IAN LADYMAN: Why Liverpool will look back on this era and weep

IAN LADYMAN: If Liverpool only win one Premier League title in this remarkable era it’ll make them weep… PLUS, Frank Lampard has been dropped in it by his players and Harry Maguire needs to get out of United FAST

  • Liverpool have been more than just another very good team under Jurgen Klopp
  • In another era, Liverpool would have won at least two more Premier League titles
  • Their 2022 team may have been the club’s best ever despite Man City’s triumph
  • Showing off just one title from Klopp’s era would be viewed as a failure by fans 

There has been much debate about whether Manchester City supporters were within their rights to boo their team as they trailed to Tottenham last week.

For what it’s worth, they were. Certain standards have been set at the Etihad and with those come heightened expectations. It’s entirely natural.

Anyway, imagine being Liverpool. Finally a sign of relative weakness from Pep Guardiola’s team and Liverpool are not in the position to take advantage. That must hurt.

Liverpool have been more than just another very good football team under Jurgen Klopp

Jurgen Klopp’s team have suffered from living through Guardiola’s City era in the same way Phil Mickelson suffered from playing golf at the same time as Tiger Woods.

Mickelson has six majors and he and Woods are pals now. But back then, when it mattered, they were not and Woods’s relentless brilliance reduced Mickelson to less than what he should have been. He appeared just another very good golfer.

Liverpool have been more than just another very good football team under Klopp; five big trophies, three Champions League final appearances. But their one Premier League title is the same number as Leicester and Blackburn.

Liverpool’s one Premier League title is the same number as Leicester and Blackburn

That is what living in the same world as Guardiola and City has done to them and that makes what is happening to them now particularly sobering. They have hit the downward section of the rollercoaster at just the wrong time.

Those predicting terminal decline at Anfield are premature. Have you seen that roster of forward players? When they are all fit, Klopp will have a richness there once more. Darwin Nunez, in particular, should score heavily next season.

Nevertheless, Klopp looks unusually deflated these days and he ought to be. City, whatever Guardiola says, are still City. Manchester United are reborn. Arsenal are top of the league. 

By the time Liverpool do recover — in all likelihood next season — they will find a two-horse title field has become more congested and this, broadly, is the point.

 Klopp’s 2022 team may have been the club’s best of all time despite being pipped by Man City

In another era, Liverpool would have won more titles. Two more at least. Last season I wrote a piece, while watching them construct yet another incredible run of winning football, suggesting that Klopp’s 2022 team may have been the club’s best of all time. It was criticised but the stats bore it out.

For example, when Bob Paisley’s feted team almost won the 1977 treble, Liverpool lost eight of 42 league games. They were beaten by Tottenham — who finished bottom — and also Birmingham, West Ham, Ipswich, Norwich, Aston Villa (5-1 away), Newcastle and Bristol City. Under the modern three-points-for-a-win system, they would have finished with 80.

Kevin Keegan was Liverpool’s top league scorer with 12 goals in a team that scored 62.

Last season Liverpool earned 92 points and lost the league to City by a point. In 2019 it was 97 points and the outcome was the same. Over those two seasons, Liverpool lost a combined total of three games and scored 183 goals. They won nothing.

 Liverpool have suffered a downturn just as Manchester City are showing a sign of weakness

That is an extraordinary level of football and one attained by a playing style so thrilling and hypnotic to watch that it made a ticket to Anfield the hottest property.

There have been periods over the last three or four years when visits there guaranteed an adrenaline shot powerful enough to sustain you all the way home. Those lucky enough to have lived through it will never forget it but equally the numbers that matter will always be there, nagging away.

Bill Shankly, Paisley’s visionary predecessor, famously said the league was Liverpool’s bread and butter. His teams won three. Paisley’s won six.

Klopp, for all the powerful beauty of his teams’ football, remains stuck on one and is travelling in the wrong direction. City fans may boo but if Liverpool and their supporters one day look back at this remarkable era and see only one Premier League trophy staring back, it will be enough to make them weep.

Saturday’s defeat at West Ham has piled the pressure on Everton boss Frank Lampard

It’s players that get managers sacked 

Brendan Rodgers says some Leicester players don’t care enough when they lose the ball. Pep Guardiola is worried his team may soon stop listening to him. 

Meanwhile, on a cold day in Stratford, Everton midfielder Amadou Onana allows West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen to run beyond him to score the opening goal of yet another defeat for Frank Lampard’s team.

Proof if it were needed that fan protests and social media noise are all very well, but it is still your players that will get you the sack in the end.

Harry Maguire’s instinct will be to fight, but United boss Erik ten Hag does not hugely rate him

Maguire faces being recast as Jones at United

Say what you like about Harry Maguire’s football, but his strength of character is not in doubt. Will he, therefore, have the courage to make the biggest call of his career and leave Manchester United? 

Maguire played well at the World Cup, which was quite something given his lack of football beforehand. But he has returned to Old Trafford to find life unchanged.

United manager Erik ten Hag does not hugely rate Maguire, to the extent he would rather play left back Luke Shaw in his position.

Maguire’s instinct will be to fight, but some fights cannot be won and this may be one of them. Maguire is 30 in March and time slips away quickly from that point.

At the moment, he is the captain of his club trying to get back in the team. But how long before he wakes up to find himself recast as Phil Jones?

 Shrewd moves by West Ham and Forest

For all that football trends ebb and flow, some things don’t change. Teams without reliable centre forwards, for example, don’t win much. 

This is why West Ham’s purchase of Danny Ings and Nottingham Forest taking Chris Wood on loan represent the shrewdest moves of the transfer window so far.

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