When Liverpool win the league in the next couple of weeks, it will be one of the greatest achievements in English sport, perhaps only bettered by Manchester United’s treble season of 1999.
There will be arguments that Liverpool’s own victory in 2005 in the Champions League in Istanbul is the more important trophy in and of itself, but with Hillsborough’s 25th anniversary and the element of luck in every knockout competition, the Premier League will edge it.
For the same reasons, it will also be more impressive than Chelsea’s defeat of Bayern Munich with Roberto Di Matteo. That’s not to denigrate any of these achievements - they are the best examples of success at the top of English football. Brendan Rodgers, though, has certainly got close to achieving something unique.
It’s fair to say that Manchester United have underperformed in the year after Alex Ferguson retired, but nobody could have imagined that David Moyes, for all his lack of obvious qualifications, would make such a bad job of things quite so quickly. But other clubs have failed to make the most of the chance in taking on the title.
Manchester City reinforced sensibly in the summer.
Fernandinho is an excellent midfielder, and Alvaro Negredo reminds people of Roberto Soldado because of the number of syllables in his name, but otherwise is different in that he’s actually adapting well to the Premier League. But there have been disastrous errors which were noted in the summer, and City failed to put them right.
With another centre-back needed, Manuel Pellegrini elected to bring in Martin Demichelis, and now the fans’ familiarity with the hapless bozo has generated a surfeit of contempt. Joe Hart was dropped for a large section of the season as he was made to practise his catching on the naughty corner. And for all the talk of his qualities, Vincent Kompany still has the ability to make grave errors.
We all knew that a new centre-back was needed, and possibly a new goalkeeper, but instead Pellegrini watched as City strengthened elsewhere. All things being equal, a better central defender would have Manchester City top of the league, and possibly still in the Champions League.
Put simply, Chelsea would have been top of the league if they had a real striker.
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Arsenal, however, were typically Arsenal.
This might have been the best chance for them to take advantage of the failures and weaknesses in both the Manchester sides and Chelsea, but at this point it’s academic.
Arsenal will always crumble under pressure until they change their manager. Their collapse is no surprise. But the same can be said every year - it’s easy to say that one team won it just because the other teams had problems, because every year it is true. The league winner is deservedly the one who makes fewest mistakes, or has the fewest weaknesses.
That’s Liverpool, and although it might sound like a cheap dig to say that they have the fewest weaknesses, it is really praise.
Their one real weakness is the defence - they have statistically the worst defence of the top five. But the way that they have managed to cope with that is incredible. The sheer number of goals, and the manner in which they have scored them is the most impressive part of their season.
With Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and others playing with such verve and creativity, Liverpool are rarely beaten if they fall behind, and often capable of scoring within 10 or 20 minutes of the start.
For a team that is treading new ground at the top of the table, early goes are brilliantly effective at calming nerves. With the belief Rodgers has plainly instilled in them, they have the confidence to hold onto leads without pulling their hair out instead.
They have had the advantage of not playing in the Champions League, which perhaps aids their late run of successive victories, but there are plenty of other sides not in the competition who have failed to create such startling momentum.
There are plenty of clubs who have supposedly bright young talents as managers and players, but nobody has improved with largely the same staff so rapidly and significantly as Liverpool have. While they have spent notable amounts of money for a few years, they have of course not matched the amounts spent by either City or Chelsea.
Although the 1999 treble might be the finer triumph, coming up against an Arsenal side that almost matched United toe-for-toe in two competitions and also with exhausting victories in Europe, there is no triumph with similar qualities that can be compared to Rodgers and Liverpool should they win the league this time.
This will be a truly special victory.
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