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Liverpool could’ve just had their ‘King Power’ moment – but with 1 difference

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Liverpool’s forgettable night at the office against Arsenal has parallels to another tense title race, but the Reds need to make Sunday a defining moment, writes Tim Ellis.

Oh. It’s a simple equation now. One that Liverpool’s real rivals, Man City, are well used to.

‘All’ the Reds need to do now after the chastening defeat at the Emirates is to win their last 15 matches to claim a 20th Championship and what would be an epic second Premier League title. Simple.

Well, you know it isn’t, but then Arsenal have it in the bag. Just look at their celebrations. Winning in February means more. Mikel Arteta even did the three fists to the fans thing. Imitation and flattery, and all that. He’s learning on the job.

As Brendan Rodgers used to say, at least Liverpool are “in the equation.” In Klopp’s best seasons, that loss column has always had ridiculously low numbers.

 

It’s the draws that kill you…

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Friday, April 26, 2019: Liverpool's Mohamed Salah (R) celebrates scoring the fifth goal with team-mate Trent Alexander-Arnold during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Huddersfield Town AFC at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

In 2018/19, the record of 30 wins, seven draws and a solitary defeat was not enough. It’s almost agonising to look at the DVD or YouTube highlights and wonder how the title was ‘lost’.

The reason was that City won the last 15. It’s a figure that is easy to remember for all the wrong reasons. To ‘lose’ a title with 97 points is incomprehensible to this day. Therapy might have been needed if they had been defeated in Madrid.

During that brilliant, almost flawless, season, Anfield’s finest runners-up (not a great phrase, but they were) hit a sticky patch when claiming four draws and two wins in six, which eroded the lead established by that incredible start of 54 points from the first 20 games.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, December 17, 2023: Liverpool's captain Virgil van Dijk reacts during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC at Anfield. The game ended in a goal-less draw. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

If Liverpool have a flaw, it’s the draw. City win more, Liverpool lose less. You do the math.

The 2023/24 ‘Liverpool 2.0’ version will not get anywhere near those 97 points in all probability. The maximum return is 96.

These are different times, but if they can replicate the 2021/22 season, where the Reds delivered a whopping 92, with only two losses, then that will do just fine. Surely. Probably. Definitely Maybe. Excuse the Mancunian references.

 

Time to believe

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 28, 2021: Leicester City's Ademola Lookman celebrates after scoring the first goal during the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

During that equally exhausting quadruple-chasing season, Liverpool’s second (and last) league defeat came against Leicester on Matchday 20. It was another below par performance where they simply didn’t hit the buttons.

Some of the post-match comments from the manager are eerily similar to the overall take on the Arsenal fallout: “There were too many performances below normal level. My job is to figure these kind of things out before the game. Who is in shape and all these kind of things.

“So often these boys gave me the opportunity to say ‘wow, what a game!’ – tonight it’s ‘wow!’ but in completely the other way. It didn’t look good. It didn’t look like us, and that’s obviously the one thing we have to think about and change immediately.”

That’s exactly what happened. The fallout was worth it. What followed was the reaction of champions as Klopp’s troops won 15 and drew three out of the last 18 matches. That dreadful evening in the Midlands galvanised the squad in a way that was simply remarkable.

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - Tuesday, December 28, 2021: Liverpool's manager Jürgen Klopp waves to the travelling supporters after the FA Premier League match between Leicester City FC and Liverpool FC at the King Power Stadium. Leicester City won 1-0. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

And they still came second. The margin for error with City in the past has been almost zero in the new year. Liverpool need to control this narrative and keep the lead, however slight. Once you are looking up at the perch on the last lap, the Sky Blues have shown they are unlikely to fall off their moon.

Liverpool must not be haunted by the ghosts of the past for this run-in. No-one is innocent of City’s abilities, but something else might be written in the stars if this last group of Klopp marathon men can go again and again to the chequered flag.

They have to believe.

Doubts are easy to come by when you’ve been jilted twice at the Premier League altar, but third time lucky before the departure gate closes full-time on the German would be some way to finish.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Wednesday, January 31, 2024: Liverpool's Diogo Jota celebrates with team-mates after scoring the opening goal during the FA Premier League match between Liverpool FC and Chelsea FC at Anfield. Liverpool won 4-1. (Photo by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

This title race is currently in Liverpool’s hands. Every game will be almost unbearably tense, and then trying to be disinterested in rival results is an Easter promise that can’t be kept.

Reality bit very hard on Sunday in North London, the only place where Liverpool have lost this season.

If the ‘L’ column is still only ‘2’ at the end of the season, then this might be the best leaving party ever. And Arteta will still have his learner plates on…