Off the Mark: Liverpool must seize the moment, because who knows when it’ll come around again?
As you’re probably aware by now, Liverpool haven’t won the league title for 24 years, with their most recent success confirmed with a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers on April 28th 1990.
Raheem Sterling wouldn’t be born for another four-and-a-half years, Jon Flanagan for three, Philippe Coutinho for two and Jordan Henderson for another two months. Joe Allen was six weeks old, and Daniel Sturridge seven months.
No-one back then would have thought that Liverpool would still be waiting for another league title 24 years down the line, but then the same thing would have been said about Manchester United when they won the league in 1967. They had to wait until 1993 for their next one, and then it seemed like they never stopped winning for 20 years.
United have had a poor season by their standards this time around, but no-one is suggesting they’ll disappear from the title picture for the next two-and-a-half decades. Football works in cycles though, and Liverpool will be aware of that too.
Put simply, it is incredible that the Reds are in this position, top of the Premier League table and five games away from ending that 24-year wait.
The club’s supporters can often get ridiculed for their fanatical and devoted nature, but you wouldn’t have found one who believed that this was possible back in the summer.
Brendan Rodgers, for all of his positivity, was still viewed with suspicion, Luis Suarez had stayed but was just one more meltdown away from being shipped out – and plenty wanted him gone. Steven Gerrard was too old, the rest of them were too young, the new signings weren’t good enough, the best players had chosen to sign for someone else, and Kolo Toure had rocked up. Apprehension ruled over expectation.
But then the football started, and what great football it was.
Sturridge, in isolation at first, couldn’t stop scoring. Suarez hit the ground running and never stopped. Gerrard imperious, Henderson metronomic, Coutinho, Sterling relentless. They couldn’t defend their way out of a paper bag, obviously, but that only added to the fun.
Whenever someone scored against them (and I think a paper bag actually managed it at one point) you just got the sense that they were setting themselves up to be breached twice, three times at the other end.
More recently though, and as emphasised by the win at West Ham, there seems to be a steeliness added to Liverpool’s game, a ruthless streak has kicked in. They’ve won nine games in a row and they are aware of the consequences of what happens if they get to 14.
It is these qualities that they’ll need to show against Manchester City at Anfield on Sunday.
They aren’t going to blow City away like they have done the vast majority of visitors this season – although if they do? Wow – and so instead it is going to be grim determination which gets them through.
Every team who has gone through a long title drought has matches such as these.
For United it was the victory over Sheffield Wednesday 21 years ago this week which ended with a last gasp Steve Bruce winner and Alex Ferguson and Brian Kidd leaping onto the pitch. More recently, Manchester City beat United 1-0 thanks to a Vincent Kompany header in April two years ago. This is the game where suddenly everything crystallises and it all becomes real.
The current City vintage will head to Anfield with confidence. They are still the title favourites and rightly so. A draw would put them firmly in the driving seat and in charge of their own destiny.
But there’s a feeling that this is the game, this is the time for those Liverpool players. And if they’re not going to do it now then will they ever?
Two-and-a-half decades worth of footballers have gone before them, and none of them won the club a league title.
If that run is going to end, then it ends here and now. Well, on Sunday anyway.
But what’s a few days when you’ve been waiting 24 years?
Play the name and shame Arsenal game
I’ve got a game for you to play.
I want you to look through the Arsenal teamsheet from Sunday’s non-performance at Everton and choose how many of the XI you’d keep at the club next season. Given who was out injured and that Aaron Ramsey and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were only on the bench, when in a particularly ruthless mood I’ve ended up with two.
It’s clear that the Gunners need an overhaul, and it is probably time that it comes from the very top.
Arsene Wenger has been a fantastic figure at the club and deserves immense respect, but you just wonder if a parting of the ways is now what’s best for everyone.
Back the Baggies to boing
West Bromwich Albion are just starting to show a little bit of the fight they needed to demonstrate much earlier in the season, and suddenly look a lot more likely to stay up.
That escape act can continue on Saturday when they host a Tottenham side who managed an impressive win over Sunderland but have been disappointing on the road of late, with the Tim Sherwood situation hardly helping.