Man City Were the Premier Leagues Gold Standard - But Liverpool Will Show Theyve Been Replaced

Sunday October 4, 2015. 

Liverpool had just emerged from the Merseyside derby with Everton at Goodison Park having ground out a pretty depressing 1-1 draw, leaving them 10th in the Premier League table.

As a result, then manager Brendan Rodgers was fired by the club's hierarchy, even though he had come so close to ending a 24-year wait for top flight title success just 18 months previously. 


In truth, though, things had gone sour on the red half of Merseyside. 


The Reds lacked impetus, verve and and defensive organisation. Recruitment in the summer had been, on reflection, appalling, and a number of players simply weren't good enough.

Brendan Rodgers

Then everything changed on Thursday October 8, 2015.


Jurgen Klopp was appointed ​Liverpool manager.


Since that day, the tide has turned. 


Slowly but surely, to begin with, the former Borussia Dortmund boss began to unpick the mess that had been left for him. An eighth place finish was about all he could do with his side during that maiden campaign as Klopp implemented a brand new training regime, began to impose his footballing philosophy on his players and came to the realisation that half of them weren't good enough.


While he was doing that, Pep Guardiola was taking the reins at Manchester City after conquering the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich for three years.


The Spaniard had been confirmed as the new Citizens boss as early as February 2016, but had seen out his contract in Germany before taking over from the ousted Manuel Pellegrini.

TOPSHOT-FBL-ENG-PR-MAN-CITY-GUARDIOLA

City, like Liverpool, needed to alter things in order to reassert their title winning credentials, though not quite on the same scale. The difference, without stating the obvious, is that they had the financial muscle to make widespread changes immediately.


Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sané, John Stones and Claudio Bravo walked through the arrivals door during that 2016 summer, and a January deal for Gabriel Jesus was agreed with Palmeiras. To compensate, the axe with wielded on many club favourites - all on loan - as Joe Hart and Samir Nasri were sent packing, alongside peripheral figures Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala.


Klopp, meanwhile, had been busy trimming the fat over at Liverpool, though he needed sales rather than loans. Jordon Ibe, Joe Allen, Christian Benteke and Martin Skrtel were all culled, as well as Mario Balotelli, who just two years after joining the Reds in a panic buy £16m deal, was allowed to to scarper to the French Riviera for free.


Signings were few and far between but were a key indicator of where Liverpool would be heading under Klopp. ​Sadio Mané was snared from Southampton for a cool £30m, Georginio Wijnaldum joined from recently relegated Newcastle and Joël Matip rolled in from Schalke on a free transfer.

FBL-ENG-PR-CHELSEA-LIVERPOOL

All three remain at Anfield to this day - and that in itself is significant to where we find ourselves three years later. 


City, maiden campaign aside, have been all-conquering since Guardiola arrived. They have won back-to-back ​Premier League titles over the past two seasons and in that time have accrued a record breaking 198 points; 100 during the 2017/18 season and 98 in their successful title defence.


During that 2017/18 season, Liverpool finished 25 points adrift of City, maintaining the place they had earned in the top four the year before. On the surface, that seems like the Reds were a long way behind.


They were.


But it's also a reflection of just how good ​City were that year.


The signs of what was to follow were perhaps evident in Klopp's transfer dealings. Like the year before, Liverpool acted decisively, adding a select group of players - ​Mohamed Salah, Andrew Robertson, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Virgil van Dijk - who would help transition Liverpool from being a good side into a great side. 

By the end of 2018, it was abundantly clear that Klopp had transformed his side into an entirely different proposition, capable of taking on and beating the very best in the world. The Reds had gone 20 games unbeaten to start the Premier League season, were seven points clear of City at the top of the table and had scored 48 goals and conceded just eight; a goal difference of +40.


Though they would fail to hold on, being overhauled by City with nine games to go, this was no collapse. Far from it, Liverpool were relentless in their pursuit of a maiden Premier League crown. They were simply beaten by the, marginally, better team. 


This time though, it wasn't by 25 points. It was by one point. No Liverpool fan in their wildest dreams would ever have thought their side could close the gap so quickly, in such a short amount of time. But they did - they finished on a record breaking, for a team finishing second, 97 points and they won the Champions League to boot.

UEFA Champions League"Tottenham Hotspur FC v Liverpool FC"

Now, they're primed and ready to wrest top spot away from City as the gold standard of the Premier League. 


Some would say they already are - being six points clear after claiming 31 points from a possible 33 - though others would say this is the real acid test. Some would say that City are vulnerable, as they've had off days already this season losing to Wolves and Norwich, though others would point to the fact they won the league last season after losing four times. Liverpool lost just once.


Whoever is right, there is no denying that Liverpool are the team to beat right now. That one defeat - against City at the Etihad - is the only time they have walked away with nothing from their last 49 Premier League outings. Their record in that time is phenomenal: Played 49, Won 40, Drawn 8, Lost 1, Points 129.


One hundred and twenty nine. 


For the record, that figure condensed down to a 38-game season would see them pick up...exactly 100 points.


So make no mistake, Liverpool are ready to win their first Premier League title - and this weekend, we may see the loosening of City's grip on proceedings with an Anfield show to behold.


For more from Toby Cudworth, follow him on Twitter!



Source : 90min

Source: 90min