Manchester City’s 4-1 away victory at Brighton last Sunday meant that Pep Guardiola’s side edged out Liverpool by just a single point to become the first back to back premiership winners since 2009. City, after a few Pep-approved bottles of champers, will now zero in on Saturday’s FA Cup final versus Watford where they can complete a domestic treble. An historic feat that seems to be being overlooked in the midst of City’s utter supremacy.
A more prevalent story this season has been the scale of domestic improvement shown from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool which saw them amass an unprecedented total of 97 points that would have comfortably earned them pretty much all Premier League titles in years gone by. A stark example of this being that fact Leicester won the league in 2016 by ten points with a total of 81 back before Pep and Klopp got their hands on their respective squads. While Antonio Conte’s Chelsea side of 2016-17 amassed a superb 93 points but still won by seven points, eventually outrunning a dogged Spurs chase.
However, for the first time in recent history two sides have performed above and beyond the traditionally expected level needed to grasp the premiership trophy come May. Prompting some desperate Liverpool fans to ring up popular sports radio stations and pitch the idea of a second placed trophy. All inter-club banter and rivalry aside, it’s clear that this season that the traditional expected level mentioned above has been raised significantly. If Liverpool performed anywhere near like the rest of the top six did, then once again a Manchester based side would have run away with the title.
This time around though Klopp’s men stepped to the plate and took City head on, while also managing to get themselves into a second Champions League final in as many seasons. For the first time in years there the premier league was graced by a real title race that went to the wire and when Brighton scored first at The Amex no doubt red Liverpudlian minds began to dream once more. Now though having lost only one game all season and amassing nearly a century of points, Liverpool fans will see second place as a hard pill to shallow.
Klopp’s men may well reflect on a series of draws at the start of 2019 that allowed City to stay within touching distance of top spot. Though in fairness to Liverpool, City had to win their last fourteen league games on the spin to pip them to the title by a single point, so unlike most who finish second in the league, Liverpool will have few if any regrets when looking back on what has been an incredible season.
After such a tangible improvement on domestic plains from the season previous, many will wonder how Liverpool will go about challenging City once again come August. The board will surely fully back Klopp in the transfer market, with building a stronger squad than necessarily a better first eleven perhaps the priority. Though Divock Origi has done scored some extremely important goals for them at the business end of the season, many will look at City’s bench and realise that strategic recruitments (in the playmaker and striker positions) will likely be needed at Anfield if Liverpool are to continue to push City as hard as they have this season.
As the problem with a team like City under a coach like Pep is that they don’t even consider standing still and smelling the roses. They are led by a man who is obsessed with titles and craves near perfection from his players. A standard that differing members of his team achieve from week to week, be it Sterling or Laporte, Aguero or Fernandinho. At the start of the season many predicted that Bernando Silva would be somewhat of a back-up option however this season he doggedly earned his place on the team sheet week after week, keeping out the likes of Leroy Sane and Riyhad Mahrez in the process. An attitude that seems to optimise a City squad that will surely be added to in the coming months as they look to strive for both European and domestic glory next term.
After inexplicably reaching 100 points in the 2017/18 season and then 98 the season after, few would back against City reaching such lofty heights again. But what of Liverpool? It’s a difficult to formulate an accurate prediction however their Champions League final in a couple of weeks could hold the key to that question. Despite such an amazing season statistically, Klopp desperately needs a trophy after his track record in finals of late. After the pain of 97 points not being good enough to claim their first domestic league title in nearly thirty years, the club needs the huge boost that another Champions League victory would bring. A triumph that would give them Liverpool a huge amount of momentum heading into a season where expectations will be raised higher than the bar they have set themselves this term.
Unfortunately for both Klopp and Pochettino on June 1st, football remembers silverware far more than it does record breaking statistics or budget restrictions. If they lose, their players will not be lambasted and can still hold their heads up with pride. However, with a team as ruthless as City waiting to do it all over again in just a few months, pride means very little. Only winning matters.
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