Manchester City are flying right now but Liverpool showed in their victory over Watford that this season is far from a one-horse race.
Manchester City were at it again on Saturday, this time at West Ham. They effectively put the result to bed in the 34th minute when Leroy Sane scored his team’s third of four unanswered goals.
If it were a boxing bout, Manuel Pellegrini would have hurled a claret-coloured towel from the sidelines. City are just fabulous at the moment. Thirteen games played so far, 40 goals and 35 points out of a possible 39. It’s a shuddering thought that they could be better than last season. Think about it. Better than a 100-point team. What chance have the rest got?
Perhaps more than we think. Especially one team.
At the same time Guardiola’s artists were sculpting their umpteenth masterpiece of the season at the London Stadium, some 40 miles northwest at Vicarage Road, Klopp and his previously gung-ho gang of gegenpressers were locked in a serious scrap.
Liverpool went into the half-time break tied goalless with an increasingly confident Watford side. In the second half, while City were sauntering in east London, Liverpool survived a penalty call before Salah and Firmino scored either side of Alexander Arnold’s sumptuous dead ball strike. Unlike City, their victory was a struggle. But, just Like City, they won.
Liverpool are praised for their approach but not yet seen as City’s equal. A fair call. The Reds have scored 15 goals fewer than their rivals and have played the far less aesthetically pleasing football. Still, they sit just two points behind the favourites. It must be repeated. Two points! And this begs the question – are we not giving Klopp’s side the respect they deserve? Perhaps yes, we are.
One aspect that must please Klopp is that his front three are yet to hit their peak. The Merseysiders can improve. For starters, the formation can change. Against Watford, Firmino was playing pretty much as a creative midfielder. Maybe it’s time for a proper 4-3-3 with Wijnaldum, Fabinho and Keita behind the attacking triumvirate. Some fans may take umbrage, but the Brazilian and the Guinean at their best will offer more than Henderson and Milner.
The trick is to get the summer recruits fit and embedded as quickly as possible. Should Klopp manage that then he will have a first team that will lose nothing in comparison to City’s, plus he’ll still have genuine quality on the bench in reserve.
However, even if the effervescent German gets his best XI playing their highest quality football, it may not be enough. Guardiola is setting up a team to rival any that has come before him; we’re talking Ferguson’s Manchester United or Wenger’s great Arsenal sides.
Still, this Liverpool vintage at their finest can make things interesting. If they manage to keep the gap to two points and the attacking trident hit the heights we know they can, then the January 3 showdown at the Etihad could be a season-settling or season-altering affair.
The smart money will still be on City, but Liverpool will be a live dog with a dangerous bite to them. And should the Reds avoid defeat at the Ethiad, the rest of the season could make for some exceptional viewing.