Four trophies, including the two biggest ones, in just over a calendar year. Not bad, right? Perhaps Jurgen Klopp and Jordan Henderson could be forgiven if they wanted to spend a year polishing their Champions League and Premier League winners medals.
Alternatively, it could just make them hungrier for more. The early indications from the gaffer and the skipper is that they want more. All the trophies.
“We will not defend the title next year, we will attack the next one,” Kloppo said in his pre-match press conference yesterday. It was a shot across the bow, directed toward Manchester City and any other would-be Premier League challengers. And it was a call-to-arms for his own players.
Liverpool have been dominant this year. Historically dominant. The Reds won their long-sought #19 with 7 matches to go, obliterating the previous record of 5. If Liverpool had won every match—which they nearly did)—they would have won it with 8 to go. That record will stand for a long time.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola might have bemoaned the two (!) handball shouts that didn’t go his way when the two sides last faced off at Anfield in November, but his side were well and truly beaten that day. The Reds ran out 3-1 winners—City’s lone consolation goal coming from Bernardo Silva, while trailing 3-0 in the 78th minute—and finished the day 9 points clear of the team that bested them by a point the year before. Since then, the gulf has only widened, to a stunning 23 points between the two sides.
As I said, dominant.
Today, Liverpool can go to the Etihad and land a psychological blow to Pep and the team who is likeliest to challenge them for the title next year. Liverpool can remind them that the 23-point gap was not an accident, and that this side will require some beating, either in-game, or over the course of a season. A strong display today will also send the league a clear message: we’re not fucking going anywhere. This is our perch. We’re back. And we want #20.
Some commentators have questioned Pep’s perfectionism, and the mental toll it has on his staff and players. That when things start going wrong for his sides, the wheels can come off. I’m not so certain about that narrative. City’s 14-match winning streak to pip Liverpool to the title in 2018/19 was one of the greatest feats in Premier League history. That sort of accomplishment does not come from being mentally weak.
However, we have seen the flip side of the coin as well: if a side gets on top of City—in a match, or over the course of a season—it can get to them. At some point this season the prospect of chasing Liverpool down just became too great, and they turned their focus to other competitions (and they still might win a cup treble, you know).
Today’s match won’t count for anything when the season kicks off next year, whenever that might be. All sides will start on zero points. But it could be an important mental boost for Jurgen’s men as they prepare for their next title attack.