Liverpool won the league in June. The earliest anyone had ever won it by matchweek and the latest anyone had ever won it by calendar date. In the midst of a global pandemic with fans not allowed in the stadiums and a proper parade and celebrations impossible.
What mattered, though, was that Liverpool had won the league. Only then they had seven more games to play and very little to play for—which, combined with there being no fans in the stands, led to an inconsistent and rather surreal end to the longest, strangest, and most difficult season, certainly of the Premier League era and maybe in the history of English football.
July 2nd, Premier League
Manchester City 4–0 Liverpool
Liverpool had watched City lose to Chelsea the week before and, with that result, they had won the league. Number nineteen. Their first in three decades. It was kind of a big deal.
It also would have been nice to follow up their celebrations in a hotel, where the team had gathered to watch the game that decided the league season, with a celebratory victory on the pitch. But it wasn’t to be, with the Reds looking just a little bit off at key moments—perhaps, the fans joked, still feeling the aftereffects of their celebrations.
They weren’t bad, really, and certainly weren’t as bad as a 4-0 scoreline would indicate, but they were just a little short of their best.
July 5th, Premier League
Liverpool 2–0 Aston Villa
July 8th, Premier League
Brighton & Hove Albion 1–3 Liverpool
July 11th, Premier League
Liverpool 1–1 Burnley
July 15th, Premier League
Arsenal 2–1 Liverpool
Victories would follow against Aston Villa and Brighton, and then a draw to Burnley and loss to Arsenal, and on each occasion Liverpool had moments they looked like the side that had won the earliest ever English domestic title by matchweek while at other times they showed just how big a difference one or two percent—in focus, in application, in concentration—can make at the highest level.
As good as Liverpool are, and as nice as it might have been to end the campaign with the points record, this team—this group of players—had done what they’d set out to do, and they’d done it a year after racking up 97-points while finishing second to City and then going on to win their sixth European cup.
They’d worked, and they’d pushed, and they’d kept their focus for nearly two straight seasons, and there was no shame in not being able to maintain that single-minded focus once the title had been won.
July 22nd, Premier League
Liverpool 5–3 Chelsea
There was one game left that did matter, though. At least a little bit. The final home game of the season, against Chelsea, when they were set to be awarded the Premier League trophy, all decked out in its new red ribbons.
It wouldn’t do to lose that match, and so Liverpool didn’t, working themselves up to deliver a strong attacking performance—and when a bit of laxness crept in and Chelsea scored a couple of goals in the second half, to buckle back down and see things out.
And afterwards, the part that really mattered. The trophy. The celebration. Even if it was in an empty stadium. Liverpool won the league in June 25th. On July 22nd, an injured Jordan Henderson hobbled up to the presentation stage and did what Liverpool fans had been waiting a month and a year and three decades to see.
July 26th, Premier League
Newcastle United 1–3 Liverpool
It was the strangest season of football anyone can likely remember. Liverpool ran out perhaps the most dominant side in the history of the Premier League to ensure they’d win the title as early as they did—and then made that title official and finished out the season in rather inconsistent form in empty stadiums in the midst of a pandemic.
The autumn saw Adrian’s heroics and Roberto Firmino in the form of his career. The winter saw Sadio Mané step up. Jordan Henderson’s absences proved his quality, once and for all. Virgil van Dijk was imperious throughout, while Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson continued to reinvent the fullback role. It was a good season. It was a long season. It was a very, very strange season.
Then Liverpool headed on the road to close it out against Newcastle, winning a game that didn’t especially matter to either side and giving them 99 points in the final table.