: the will to win. Liverpool will need their unyielding number seven to retain that same fire even if we would be grateful for a return to more controlled showings this weekend. Brendan Rodgers' sets his side up to attack to an extreme degree and can gallop into leads quickly. The nature of a team that has scored 93 league goals and conceded 42 is that lost leads can be regained for victory or at least, parity. Warnings have never had such warm, confusing counterpoints and that may explain why currently sit on the Iron Throne. Relinquishing it is not on the agenda...just ask Steven Gerrard.
So, if you like Game of Thrones and aren't up to speed or want to watch the series in the future, watch out for comments below and the black spoiler thingys because they hide...well...um...spoilers.