There’s a lot of conventional wisdom floating around about football, especially pertaining to the league table. Don’t look at the table until April, they say. They league cannot be won in the first eight games, they say.
And yet, here we are, eight games into the season, and already dreaming.
I wish I could say I was above it. I tried to be. Really, I tried. I promised myself I wouldn’t watch Manchester City’s match after Liverpool did a smash-and-grab job against Brendan Rodgers’ Leceister City. I fully intended to keep this promise, even in the midst of The Greatest Footballing Weekend of All-Time.
I broke my promise and checked the score at halftime. 0-0. My eyes, like countless Liverpool Twitter emojis, were being tempted by what was unfolding.
And then 0-1 happened. And then 0-2 happened. Final score.
Liverpool hoped to get past Leicester City, and keep their five-point cushion going into the international break. Instead they extended it to 8.
Last year, Liverpool drew against the Foxes while City lost against Newcastle. It felt like a missed opportunity then, just as much as this round of Leicester at home, paired with a City loss, felt like a huge boost now.
That, of course, was then. Jurgen Klopp won’t be focusing on the last Biggest Match of the Season, but instead will be focusing on the next one. A trip to Old Trafford awaits. Despite their poor form, Liverpool haven’t won there since 2013/14.
It’s easy to get carried away with a lead—even a sizeable one. In most seasons, an 8 point lead at this stage only tends to grow throughout the campaign. If we learned anything from the last two years, this Manchester City team isn’t a normal team, and they can defy all odds if given the tiniest sliver of hope.
And yet, if 100 points is the “new norm” by which Premier League teams are expected to compete for titles, City have dug themselves into a hole. As Andrew Beasley pointed out on Twitter:
Such a long, long way to go.— Andrew Beasley (@BassTunedToRed) October 6, 2019
But if we assume 100 points wins the league, Liverpool can go W24 D4 L2 from here to get there, while City need W27 D3 L0 (or W28 D0 L0). Big ask.
He meant W28, L2, but we’ll forgive the typo. Either way, you’re talking about City averaging 2.8 points per game, when they’ve averaged a cool 2.0 ppg in the opening 8.
Liverpool, on the other hand, would have to stop winning every match—something which, frankly, I’m unprepared for. Regardless, 76 points the rest of the way in would be a reversion to 2.53 ppg the rest of the way in, slightly less than they averaged over the entirety of last year’s campaign.
Then again, 100 points might not be necessary to win the title. It wasn’t last year (if only barely). And the two head-to-head matches will have a huge say in what that final winning tally will need to be.
There is another option, of course. That the two 100 and 98 point seasons were a blip. An anomaly. It’s a scary thought, but what if this is just another normal season? As in, what if this is the season when things revert to “normal?” A season in which one team gets off to a flier, and one by one the challengers fall away, until the league is essentially won with games, hell, even months to spare?
It is too early to count on that. And we all know how good of a manager Pep Guardiola is. We all know how deep this City side is. If anyside can match, or even beat, our current 17-match winning streak, it’s Pep’s City. Let’s not forget that they won 18 of their last 19 matches last year to pip Liverpool to the title.
But football is football, and we’ve all seen previously great sides, even previously great managers, lose their magic touch from time to time.
Just like last year, Klopp’s Liverpool can do absolutely fuck-all about City. The only thing they can do is beat the team in front of them, and continuing to do so the rest of the way in. If anything, Liverpool should look to last season, and Klopp’s (half-joking) stated target of 105 points to win the league. If City win out, they’ll be on 106. So maybe target 107, just to be safe? 27 wins, 2 draws, and a loss.
If we absolutely have to lose a match at some point, I suppose I could live with it if we end on 107 points.
With matches against Tottenham and Manchesters City and United before the next international break, we’ll have a much clearer picture of our title hopes in just a few short weeks.
For now, let’s go to Fergie’s House of Horrors and get a second United manager sacked in as many years. Bonus points if Ole also talks up Andy Robertson in the post match interview.