August 4, 2020

Liverpool’s rout of Leicester makes it just a matter of time until they clinch first Premier League title

Liverpool are 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League, and their supporters still refuse to sing that their team are “gonna win the league” this season. There have been too many near misses at Anfield since the club were most recently crowned champions of England in 1990 for the fans to tempt fate by going too early with that particular chant, but Jurgen Klopp’s players made it 17 wins out of 18 in the league this term with Thursday’s 4-0 victory against closest challengers Leicester City.

It would seem that the only people who don’t yet believe that the Premier League trophy is on its way to Liverpool are the very supporters who are so desperate to witness it.

Their Boxing Day win at second-place Leicester showed it’s no longer a case of if Liverpool win the Premier League this season, but when. It’s also become slightly irrelevant as to when they will win it, too. The only real questions that remain unanswered are about how big Liverpool’s winning margin will be and how many records they will smash along the way.

Remember the rush to declare Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City as the best team of the Premier League era two years ago, when they became the first side to break the 100-point barrier in the top flight? On current form, Liverpool are on course to make 100 points look like little more than a stopping-off point toward a much greater final total. By doing so, they will put Guardiola’s team firmly in the shade.

City might have gone one further last season by winning a domestic treble, even pipping Klopp’s side to the title by one point in the process, but Liverpool ended that campaign as Champions League winners. The gap between the two was already wafer thin, but this season, Liverpool have planted their foot so firmly on the pedal that they have left City, and everyone else, in their slipstream.

It took seven minutes for the Reds to finish off Leicester in the second half, but they were dominant from start to finish at King Power Stadium. A flurry of early chances culminated in a pinpoint cross from Trent Alexander-Arnold to Roberto Firmino for an easy headed finish, and while it remained 1-0 until midway through the second half, the result rarely felt threatened.

In the 71st minute, the rout began: Caglar Soyuncu inexplicably handled in the box to give James Milner, one of the most reliable penalty-takers, an easy finish. Further goals followed from Firmino, who calmly curled a Alexander-Arnold cross into the top corner, and from the Liverpool full-back himself, whose thumping first-time finish left Kasper Schmeichel helpless.

As if to cement their controlling performance against the league’s second-place team, Klopp’s side restricted the Premier League’s leading scorer, Jamie Vardy, to one off-target shot in his worst performance of the season.

Liverpool’s consistency has been off the scale. Only Manchester United have been able to land a blow on Liverpool in the league, by holding them to a draw at Old Trafford in October, but the rest have all been beaten at least once. As they approach their final league game of 2019, against Wolves at Anfield on Sunday, Liverpool have not dropped three points since their very first game of the calendar year: a 2-1 defeat against City at the Etihad on Jan. 3.

It goes further. Liverpool have now gone 35 games unbeaten in the league — Arsenal’s 2004 Invincibles hold the Premier League record on 49 games unbeaten — and 30 of those have been victories. Translate those past 35 games into points and Liverpool would be on 95 points, which is simply incredible, yet with 20 league games still to play between now and the end of the season, there is still 60 points available to Liverpool.

They can drop 12 points — or lose four games — and still end up with 100 points, but they’re moving like a steam train right now, and current form would suggest that Liverpool are going to go well beyond City’s century milestone. Such is their lead at the top that Liverpool can now play without fear or anxiety for the rest of the season because they know they have such a sizeable margin for error that the odd mistake or defeat here or there is highly unlikely to make a difference toward the outcome of the title race.

When a team plays with such freedom, they tend to win because they are playing to their strengths, which means things could only get better for Liverpool. And that will lead to the question as to whether they can claim another piece of history by emulating Arsene Wenger’s great Arsenal team, which emerged as champions in 2003-04 having gone unbeaten for an entire league campaign.

Back then, the Premier League presented Arsenal with a specially made gold trophy to mark the achievement. Having waited so long to become champions, any trophy will do for this Liverpool team, but if they can make it gold like Arsenal did, the agonising wait will feel even better when, not if, it ends.

Make no mistake: The Premier League title is heading to Anfield this season. The supporters might not want to sing about it until the silverware is sitting in the trophy cabinet, decked in red ribbons, but they should throw off their inhibitions and sing it loud and clear, because nobody is catching this Liverpool team.

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