Only Covid-19 troubled all-conquering Liverpool

A month after clinching the title, Liverpool finally have the trophy in their grateful mitts; name engraved on it and memories seared on their souls.

Time, then, to salute one of the greatest campaigns by any club, anywhere, in any era.

Asterisk season? This one bore all the marks punctuation has in its locker: kicking off as European champions, adding the Super Cup, the World Club Cup, romping to within two wins of the title, seeing off the threat of cancellation and then, at long, long last, becoming English Premier League champions for the first time, and League champions for the 19th .

All that and no lap of honour! How Jurgen Klopp’s men would have milked that and the fans, too.

The Reds did their best to make this week’s trophy presentation a memorable occasion. Kenny Dalglish did the honours, there was a stage on the Kop, and it took place after a victorious eight-goal festival on the field.

But for all the fireworks and covering banners, Anfield’s serried rows of seats remained silent.

It should have been up there with the great European nights – Inter, St Etienne, Olympiakos and Barcelona.

But they couldn’t disguise the absence of a key element in the club’s Holy Trinity – the fans.

The other two are the manager and the players according to the dictum handed down by the legendary Bill Shankly. The directors? “Only there to sign the cheques,” he quipped.

Alas, it was the fans who suffered the most. Their most eagerly anticipated ‘I was there’ moment for decades was experienced in their living rooms.

No matter how it was dressed up, there was a sense of stolen climax to a riveting story. It may rankle now but, in the great scheme of things, it will be a mere fly in an ointment that will still heal older wounds.

And by the time the promised parade happens, it will be no more than a sliver of time that won’t hold a candle to the magnitude of the achievement.

For they know that for both the scale of the triumphs and manner of performance, this team is up there with Liverpool’s greatest and those of the Premier League era.

Mention must be made of Manchester United’s Treble winners and Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’, but that is the company Klopp’s ‘Mentality Monsters’ now keep.

To pick up from the previous season’s agonising single-point deficit in the title race to lead the table from mid-August certainly showed mental strength.

And to take on and win other competitions with a relatively thin squad demonstrated a discipline and focus that distinguish only the finest sides.

Above all else, they are a team, in the manager’s mould and in the mould of their great predecessors.

Their sheer relentlessness was something to behold. And their thrilling counter attacks took the breath away, as they showed even in the 5-3 win over Chelsea.

Klopp has fine-tuned the heavy metal football he professed to believe in when he arrived nearly five years ago to a more sophisticated counter-attacking style.

Ironically, the loss of Coutinho, once the main creative force, has been turned to advantage by enabling faster counters often led by the flying fullbacks.

Both academy graduate Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, a bargain £8m signing from Hull City, are a potent attacking duo well up in the assists table.

And the £140m Barcelona paid for Coutinho was reinvested in the final pieces of the jig-saw – centreback Virgil van Dijk and goalkeeper Alisson.

Only FIFA World Player of the Year, Van Dijk, would be considered a superstar and the emphasis of the team harks back to the golden era when Liverpool were all-conquering both in England and Europe.

Next season, though, they may no longer walk alone. Manchester City will surely rebuild and pose a more sustained challenge.

But both Chelsea and Manchester United need to shore up their defences to be taken seriously.

And if this Liverpool squad stays together, it will be hard not to see a 20th league title.

Any doubters should listen to Klopp. ‘Being champions of Europe, England and the world doesn’t happen too often,’ he said.

Indeed, it doesn’t. This Liverpool are in a class of their own which is why their fans can joke that this season Covid-19 came closer than City to making the title a two-horse race.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.