Liverpool can do better than Man United with Premier League title triumph for the ages
How things can change in football.
At the start of 2022, Liverpool’s title hopes looked dashed, consigned to history as a 2-2 draw with Chelsea left them 14 points behind Man City.
Moreover, most felt that City’s lead was not only unassailable, but that the nature of how they won games, beating teams with such ease, was unlikely to slow down. They just had too much class, too much quality, and in Pep Guardiola, too good and too experienced a manager.
And yet, ten weeks later, things seem very different indeed.
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Liverpool’s decisive win over Arsenal at the Emirates now reduces that 14-point gap to just one. Yes, a single point separates the two sides.
Moreover, fate is now in the hands of Liverpool. If they win each of their remaining matches, including the massive match (and it cannot be overstated how much) against City on April 10, then Liverpool will have regained their Premier League.
And if they did, it would become one of the greatest comebacks in Premier League history, but would it be as the greatest?
When one tends to think of Premier League title comebacks, the mind instantly springs back to 1996, when Manchester United reversed a whopping 12-point swing over Newcastle to claim their third league title in four seasons.
Man United looked almost dead on Christmas, with Kevin Keegan’s side rolling down the flanks via the ‘you score three, we’ll score four’ method. But strangely the goals dried up in the second half of the season and Eric Cantona’s form gave United the confidence to eventually turn the tide. In the end, they had the title comfortably sewn up, and Newcastle never came close again.
Manchester United were the recipient two years later when, in 1997/98, Arsenal became United’s biggest rivals for a period of seven years. Arsene Wenger’s side were 11 points behind United at the start of March but cut it (it must be said they had three games in hand) and then overtook United, beating them at Old Trafford along the way.
United’s collapse allowed Arsenal to win the league despite losing their last two league games, and it marked the start of the rivalry between Sir Alex Ferguson and Wenger.
United rebounded five years later when the two teams faced off for the title once again. In 2002/03 Arsenal were flying and Thierry Henry was at the absolute peak of his powers, scoring 24 goals and registering 20 assists (as every Arsenal fan likes to recall at least once a week).
In March, they were eight points clear of United. But their collapse, while not spectacular, was strange. They won just four of their remaining nine league games, and United’s form after Christmas was relentless. They didn’t lose a single game after Boxing Day and won the title after Leeds beat Arsenal at Highbury in a thrilling match.
They won the title by five points, a swing of 13 points in total.
So where would Liverpool’s comeback fit among these?
If they did, it could be argued that it would become the greatest comeback of the Premier League era. Not just in terms of the math, but in terms of what Man City stands for, the massive difference between the resources of both sides and the amount of money spent building their team.
In the above cases, financial inequality was not as pronounced as it is now. It would make Liverpool’s potential achievement all the more remarkable if they were successful.
The 2019/20 triumph was a historic achievement, ending the club’s three-decade wait for a title. But if Jürgen Klopp and Liverpool won the title, then that would be the real story of the Premier League.