Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Defense Will Lead Liverpool to the Top of the Premier League

Back in 1990, artists like Vanilla Ice, Kylie Minogue, Madonna and New Kids on the Block dominated the music scene. 1990 also happens to be the last time Liverpool won the English top flight. 1990 was so long ago that the Premier League as we know it today didn’t even exist yet.


Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea have all won multiple titles since the Premier League was created in 1992. Despite the fact that Liverpool are still considered to be one of the biggest clubs in all of Europe, the Reds are still searching for their first top flight title in nearly 30 years.

They have come close, most recently in 2014, but Liverpool may not have a better chance to win the league than they do this year. Through 22 matches, Jurgen Klopp’s men are currently top of the table, four points clear of defending title-holders Manchester City. City are coming off of arguably the best season in Premier League history. Pep Guardiola’s squad racked up 100 points last season and won the league by a whopping 25 points.

At this point, you will have a hard time finding any place to bet online that lists any team other than Liverpool as the odds-on favorites to win it this season. Most sites have the Reds listed somewhere around -120 to win the Premier League, while Manchester City isn’t far behind. At this point, the oddsmakers seem to think it’s just a two-horse race.


As usual, whichever team stays healthier will have a leg up. City star man Kevin De Bruyne has been battling knee issues all year long, which has clearly hampered the team’s performance. Liverpool haven’t spent much time without any player as influential as De Bruyne, but key cogs like Joe Gomez, Naby Keita, and Jordan Henderson have missed time at various points so far this term.

We are all familiar with the high-octane Liverpool attack, but if the Reds are to win the English top flight, they are going to need the defense to hold up. So far, so good on that front. Liverpool have scored 50 goals in the league and conceded just 10. The plus-40 goal differential is just behind City’s plus-42, but the Citizens have allowed 7 more goals than the Reds have to this point.


Investing all that money in fortifying the defense appears to be paying dividends. It was just over a year ago that Liverpool splurged on Southampton central defender Virgil Van Dijk. Van Dijk wasn’t exactly a household name around Europe previously, but the argument can now easily be made that the Dutchman is the best defensive player in England, if not all of Europe.


Goalkeeper Alisson Becker has also been as advertised since coming over from Roma during the summer. The Brazilian No. 1 has already kept 13 clean sheets through 22 matches, which is 3 more than any other keeper in the English top flight. Alisson’s stability in goal gives Liverpool an edge they didn’t have under the likes of Loris Karius or Simon Mignolet previously. With Van Dijk and Alisson at the back, the Reds are not allowing the same cheap goals they have for most of Klopp’s tenure. That alone makes them a more realistic title contender.

If Liverpool are to hang on and win it, they are going to need the midfield to hold up. The attacking trio speaks for itself, and the new, sturdy defense gives the team a real backbone. One perceived “weakness” could be the midfield, which doesn’t have any clear-cut star players. The emergence of Fabinho, who started the season slowly, could be hugely vital to whether Liverpool are able to stay at the top for the duration.


I am inclined to believe that Liverpool can hang on and win it. We know City are capable of great things, but this Liverpool side has not suffered defeats against the dregs of the league the way they have in years past. It’s not hard to forget the disastrous 3-3 result against lowly Crystal Palace back in 2014 that all but cost the Reds the title.


I’m confident that that kind of a slip-up won’t happen this term. Klopp has instilled a level of confidence up and down the side, and his infectious enthusiasm will ultimately be enough to get this team over the hump. Liverpool will be Premier League champions for the first time in 2019.



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