Year-Ender 2019: Liverpool FC- Klopp’s world beaters are pride and envy of Europe
As Jordan Henderson lifted Liverpool’s third continental title of the year in Qatar, it was bedlam back home in Merseyside, where fans saw their beloved Reds become champions of the world for the first time in their illustrious history. It’s astonishing that a club with six European titles never lifted the Club World Cup until their successful trip of Doha recently. But this isn’t like any Liverpool side that graced the hallowed turf of England’s top flight in the past. They aren’t like the dominant force of 80s neither are they the chokers of EPL era. They are different. They are an enigma which seems to get better year after year, so much so, that this could actually be their year.
Leading Pep Guardiola’s machine-like team from Manchester by more than 10 points till Christmas is no mean feat. Last year, Liverpool tried their best to end their Premier League duck but their best fell one point short. This year somehow they have bettered themselves, without making any significant adjustments to the squad, forcing City to relinquish the top spot. It seems Jurgen Klopp has finally discovered the secret formula to make teams consistent, which was introduced in the Premier League by the great Sir Alex Ferguson at Theatre of Dreams, passed on to Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and honed by Guardiola in the blue half of Manchester.
City’s grasp at the throne is getting weaker by the day while Liverpool are finally ready to lift the crown which once was their commodity until the Devil awoke in red half of Manchester. Liverpool now have a friendly menace about them which isn’t a good sign for the rest of Europe. At half-way stage in the Premier League, Reds have opened up a significant gap at the top but their supporters aren’t ready to celebrate until the fat lady sings. One cannot blame the Kop as they have seen their gods slip in the most unfortunate moments in the past. They have led the way till Christmas four times in Premier League era and have squandered their advantage every time. But in reality, Liverpool are in such a position that they can come a dismal second only if they stop showing up for matches.
The reigning European champions are also in a good position to successfully defend their Champions League crown, a feat achieved only by 13 time winners Real Madrid, since the change in format decades ago. Liverpool are arguably the only side on the entire continent who can look into the eyes of Real, Barcelona, Juventus and PSG and not feel inferior. The daunting task of travelling to Anfield has become even more gargantuan these days. Just to put things into perspective, it has been more than 900 days since they lost a Premier League or European game at home.
It took time but it was worth the wait as Liverpool have assembled a remarkable team which is robust at the back and sublime up front. In Alisson Becker, they possess a complete goalkeeper. Dutchman Virgil Van Dijk has replaced Sergio Ramos as the best defender in the world. Trent Alexander Arnold will soon have more assists than the great Paul Scholes in the Premier League.
Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino form a trident that’s as effective as the famed MSN of Barcelona or BBC of Real. And to hold it together like glue, they have a non-illustrious albeit level-minded captain in Henderson, who somehow brings out the best in the team. He is on course to pull off something that even Steven Gerard failed to deliver to his beloved worshippers.
“They are a side which literally plays with Henderson and the two centre-halves at the back and the rest can go wherever they want,” Curtis Davis said after Hull were thrashed 5-1 at Anfield. “That is not an ill-disciplined thing. That is organised. That is what causes all the problems… the inter-changing, the good football, the passing.”
This organised behaviour has been instilled by Klopp, who has a history of disturbing the apple cart. In Germany, he kept Bayern away from Bundesliga for two years in a row. He then came to England, found his feet after an unceremonious trophy-less beginning and is now moving Liverpool towards immortality at a very rapid pace.
Since 2001, this has been the most successful year for Liverpool in terms of trophies. They are unbeaten in 34 league games and this ridiculous number has never been reached by them in the past. Chelsea were unbeaten in 40 consecutive games under Mourinho while Arsenal’s invincibles were a bit better at 49. Klopp’s army is more than equipped to surpass both of them.
Unlike Liverpool, Manchester City once again meant business in the transfer market and strengthened their squad which won the right to be called champions of the country. Injuries haven’t been kind and they find themselves in the unfamiliar position of not fighting for top two. Guardiola have also lost his trusted Lieutenant to Arsenal, making his job to become three-time successive champions all the more difficult. City have drowned themselves in Spaniard’s philosophy but a European medal still looks like a distant dream considering their inconsistent performances this term. Not to forget they will up against Real Madrid next.
Another team which managed to turn Liverpool’s head in England are Leicester City, who are coached by a former Kop darling. Such has been Brendan Rogers’ influence on the former champions that management had to offer him a significant pay rise just to keep him away from Gunners. But Foxes inexperience to wage war against the elite on a consistent basis make them a less dangerous proposition. They were blown away but City, a team which was schooled by Liverpool earlier in the season. Not to forget their latest 0-4 drubbing at the hands of soon to be champions.
Apart from poor results, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have another thing in common - they are stuck up in the past trying to conjure a magic for a better future. Old heroes have returned to take charge of fallen Giants in a bid to help them recapture their glorious past. Inconsistent performances have kept them away from top but they still remain a force, which awakens sometimes here, sometimes there.
As things stand, they still are few a transfer windows behind the current pack of leaders. For normalcy to resume in England, these Giants have a major role to play. If not, Liverpool and Manchester City can keep exchanging trophies year after year and the Red Devils and Londoners can call the next year as their own.
Klopp hasn’t just kept in-house rivals under check but with typical German precision, he has dealt with foreign threats equally. Liverpool have entered the final of UCL twice in the last two years. While the Los Blancos in their Cristiano Ronaldo power trip swept them aside in Kiev, Liverpool barged into Madrid and edged high-flying Spurs at Wanda Metropolitano.
Not a single season goes by when Real aren’t favourites for Champions League glory and this season it is no different. Although they have drawn City in last 16 which will see the return of public enemy number one at Bernabeu, they pose a massive threat to Reds’ dream of a European double.
The other Spanish team, Barcelona, still haven’t forgotten the magical night in Merseyside where somehow they managed to concede four. It was supposed to be a routine day at work for them. They had a three-goal lead. They had arguably the best player ever in full flow. But they were brought down to earth by collective power of Liverpool’s young side.
Barcelona were so hurt by Liverpool’s European dominance that they hatched a plan to bring the best to Catalunya. While they succeeded in landing Antoine Griezmann, they failed in their public pursuit of Neymar. The Brazilian has somehow managed to get his act together and firing on all cylinders for Paris St. Germain. He along with Kylian Mbappe, Mauro Icardi, Edinson Cavani and other ‘Expendables’ make PSG a tough nut to crack.
Their pursuit of Neymar ended Phillips Coutinho’s dream of making it big at Camp Nou. But a door closed meant a door opened up for the Brazilian and he is letting it rip in Germany now. Coutinho seems to have inserted as the missing piece in Bayern jigsaw as they are trying hard to get over the hangover created by Nico Kovac.
Not just Germans but Italians are also after Liverpool’s crown as the best team in Europe. A certain Portuguese changed his home address to Turin and Serial A once again back in the spotlight. Juventus last won the Champions League in 1994 and they want to rectify that stay which puts a blemish on one of the most successful teams in world football history. If you can’t beat them join them seems to be the motto as in came Ronaldo, who scored two goals to beat them in the final three years ago. CR7 has 5 UCL titles in his bulging cabinet and if anyone can fulfil the Old Lady’s wishes, it’s the superstar from Madeira.