They’re eight points clear of Leicester, 11 ahead of Manchester City: the chances are that Liverpool are going to win their first league title in 30 years. But nothing is certain in this world, and they could still make a mess of things: here are a few things that could go wrong and cause them to fall…
A fairly prosaic one to start, but any season could be derailed by the wrong player falling foul to injury. Liverpool clearly have a terrific squad and would be able to absorb most having a month or two out, but what if Andrew Robertson’s knee goes tomorrow? Or Virgil van Dijk does something unfortunate to his ankle? Or Roberto Firmino breaks a leg? Fabinho being out for six weeks or so was spoken of in some quarters with such solemn tones that you would’ve been forgiven for thinking he had passed on, so imagine the reaction if Mo Salah did his ACL in.
Liverpool are currently in the middle of an absolutely insane run of fixtures which will see them play 14 games in around 42 days (depending on when their FA Cup third round is), with no more than four days rest between each, usually two or three and then of course there’s the Carabao Cup/World Club Cup split squad farrago. That sort of run will have even the fittest and energetic players begging for a lie down on a big sofa with a blanket and a DVD of Love Actually, never mind having to maintain title-winning pace.
An ill-advised January signing
The Tino Asprilla/Rodney Marsh gambit. Liverpool have barely put a foot wrong in the transfer market recently, and even the things you could classify as failures (Naby Keita…erm, that’s about it) are massively outweighed by the successes. But it’s not inconceivable they could consider all of the problems above and decide they need to make a big statement signing which goes on to completely eff up the balance of their team and send them spiralling into despair. Let’s not turn this into a debate about whether Asprilla and Marsh did actually spoil things for Newcastle and Manchester City.
An absolutely colossal bottle job
Who among us hasn’t panicked in the face of getting everything we ever dreamed of? Turned into a spluttering mess at a job interview. Hid in the toilets when given the chance to meet a hero. Run away when presented with the prospect of genuine true love. The prospect of the pressure becoming too much and Liverpool absolutely losing their collective minds is entirely realistic, not because they’re Liverpool, but because they’re human.
The whole squad giving up playing to concentrate on heart-warming social media content
.@VirgilvDijk surprises a lifelong Red, who has had some challenges in his life. A day David will never, ever forget ❤️
— Liverpool FC (@LFC) November 26, 2019
Praise on social media can be very intoxicating, and Liverpool got plenty of it for their latest short in which a fan’s dreams were made by meeting the squad and manager. Football can be a pretty stressful business, so you can understand why would want to opt for a more relaxing, more rewarding (in some respects) way.
More bone-headed mistakes like Alisson’s at crucial moments
Ultimately he got away with it, because Liverpool beat Brighton anyway, but who knows what Alisson was thinking when he punched the ball five yards outside the area – something that, if you’ll all check your rulebooks, goalkeepers are famously not allowed to do – and got himself sent off. Even the brains of the best can be frazzled sometimes, and if it happens at some sort of key moment, it could prove costly.
Assuming he resists the lure of Arsenal, Brendan Rodgers is the looming spectre of despair for Liverpool, the prospect of him denying them their moment of glory (again, ha ha ha) surely the worst nightmare of anyone at Anfield. But Leicester are of course a genuine threat, not only because they are playing brilliant football but also because – assuming they don’t go deep into the FA Cup – they have no other competitions to distract them. Liverpool currently have four.
A really boring, slow, loss of form
You expect the only way a team could give up a lead this big is a colossal implosion, a meltdown of epic proportions that will cause despair at Anfield but entertainment for the rest of us. However, an eight-point lead could disappear with four draws, and with 24 games of the season remaining…well, it’s not that implausible, is it?
It seems unlikely, but it it’s possible that Liverpool could just assume things are in the bag, complacency could set in and it could all go wrong from there.
Distractions becoming too much
Those other four competitions could be a problem. Obviously it’s not just the physical strain that all of those games will place on the squad but the headspace required to concentrate on trying to win five different things could be draining. Of course the World Club Cup will be done in a few weeks and it might be best for everyone concerned if their reserves lose in the Carabao Cup, but even if they flame out in the Champions League then they’ll have the Europa League to endure.
The departure of that assistant manager and everyone said he was crucial but as it turns out him leaving hasn’t made any difference at all and nobody can remember his name, could belatedly make a big difference
Zeljko Buvac, in case you were wondering.
Manchester City remembering they’re Manchester City
Pep Guardiola’s side are seemingly going through a minor existential crisis at the moment, struggling to break teams down, their creativity AWOL, their edge blunted. They’ve already dropped 13 points, when in the whole of last season they only let 16 slip. But this is a squad and manager so good that they could in theory turn it back on at any stage. They almost certainly can’t afford to lose another Premier League game if they’re to overhaul the 11-point gap to Liverpool, but if anyone can do it, they can.
The really ticklish part of the league season could come between Boxing Day and the end of January: their three away games in that period are Leicester, Wolves and Tottenham. If they take five or more points from those ones then the title will probably be in the bag, as their next tough trip will be City in April, and by then it might be all done and dusted anyway. Lose a couple of them though, and knees will start jangling.
No idea why or how, but it’s made a mess of so many other things this season, why not this too?
The weird monster/dinosaur thing from that Nivea commercial who stamped on James Milner returning for the rest of the players
Although, in fairness, Milner did seem to somehow survive being stamped on, so maybe it will be OK.
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