When checking the bookmakers’ odds this morning for this season’s Premier League title winner, I was surprised to see Liverpool as long as 6/1 with some outlets.
Manchester City are favourites – by some distance – with Chelsea next. Ourselves and Manchester United come in at roughly joint-third in the running.
So, the bookies think a side managed by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has as much chance of securing the title as Jurgen Klopp’s proven winners? Fair enough.
This rhetoric all started before a ball was kicked, of course. BBC Sport did a big piece before the season started in which their pundits predicted the outcome of this season’s race.
Of all 20 former players and current journalists asked, only three picked Liverpool in either of the top two places for 2021/22 – and none as champions.
Check out the list, here:
How BBC Sport pundits predicted the title race before this season started: pic.twitter.com/oQ2GDhtiMp
— Jordan Chamberlain (@Jordan_AC90) September 14, 2021
Remember, we finished ahead of Chelsea last season. We came third to their fourth, despite our most injury-ravaged, mentally unstabling campaign in living memory. Yes, they won the Champions League and added Romelu Lukaku (a great signing) to their ranks – but are they automatically in a better position than Klopp’s fit-again Liverpool side? I don’t think so. Watching both teams play out that frustrating draw two weeks ago at Anfield only strengthens that view.
Since Liverpool lost to Fulham in March, we’ve played 14 Premier League games, winning 11 and drawing three. We’re the in-form team in the country – and most of that run was done without Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip – who yet again look like the best central defensive partnership in the country since their return.
Yet nobody in the media thinks we’re ready for the title? Again – fair enough.
For me, this is indicative of a football world (run by clicks, social media numbers and big, yellow headlines) addicted to transfers. Pundits have been sucked in. The overall feeling is that because we haven’t brought in a blockbuster signing our chances of glory this term are practically nil. And while I’d have loved another attacker to bring off the bench, there is absolutely nothing wrong with our starting XI – and the squad as a whole is just as strong as it was during our Champions League and Premier League wins – with the wonderful addition of Thiago in midfield, Diogo Jota up top and Ibrahima Konate on the bench. I would have added Harvey Elliott to this list, but sadly Saturday’s incident writes the youngster off until at least after Christmas.
It’s important to note that the summer before we won the title, the only senior player signed was Adrian. We then went on to win 24 and draw one of our first 25 matches and wrap the title up before anyone else has in history. Signings help, especially good ones – but they’re not direct indicators of success by any means.
Everyone at United was excited about Jadon Sancho, but he can’t tie Mo Salah’s boots. City got Jack Grealish for £100m, but he’s no Sadio Mane. Rapha Varane has been lauded as an excellent transfer, but have you seen how Matip’s started this season? The only incoming player in all of the Premier League this summer who would have massively boosted Liverpool is Lukaku – and I’m ok with the club not spending £100m on a 28-year-old given our current forwards are of a similar age.
In short, I think we’re really, really good – and the performance against Leeds (who admittedly played into our hands) – was scintillating. Write us off at your peril. It was only the second time van Dijk and Thiago have started together, and they both oozed class in crucial central areas. As Andrew Beasley points out on Twitter, it’s no surprise our defence has suddenly stopped leaking goals now we can finally use a consistent partnership at the back.
31 minutes into yesterday's match, Matip and van Dijk moved onto their 301st minute of the season together…
…meaning they've played more minutes as a partnership than any combination of Gomez, Matip & van Dijk managed last season. Funny how the clean sheets keep occurring…
— Andrew Beasley 💙 (@BassTunedToRed) September 13, 2021
We have never lost a game when Fabinho and Thiago have started together in midfield, either. Elliott’s injury is gutting, but at least in Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita (not to mention James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Curtis Jones) we have a number of experienced, excellent players to complete the triumvirate. Fab and Thiago should be considered automatic picks for me – likely with captain Hendo joining them in big games.
Trent Alexander-Arnold is playing as well as he ever has. His form dipped last term post-Covid, but right now, he’s the Premier League’s most creative force – and it’s not even close. He’s a right-back, remember, Gareth Southgate.
Most chances created in the Premier League this season:
20 – Trent Alexander-Arnold
13 – Jack Grealish, Mohamed Salah
Mind the gap. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/tTa70x3RXd
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 12, 2021
Alisson has been similarly imperious and looks to have overcome his own issues with form. Andy Robertson is Andy Robertson – and at least we have the plucky Kostas Tsimikas to give him a breather.
Up top, we’re short of backup, but Roberto Firmino could be back by the weekend and the current trio are flying. Mo Salah is the best player in the Premier League and it’s criminal nobody in the media realises it. He’s not a striker. He starts on the right-wing and is actually rarely in the box; yet every time he is – he scores. The hype is about Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukaku and Harry Kane, but Salah will score as many goals as those no.9s while starting on the touchline. The only concern RE Mo is his contract, but that won’t change his performances this season.
Mo Salah is just an outrageously good footy player 🇪🇬👑
One of Liverpool’s best ever 💯pic.twitter.com/ow6jfDxTJJ
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) September 13, 2021
So, in summary – let them write us off. Let them focus on the shiny new transfers while our proven bunch of winners – who are all in their prime and fit – do what they do best.
We’ll need luck with injuries this season, but so will everybody. No side wins the title without good fortune and big moments. And I like us as underdogs. It suits a Klopp team – who need to run and fight. I think we’ve been quietly fantastic this term and the only goal we’ve conceded has been a lucky flick-on header that looped over Ali’s head. Things are good. Great, actually. Let’s trust the players, trust the manager and enjoy a proper football season in which anything is possible now fans are back in the stands.