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Liverpool should fully enjoy their title triumph but it's what happens next that will define them

Daniel McDonnell


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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Fans celebrate Liverpool FC winning the Premier League title outside Anfield after Chelsea beat Manchester City tonight ensuring Liverpool FC can no longer be overtaken on points on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool have won 18 league championships already with the last title win in 1989-90 under Kenny Dalglish. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Fans celebrate Liverpool FC winning the Premier League title outside Anfield after Chelsea beat Manchester City tonight ensuring Liverpool FC can no longer be overtaken on points on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool have won 18 league championships already with the last title win in 1989-90 under Kenny Dalglish. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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Liverpool fans let off fireworks outside Anfield, Liverpool. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 25, 2020. Liverpool have been crowned Premier League champions this evening after Manchester City lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Liverpool fans let off fireworks outside Anfield, Liverpool. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 25, 2020. Liverpool have been crowned Premier League champions this evening after Manchester City lost 2-1 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

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Liverpool fans celebrate outside in Liverpool after they are crowned Premier League champions after Manchester City lost 2-1 against Chelsea. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 25, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

Liverpool fans celebrate outside in Liverpool after they are crowned Premier League champions after Manchester City lost 2-1 against Chelsea. PA Photo. Issue date: Thursday June 25, 2020. See PA story SOCCER Liverpool. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25:  A Liverpool fan celebrates as his team clinches the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: A Liverpool fan celebrates as his team clinches the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25:  Liverpool fans celebrate as their team clinch the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Liverpool fans celebrate as their team clinch the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25:  Liverpool fans celebrate as their team clinch the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Liverpool fans celebrate as their team clinch the Premier League title on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25:  Liverpool fans celebrate their team winning the Premier League title outside the stadium after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on June 25, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Liverpool fans celebrate their team winning the Premier League title outside the stadium after the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City at Stamford Bridge on June 25, 2020 in London, United Kingdom. Liverpool are crowned Premier League champions as nearest rivals Manchester City fail to be Chelsea. Liverpool claim their first championship in 30 years. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JUNE 25: Fans celebrate Liverpool FC winning the Premier League title outside Anfield after Chelsea beat Manchester City tonight ensuring Liverpool FC can no longer be overtaken on points on June 25, 2020 in Liverpool, England. Liverpool have won 18 league championships already with the last title win in 1989-90 under Kenny Dalglish. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The slightly anticlimactic nature of the coronation does not diminish the achievement. It’s Liverpool’s utter domination that drained the drama from this year’s Premier League.

Some title races are defined by a magical intervention or a catastrophic slip, a twist of fate that could have spawned a different story. But the search for a turning point of this campaign is utterly futile. The moment that Liverpool won the league?

Pretty much every moment of the season was leading towards the inevitable conclusion.

The record-breaking run, and the ruminations over when they would claim the title rather than if they would, has allowed ample time to consider their standing. And there are conflicting views on what defines greatness.

Does the side who blast their way to one title in spectacular style leave a legacy that ranks them above teams who notch them up in a routine fashion?

It will always come down to personal preference but, as it stands, Liverpool have now won as many leagues in the modern era as Leicester.

Manchester City were going for their fifth in the space of nine years this term. Chelsea notched titles either side of Leicester’s fairytale story. It’s one thing to own a season, another to wrest control of a decade.

Seizing on points per games tallies or other statistical angles to point out how good they were in the 2019/’20 campaign doesn’t compare with the sustained excellence of the great teams of the 1970s and 1980s. It’s staying power that matters.

That may be lost in the commentary around the success because of what Liverpool means to hardcore fans on Merseyside that have lived through the near misses. The symbolism of what Jurgen Klopp’s side have managed to do is undeniable. Liverpool’s title famine is traced back to the grief of Hillsborough and the end of another era, so the emotion of this triumph is raw.

It ticks an important box, but the next challenge is to become the outstanding team of this generation.

They’ve still got work to do on that front, much as their Champions League joy last term following on from an agonising near miss in their almost flawless head-to-head with City means they can’t declared as one season wonders.

From there, they generated serious momentum to relentlessly march towards their league destiny. They are obviously a special group but it’s what happens next that will truly define them. Retaining the league brings new pressures.

They are fully entitled to enjoy the celebrations, but stalwarts of a golden era will tell them that it’s doing it more than once that provides the real satisfaction.

There is a sensitivity in Liverpool circles to the point being made that it hasn’t been a vintage year. But it was always going to be a two-horse race, and when City began to creak, with deficiencies in their squad exposed, it was Liverpool’s title to lose.

They’ve won it with so much to spare that they would have seen off a stronger version of City, yet Pep’s Guardiola’s unconvincing team were the only credible rival.

Arsenal and Spurs were flagging and had to change managers. Chelsea are in transition. Manchester United are gearing up for another strong finish that masks the road they still have left to travel. Leicester just have to keep their nerve to qualify for the Champions League, with Wolves and even Sheffield United sniffing around the premises too.

The range of teams that were in contention for a top-four spot before the shutdown is less about strength in depth and more about a levelling out of quality.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea team peaked in 2004/’05, when they finished 37 points ahead of a fifth-placed Liverpool side that was able to win the Champions League.

Nobody could feasibly claim that this year’s chasing pack would be capable of replicating that if pitched into the latter rounds.

Indeed, the view that this Liverpool team are unstoppable is tackled by their mediocre defence of their Champions League crown.

Granted, it may not have been the priority so it would be unwise to place too much emphasis on the underwhelming group stage outings. Yet the manner of their exit to Atletico Madrid did raise questions.

A kind interpretation is that they were finding it so easy in domestic fare that they actually lacked a certain level of match sharpness when faced with a sturdy opponent with a steelier edge than the Premier opponents they are able to wear down from week to week.

Maybe it was just an off-day but it should serve as the motivation to strive for more.

Their European away record has left significant room for improvement too; they are a sensational team to watch in full flow but they can get better too and that should worry everybody else.

Hence the belief this should represent the start of something rather than the end of a chase. With Manchester City’s fate tied in with UEFA’s desire to get tough, all the signs are pointing to a sustained period of control.

The age profile is reasonably good. There are no indications the manager has plans to go anywhere and he seems to be a stable presence as opposed to a demanding presence with a shelf-life ala Mourinho. Financially, they are on solid footing.

All the ingredients are there to rack up a sequence, but retaining a trophy tests desire and resolution in a different way to the pursuit of it. They’re not back on their perch yet. But it feels like it should only be a matter of time.

Belfast Telegraph