Premier League review: Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool are the Unforgettables of a unique season
Liverpool have finished the season on 99 points. This included a record-equalling 32 wins. They have crowned Champions with seven games remaining, faster than any team in the 132-year-old history of the English first division.
This Premier League almost seemed like a spin-off: Akin to a superhero flick with such a deviation from the source material, that the comic creators wanted nothing to do with it (read: Watchmen and Alan Moore). At one point, in mid-April, it seemed unlikely that football could carry on when the world was creaking around it, under the weight of a worldwide pandemic. But football persevered and gave ailing fans a reason to remember the sport for what it truly is: a showcase of the human spirit. Let us take a moment’s pause to remember that many among them are not here with us today. And many more may not be here with us tomorrow.
There have been 16.2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 , and near to 700,000 deaths. Knowing those figures as not simply numbers but numbers with names, and family, friends, pets, and acquaintances, the toll is immediately heavier immediately. The heart sinks. Suicide rates have also spiked since the first case of a worldwide lockdown, and we are facing not just a pandemic of the body but also the mind.
At such times, people tend to turn to cinema, music, to raise them off the listlessness and lethargy that something dark and looming brings. There’s every reason to accept nihilism, or suffer from bouts of fatalism, but, dear reader, take a look at the football teams you idealise.
“We are champions England, Europe and the world, I know how it sounds – but that’s the truth!,” said a gushing Jurgen Klopp after lifting first league champions ship after 30 years. Many who were teenagers when they last saw Liverpool win the league are grandparents. Many among them have lived and died without closure, like the 96 who passed away in the Hillsborough tragedy of 1989. It was poignant and perfect that Liverpool lifted their trophy on a specially-made dais on the KOP, and on 96 points.
“It’s unbelievable to be honest, we won four trophies, big ones, and I could not be more proud. I’m not usually a person who needs pictures with something because as long as I can remember something it is worth it, but I will have a picture with all four trophies because that doesn’t happen too often. We should make sure we have this picture. But we will not stop. We have internal challenges, we can improve, each player,” Klopp said.
No matter how a rival tries to water down Liverpool’s remarkable collective achievement, what even the staunchest critics can’t deny is the truth behind the individual stories of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, Andy Robertson, and not least of all, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson, whose career riddled with very many many individual challenges.
Receiving a bad review from perhaps the greatest modern football managers, Alex Ferguson, regarding a physiological defect in Henderson’s running stance, would have crippled the confidence of any 19-year-old with dreams of becoming a professional footballer. Yet, his arch-nemesis, Sir Kenny Dalglish almost to prove a point signed the midfielder from Sunderland. The next Liverpool managers tried to offload Henderson in a part-exchange deal for Fulham’s Clint Dempsey.
The Liverpool captain recently admitted he broke down to tears and requested for a chance to prove himself, in 2012. Eight years since Brendan Rodgers is no longer at the club, and Jordan Henderson is the man who quietly, without pomp or procession, shovels the coal into the fiery furnace of this Liverpool machinery. The Liverpool captain is a modern-day Stakhanovite, a miner mining for tiny slivers of gold in the dark, until it amounted to four trophies and memories, like the compound interest that makes every moment to get here worth it.
How is he not then an umbilical cord that ties the average, working-class joe to the glitz of football? And how is this Liverpool team, filled to the brim of hard-luck stories turning ignominy to glory, not something to abide by and inspire? In a world filled with debt and despair, with pan-industry job cuts, is it not heartwarming to see an everyman, someone written-off, aspires to pick up the broken pieces of three lost finals only to come back to win four major trophies in the span of a year?
Jurgen Klopp emphasised ‘consistency’ as the bedrock of this Liverpool team: “The consistency comes from the mix of determination, buying into the idea, character, attitude and personality that makes this group special. They are still humble. As long as we stay humble we have a good chance to stay successful in the future too.”
The Liverpool manager is speaking about the players as much he’s speaking to the fans. As if to disciple any doubt, he added: “If you don’t see that we don’t do it for you, I can’t help you. Five years ago I asked you to change from doubters to believers and the second before the press conference I had no idea that anybody would ask it. And you did it! You made us happen, really.”
Liverpool have finished the season on 99 points. This included a record-equalling 32 wins. They have crowned Champions with seven games remaining, faster than any team in the 132-year-old history of the English first division. They swagger, they stormed the gates but also conceded the least amount of goals in the entire league (33). Their coronation was delayed, but the re-taking of their perch was not denied. The world is richer for it.
There have been pointless comparisons on social media and the press with the Invincibles of Arsenal of 2004-05 and Manchester United treble-winning team (FA Cup, Premier League, Champions League). Objectively, the Liverpool team that came second last season had more points registered than either of Manchester United or Arsenal’s best. No English team in the history of the sport have held the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, Club World Cup and the Premier League in a calendar year. And to do it in the manner in which they did, in the context of the situation that surrounds us, at a time when the collective spirit of humankind has been injured, makes them the Unforgettables. Indubitably.
Jose Mourinho celebrating Tottenham’s sixth place consolidation of their Europa League spot has ironically turned him into the kind of manager he berated – Arsene Wenger, whose team were regularly was taunted for celebrating the fourth spot as a trophy.
One of Mourinho’s remaining nemesis, Pep Guardiola, can take confidence from the fact that there is Champions League football to look forward to after the CAS ruling of Manchester City clearing the team of any financial wrongdoings. With that, we fully anticipate, he will splash the cash on reinforcing their already burgeoning, talent-laden squad. Manchester City finished second with 81 points and nine losses.
Another team who will be forking out top dollar is Frank Lampard’s young Chelsea side. This season, no other team in the top 10 have leaked more goals than them – 54, which is even more than Burnley, Sheffield United, and Wolves conceded. Despite their wastefulness, a rapid-fire front line and a competent midfield meant they just about finished fourth with 66 points. Their spot like third-placed Manchester United was guaranteed on the final game-day. Both Manchester United and Chelsea finished the season off with 66 points.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team registered a nervy 0-2 win vs Champions league contenders Leicester City, who could have pipped both Chelsea and the Manchester-based side. An added time red card for former Manchester United player Johnny Evans sealed Leicester’s fate. The Foxes will now be competing with Tottenham in the Europa League next season.
Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich City return to the EFL Championship after being relegated. While Marcelo Bielsa-powered Leeds United return to the English top-flight since 2003. 2nd placed in the Championship, West Brom are also returning to the Premier League.
Brentford, Fulham, Cardiff and Swansea will face off in the upcoming Championship playoff to decide the final team to be promoted.
Euro 2020: England's Bukayo Saka urges social media platforms to step up efforts in fight against online racial abuse
After the 19-year-old's spot-kick was saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma to seal Italy's triumph at Wembley on Sunday, the Arsenal star was targeted by trolls online along with teammates Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who also missed penalties.
The 29-year-old Son has compiled 107 goals and 64 assists in 280 appearances in all competitions since joining Tottenham from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.
The 25-year-old Gray joins from Bayer Leverkusen, where he had been on loan from Leicester. The contract, till June 2024, includes the option for a fourth year.