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Keys to the title: How Liverpool ended 30 years of hurt to become Premier League champions

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Liverpool's charismatic boss Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool's charismatic boss Jurgen Klopp

PA

Liverpool's charismatic boss Jurgen Klopp

Liverpool’s remarkable, record-breaking season has seen their first top-flight title in 30 years achieved quicker than any other team in history.

Wrapping up the Championship with seven matches to go eclipses the previous best for a 38-game season of five remaining set by Manchester United in 2000-01 and Manchester City (2017-18).

Here, we look at the keys to their remarkable success and some of the big games and moments that took them to their first crown since 1990.

1. Inspirational leader

Jurgen Klopp, the Reds’ charismatic manager, has been the driving force behind the club’s resurgence since his arrival in October 2015 and this season is the culmination of his pledge to “turn doubters into believers”. Unlike in previous years, the German has been less cheerleader and more wise, old head as he has let the football do his talking and has spent most of the campaign maintaining a level head. But even if he has been keeping the players grounded, his drive to maintain the very highest standards has ensured they have not been allowed to ease off at any point.

2. Case for the defence

Liverpool have far and away the tightest defence in the league, and that is after keeping just two clean sheets in their first eight matches when goalkeeper Alisson was out injured. It is no coincidence that since the Brazil international’s return they have kept 11 in 21 games, with 10 coming in 11 matches between the beginning of January and the end of February which ensured their rivals were unable to eat into the impressive lead they had established. Virgil van Dijk has maybe not hit the imperious heights of last season when he won PFA Player of the Year but he remains Liverpool’s linchpin.

3. Fortress Anfield

Home form has been a major factor in Liverpool’s success over the last couple of seasons. They have not lost a league match at Anfield since April 2017 and a new record of 22 successive home wins (scoring 63 goals and conceding just 15) broke their own record set by Bill Shankly’s team of 1972. They have scored more goals at home than any other Premier League side in their 15 matches so far.

4. Mentality

Impossible to quantify but their never-say-die attitude has been evident in many matches this season. The perfect example was at Aston Villa back in November when they trailed 1-0 with three minutes to go and Klopp’s side ended up winning. In their too-close-to-call title race with City last season, Klopp called his players “mentality monsters” and they have proved that again with their unrelenting desire to win when games are tight. Almost a third of all their goals have been scored in the final 20 minutes.

The key matches

October 20: Manchester United 1-1 Liverpool

Liverpool, in a strangely impotent performance considering their form, were staring at a first league defeat in nine months courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s strike in the first half. However, substitute Adam Lallana’s first goal in almost two-and-a-half years rescued their unbeaten record five minutes from time.

November 2: Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool

This match produced possibly the most significant five minutes of the whole campaign. Trailing to Trezeguet’s first-half goal, Andy Robertson popped up with a rare goal to equalise with an 87th-minute header before Sadio Mane glanced in Trent Alexander-Arnold’s corner in added-on time. Defeat would have reduced Liverpool’s lead at the top to just three points with main rivals Manchester City their next opponents.

November 10: Liverpool 3-1 Manchester City

Liverpool never looked like allowing the visitors to close the gap as despite Pep Guardiola’s side dominating the opening exchanges, they went behind to a brilliant Fabinho goal. Mohamed Salah and Mane extended the advantage which meant Bernardo Silva’s late effort was little consolation as Klopp’s side opened up a nine-point gap to defending champions City.

December 26: Leicester 0-4 Liverpool

Billed as a genuine test for Klopp’s side on their return from Qatar as Club World Cup champions, second-placed Leicester were blown away. Two for Roberto Firmino and one apiece for James Milner and Alexander-Arnold extended Liverpool’s advantage to 13 points.

January 19, 2020: Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United

The day Liverpool fans dared to believe their long wait for a title was coming to an end. An early Van Dijk header was followed by Salah’s breakaway goal in stoppage time, but the lateness of the second strike did not do justice to the dominance they had throughout the game. Victory stretched the gap to City to 16 points and, for the first time in a very long time, the Kop sang “We’re going to win the league”. And now they have.

Belfast Telegraph