The calendar has only just flipped to January and the new year. Give or take a game in hand, there’s still 45% of the 2021-22 Premier League season left to play. The second and third best sides in England—and two of the consensus top five clubs in Europe—have lost just two games apiece.
Both, though, appear out of the title race, with Abu Dhabi sportswashing front Manchester City’s lead at the top of the table in the double digits as they look to cruise to their fourth title in five seasons—with the only time they missed out the year Liverpool managed to record 99 points.
Against City’s resources, against a club that has spent a decade building out structural advantages that have unlevelled the playing field in England such that two loses in January appears to ends a title challenge, Liverpool faced Chelsea knowing nothing but a win would do. They got a draw.
“If you look at the league, we would have liked to have taken the three points to try to get closer to City but unfortunately we couldn’t do that today,” was Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson’s post-match reaction to the draw between England’s second and third best sides on Sunday.
“I think we showed a reaction to keep going, keep digging in when things aren’t going our way, and we ended up getting a point. So, some positives to take forwards, and still a lot of football to play until the end of the season. We’ll just give it absolutely everything when we get on the pitch.”
There’s a chance, perhaps, that City could stumble and hit a patch of rough form. On the evidence, though, that seems unlikely, and having dropped just 10 points in their 21 games played so far, even if they drop 10 in their final 17 Liverpool and Chelsea would need perfection to catch up.
That’s the situation, and while many will seek out superficial causes and players to blame—including Henderson, who it has to be said didn’t have his strongest game on Sunday—against a side with all the advantages of City it’s hard to be too critical of a side not being able to quite keep up.
“We know how strong City are, Chelsea, the whole of the Premier League,” Henderson added. “We just need to focus on what we need to do in every game and everyone needs to be ready. That’s football. You dig in, keep going, and hopefully get our rewards come the end of the season.”