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The Story of Liverpool’s 2019-20 Season: January

Liverpool entered January favourites to win their first title in three decades. They ended it with the title all but won.

Liverpool FC v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Given how close Liverpool had come to winning the league before only to watch things slip away, even commanding victories in the previous months over chasers Manchester City and Leicester City hadn’t been enough to make the fans feel comfortable heading into the new year. This time around, though, Liverpool wouldn’t let up or falter—not while the games mattered, in any case—and by the middle of January, even the most nervous fans had started to truly believe that this time it was for real.

January 2nd, Premier League
Liverpool 2–0 Sheffield United

New month, new year, same old Liverpool. Mohamed Salah scored early in the first half, adding another goal to his tally while fullback Andy Robertson got himself another assist—he would end the campaign second in the league in that category to teammate and fellow fullback Trent Alexander-Arnold. Then in the second half, Sadio Mané would get another for himself—set up by Salah. In between, the Reds would be absolutely dominant against a side that at the time looked to have a realistic shot at finishing in the Champions League places.

January 5th, FA Cup
Liverpool 1-0 Everton

Carlo Ancelotti had last been seen at Anfield frustrating the Reds as Napoli’s manager, and he brought that same energy to his first match in charge of local rivals Everton as the Blues ran out their strongest side against a mixed Liverpool squad and stymied the hosts for more than an hour. In the end, though, a spectacular first senior goal for Scouse youngster Curtis Jones would separate the two sides and provide a memorable moment in this cup edition of the derby.

January 11th, Premier League
Tottenham Hotspur 0–1 Liverpool

Spurs had changed managers since Liverpool last faced them, bringing in Jose Mourinho to try to salvage something for a side that faced the Reds in the previous season’s Champions League final but had completely fallen apart to start 2019-20, and the Portuguese manager did about what you’d expect him to do here: he set up his side to defend against a top side, doing his best to suck the life out of another marquee match.

Liverpool, though, didn’t seem overly bothered and looked much the better side in the first, scoring a goal and comfortably ahead in the run of play. Then, in the second, they looked to manage the game, dialling back slightly and conserving energy and relying in the quality of their own defence to see things out. A seemingly dangerous approach, perhaps, but one this group showed they were more than capable of executing repeatedly this season—and an approach may have helped them to conserve energy and avoid a let-off in the league until the games didn’t matter any more.

January 19th, Premier League
Liverpool 2–0 Manchester United

It was the middle of January, 21 games into their season, Liverpool’s only blemish in the league remained a draw with United in the autumn. For the Reds, there was a chance for revenge—but VAR would try to spoil their party. After Virgil van Dijk put them up in the 14th minute, they would have a Roberto Firmino strike ruled out after Van Dijk was judged to have made contact with David de Gea jumping for a loose ball. Then Gini Wijnaldum was confirmed offside.

Add in a vintage performance for De Gea in the midst of an otherwise poor season and a game that should have been out of sight was worryingly close—until Salah got himself on the end of a long pass by Alisson, ran the length of the United half while shrugging off Daniel James, and slotted to settle the game in second half stoppage time. As Alisson sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate and United heads dropped, Liverpool fans broke out—for the first time—in a triumphant chorus of we’re going to win the league.

January 23rd, Premier League
Wolverhampton Wanderers 1–2 Liverpool

Having beaten Spurs and United, here was another game that in past seasons might have seen the Reds slip, as they went on the road to take on a very good Wolves side. A pair of Liverpool goals, though, with Henderson and Firmino—his final goal of the season until the final home game against Chelsea six months and one global pandemic later—striking on either side of a Raul Jimenez effort, and with the help of some strong goalkeeping from Alisson, again saw three points earned for the Reds.

January 26th, FA Cup
Shrewsbury Town 2-2 Liverpool

It’s the magic of the cup. With the focus firmly on the league in the midst of a long and draining season, a highly changed Liverpool side went to New Meadow to take on League One Shrewsbury in front of less than 10,000 fans. The composition of the Reds’ eleven is evident from the goal scorers, with Curtis Jones recording his second cup effort and youth fullback Yasser Larouci scoring his first senior goal. Striker Jason Cummings, though, would score two for The Shrews and earn them a replay—in the middle of what was meant to be Liverpool’s mid-season break the next month.

January 29th, Premier League
West Ham United 0–2 Liverpool

Premier League Table, Jan 31st

Pos. Team Played W D L Pts.
Pos. Team Played W D L Pts.
1 Liverpool 24 23 1 0 70
2 Manchester City 24 16 3 5 51
3 Leicester City 24 15 3 6 48
4 Chelsea 24 12 4 8 40
5 Manchester United 24 9 7 8 34

If West Ham might have taken any hope from watching a League One side give Liverpool—even a heavily rotated and very young Liverpool—trouble, that hope didn’t last long as the Reds ended the month drama free, easing past the Hammers as they made up the game in hand they’d had ever since heading to Qatar to win the Club World Cup.

They’d started the month 13 points up on Leicester and 14 points ahead of Man City with that game in hand. They ended it 19 points clear of City and 22 ahead of Leicester. As the fans had sung against United, there were no longer any doubts—doubts nurtured by three decades of coming up short—that they would win the league.

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