Jurgen Klopp was in a positive move following his sides goalless draw in their derby game against Everton. The single point saw them slip into second place a mere point behind Man City. Klopp declared “who wants to be top in March?”
Does Klopp have a point?
Klopp elaborated by pointing out how he is comfortable chasing the leaders rather than being the leader at this point of the season. Perhaps his thought process is influenced by seeing how his side have coped with sitting atop the pile. With three draws in their past four games without looking at the context, it would be easy to suggest that the pressure was starting to get to the Liverpool players.
Let’s analyse those four games in a bit more detail. Their sole win came against Bournemouth. Bournemouth are comfortably in the middle of the table but are no mugs. This is the same side that put four past Chelsea back in January. However, it is fair to say they haven’t been great in the second half of this season and so you’d expect Liverpool to beat them at home.
Then there was the draw against West Ham. West Ham are another team solidly in the midtable. A draw against them may seem like two points dropped but an away point can’t be sneered at and West Ham may well have been higher in the table if it weren’t for a poor start. They are also an inconsistent team, on their day they can beat anybody as shown by their besting Arsenal.
Their two other draws were both against rival teams. Liverpool have two big rivals in the Premiership, Everton and Manchester United. These games are always going to be edgy and both were away from home. You could argue that perhaps they could have taken full points from the West Ham game, or the Everton game but both are solid draws against competitive teams.
Where Klopp’s comment might lose weight is when you consider the stature of Man City. They are no longer the “noisy neighbours” they are now the elite. They are the team with the most league winning experience. They are the team that has been there and done it now. That experience, historically is what sets apart the winners from the runners up. Yes, teams have been top and choked, look at Newcastle’s infamous collapse when they surrendered a twelve point league to Manchester United. However, this isn’t a team that hasn’t experienced that pressure.
This is the first time where Liverpool have felt like real contenders and that may go against them. Of course, the counter to that is to point to Leicester City. Leicester have shown that sometimes desire can trump experience. Their win shows that anyone can win the premier league and a team with a front three of Mane, Salah and Fimino can definitely win the league. That last name is particularly important for Liverpool and his absence was notable against both Man Utd and Everton.
Long way to go
Of course, this is all conjecture at this point. Klopp’s comments are jovial mind games. Pep, often the cool head, hasn’t responded. So far his team are doing the talking on the pitch, but with just a point in it with 9 games to go, it is going to be an exciting end to the season. Both teams only have a couple of stern tests left and if both Liverpool and Man City hold their nerves we could have two free-scoring heavyweights trading blows right down to the final game of the season. Let’s hope that happens.