Premier League: How Liverpool's three key forces came together to deliver historic title after 30 years
It took a while for Liverpool to get the right ingredients, but once they had the recipe, Liverpool FC embarked on an unstoppable, inexorable march of clinical performances that bore witness to their greatness.
The wait is over at Liverpool Football Club. The team under the leadership of Jurgen Klopp, the bespectacled German, has reached the Promised Land, providing an exhilarating closure to the millions who have waited for this day for 30 years. Pep Guardiola's Manchester City, the nearest rival, which, by the way, are still 23 points behind the Reds, were beaten by Chelsea on Thursday night to ensure Klopp and his players don't have to wait for another week to celebrate.
In the three decades that followed since Liverpool last won the league, the club endured the agony of near-misses, won European competitions and domestic trophies, played mediocre football for numerous seasons, sacked multiple managers, changed ownership twice, got submerged in debt, splurged on flops, and signed world-class players who elevated the standard of play. The club had experienced everything except the ultimate glory of being the Premier League winners.
It took a while for Liverpool to get the right ingredients, but once they had the recipe, Liverpool FC embarked on an unstoppable, inexorable march of clinical performances that bore witness to their greatness. Winning the league with seven games in hand is not only a statement, but it is also a blitzkrieg in action, annihilating every opponent who stands in their way. Some victories came easy, others didn't but nevertheless, the club achieved what they did by ruthless relentlessness.
Just one defeat and two draws so far underline the gulf between them and the rest. There are plenty of explanations on how Liverpool achieved their 19th top-flight league championship, but to put it broadly, it is because the following three key forces got their act together:
American sports company Fenway Sports Group became the owners of Liverpool FC at a precarious time in 2010. The club, under previous owners George Gillett and Tom Hicks, was debt-ridden and the lack of significant signings resulted in the loss of fans' trust. The team's on-field performance didn't help either. To make matters worse, the creditors took the owners to court to ensure the debt is paid by selling the club. It was under these circumstances that Fenway Sports Group took charge of Liverpool with John W Henry being the principal owner.
Success didn't come immediately for Liverpool. The owners took an unpopular decision to replace the manager Kenny Dalglish, a Liverpool legend. Brendan Rodgers was appointed to take Liverpool to new heights and he almost did in the 2013-14 season where Liverpool came close to becoming Premier League champions. Club captain and their most faithful servant Steven Gerrard slipped against Chelsea and Crystal Palace made a comeback from 0-3 down. Liverpool bottled the title challenge and club's most influential player, Luis Suarez, left to join Barcelona the next season. Rodgers stayed for another year plus few months before being sacked when it became apparent that the team was in disarray.
To the owners' credit, they worked swiftly to get Klopp as soon as they realised that Rodgers' time was up. Klopp, a proven winner with Borussia Dortmund in Bundesliga, took charge midway into the season. Liverpool owners gave Klopp the time he needed to make changes. Once the team's performance improved, the owners came to trust his process.
They knew they had the right kind of manager, but success in top-flight football depends significantly on clubs' nous when it comes to transfers. World-class players don't come cheap and Liverpool needed a few of them to win trophies. The owners allowed Klopp to get expensive but important players like Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson, and the rest is history. Liverpool are a perfect example of what mutual respect, trust and harmony between the owners and the manager can lead to.
What does it take to win a Premier League? To answer it without nuance, it only takes a bunch of world-class players. This Liverpool side has at least eight proper world-class players at their peak.
The front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah have proven in the last two seasons that they are the most dangerous forward trio operating in the European circuit. When they click, they score goals for fun but they do by inflicting humiliation on their opponents. Salah and Mane, the wide players, do most of the goal-scoring but it is Firmino who is central to Klopp's system and he's the reason why the wide players of Liverpool become so dangerous. It is a testament to their exceptional fitness levels that they hardly miss matches because of injuries.
Talking about the wide players, both Andy Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold have revolutionised the full-back position. The number of assists they pick up has ensured that creativity is not limited to the midfield. Klopp added a different dimension to attacking football and it worked because he had two remarkable players at his disposal.
The likes of Jordan Henderson, James Milner, Fabinho, and Gini Wijnaldum stand out because of their ability to maintain a high intensity throughout the match. The fact that Klopp loves to play pressing football is a fact well established and these midfielders made sure the manager doesn't get disappointed often. Special mention to captain Henderson who has grown tremendously as a footballer and is the deserving leader of this group.
But the two players who played a major role in turning the fortunes for the club are Van Dijk and Alisson, easily the best in the world in their respective positions. When player of such quality grace a team, winning titles become a lot easier.
Gerrard had spoken how Klopp deserves a statue at Anfield. Unless there are some bureaucratic problems, construction must begin immediately. Liverpool had a history of charismatic managers and it's not easy to carve an identity in this club, but not only Klopp managed to do that, now he has a chance to start a whole new dynasty.
Klopp's Liverpool era has already got a unique place in history, When he took over, Liverpool were struggling at mid-table spots. In his first press conference, Klopp, in his now familiar affable manner, called himself 'a normal one'. He cracked jokes but he also spoke about serious things. Like how he needs at least four years to deliver a trophy. On some days, you might think of him as a mere cheerleader, but that's the biggest mistake. Klopp is a tactical genius capable of dismantling the best teams, as he often did.
We have to understand that Guardiola's Manchester City changed the Premier League for good. They scored a whopping 100 points and 98 in two seasons, clinching Premier League titles on both the occasions. With them in the league, the margin for errors is extremely limited. Klopp lost last season's league title by just one point and this was despite losing just once in the whole campaign. It could've been soul-crushing but Klopp was inspired. He was in awe of City and he wanted his team to be like them, but by playing differently. He knew Liverpool have to find their own ways of winning matches. It was this amalgamation of respect and competitiveness that drove him. He was happy with the Champions League trophy but he wanted more. He wanted the title that had eluded the club for 30 years and he achieved it on Thursday. And hopefully, he wants more in the coming seasons.
Vinicius and Marco Asensio both profited in the first half after darting behind Liverpool's makeshift back-line before a simple move from a throw-in gave Vinicius a simple finish in the second.
Real Madrid might have taken more comfort from Liverpool's problems were they not confronting their own period of introspection.
Liverpool went 68 home league matches unbeaten before a defeat to Burnley in January this year precipitated their improbable losing run that later encompassed Brighton, Manchester City, Everton, Chelsea and Fulham.