The season might be young, but the league table is already shaping up as expected (margin of error +/- Everton). Liverpool are one of three teams with 10 points and a +8 goal differential from four games, kept off the top only by goals scored. Favorites Manchester City are lurking just a point behind.
In recent seasons, we’ve seen just how important a good start can be. We’ve seen Chelsea run away with the title in 2016/17, and City did the same in 2017/18. Liverpool decided to try this bold strategy in 2019/20, winning 26 of their first 27, and ended their three-decade title drought in the process.
The point is, that a “fast start” often translates into “title winning form” as fall becomes winter, and recent seasons have proven that you’d much rather be driving the train than trying to come from behind.
However, there are open questions about how good this Liverpool side is, and about how good the other contenders are. Manchester City, despite a shocking opening day defeat to Spurs look back to their best. We saw first hand how formidable Chelsea are. And, sigh, even Manchester United look to be up for a challenge.
Of course, there’s rarely ever a three-horse race for the title, let alone a four-horse race. As the calendar pages inevitably turn, so too will the contenders inevitably fall away. The trick is to be keep driving forward, leading the pack, until all the rest either give up or run out of time.
Coming into the season, most pundits had Liverpool finishing a distant fourth to the other three teams listed above. It’s an odd phenomenon, and one that seems to afflict the Reds more than any other “big” team in England: no matter how impressive Liverpool appear to be, no matter how impressive their actual accomplishments, there are always doubters in the press.
These pundits love to ignore one thing, the thing that is arguably Liverpool’s greatest psychological advantage over the others: they are the only team to go toe-to-toe with Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and come out on top. Were it not for Jurgen Klopp and these Reds, England would currently be watching City go for their fifth consecutive title. And probably win it.
Sure, teams have defeated City in one-off matches, like Chelsea did to win their second European Cup, but no one challenged week-in and week-out, over not just one season, but two.
I’m not saying that United and Chelsea cannot match City’s pace. I’m saying that they have yet to prove that they can.
Liverpool have proven it. But of course they have to prove it again, especially after last year’s injury-riddled campaign.
I don’t have the answers, other than to say that Liverpool are as good of a bet as anyone to beat City to the title. Liverpool are back to looking solid at the back, as evidenced by their 3 clean sheets so far, and their forwards are all finding the back of the net. Even Divock Origi got an assist.
Liverpool supporters might rue the draw against a resolute 10-man Chelsea team, but that ultimately won’t decide the title. Where Liverpool fell down last season, and where they can make the biggest improvement this season, is against the lower and midtable sides. Like Norwich City. Like Burnley. Like Leeds United. And like Crystal Palace.
Another three points tomorrow, and continue to put pressure on the other contenders, until they crack first. Rinse and repeat. Time will tell if Liverpool are the ones feeling the pressure, or the ones piling it on.