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On Two Seasons as England’s Dominant Team and Liverpool’s Inevitable Let-Off

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Premier League, Champions League, Super Cup, Club World Cup. Roll on 2020-21.

Liverpool FC v Crystal Palace - Premier League Photo by Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

When Liverpool won the league, there were seven games still to play and the Reds were 23 points clear of Manchester City in second place. The timing, and the margin, were records. And what followed, perhaps, has been inevitable.

Liverpool have let up. Just a little bit. They’ve let their concentration slip in key moments. They simply haven’t been at their all-conquering best. After two seasons of excellence, it’s perhaps a little disappointing but hardly surprising.

After making it to the Champions League final in 2018, this side has held their nerve for two straight seasons, racking up 97 points and a second Champions League final appearance—and the club’s sixth European triumph—in 2018-19.

Knowing that 97 points hadn’t been enough to dislodge City last year, they were even better this time around. At least until the day, with seven games to play and a 23-point gap in the table, they won the league. Their first in thirty years.

Following the match, former Reds reflected on the reality. First was Graeme Souness on Sky, thinking back to the 1982-83 season. It was Bob Paisley’s final year at the club. And Liverpool won the league—comfortably and early.

Then, after losing just three times over the first 36 games of the 42-game season, over their final six they lost five more matches. Their best result in that stretch was a draw with Aston Villa to mark Paisley’s final game in charge at Anfield.

The players would talk about wanting to win—and they genuinely did want to win—but with the league sewn up it was inevitable that they would be just a percentage or two short of their best at key moments both in attack and in defence.

John Aldridge had similar feelings on the situation, pointing to the league, Champions League, Super Cup, and Club World Cup this group has won over the past two seasons—and the constant pressure on them during that time.

We’ve seen what this group can do over the two seasons. And even since the restart, when it still mattered against Crystal Palace, we’ve seen they’re still capable of it. After what they’ve done, though, a slight let-off is expected; inevitable.

Breaking the 100-point barrier and setting a record would have been nice, certainly. And it would have served as a fitting capstone on the past two seasons that this group of players have had. But it was never the real goal. Not ever.

The real goal was always the league. And the league has been won. Roll on 2020-21, and trust that when the time comes this group will again show what they’re capable of.