The last three months have been a weird kind of purgatory for Liverpool fans.
The pandemic-enforced hiatus - a phrase never before used in professional European football prior to this year - was bookended by shock defeats to Watford and Atletico Madrid and an awkward, disjointed draw to Everton.
Off the field, brought on by the special kind of chaos of COVID-19, there was the furloughing fiasco, the null and void/asterisk chat and then Timo Werner joined Chelsea.
The latter more than anything else (perhaps predictably) was enough to send Liverpool Twitter over the edge, with swathes of angry Firmino and Mane avatars battering keyboards about the lack of depth, the fear of being left behind by rivals and something, something FSG out!
Wednesday night then, as Trent Alexander-Arnold crashed home his 23rd-minute free-kick, served as a reminder, one that probably shouldn't have been needed at all, that this Liverpool team are *Derek Zoolander voice* really, really, ridiculously good.
This was, though admittedly against a relatively mediocre opponent, a performance that showed just why Liverpool are strolling to this Premier League title; simultaneously its earliest and latest ever winners.
Jurgen Klopp's side, having struggled to find a rhythm against Everton, were in full majestic flow once again against Crystal Palace, pressing and passing Roy Hodgson's normally well-organised side into oblivion.
All four goals were picture-perfect Goal of the Month contenders; a one-game highlight reel of Liverpool's ruthless break, incision in behind and when that's not possible, ability to just crack one from range.
Teenage substitutes Neco Williams and Harvey Elliott were also impressive in their second-half cameos, harassing and driving forward with the relentless determination of youth, despite the game already long since won.
There has been talk of Liverpool's need to sign players like Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Kylian Mbappe to take them to some idealised Next Level and build a Sir Alex Ferguson-esque dynasty.
However, in the era of COVID, it will be more important than ever to lean on the best of the flourishing academy - as Ferguson, of course, also did better than anyone - and allow the likes of Elliott the chance to prove themselves as in-house solutions to £100m problems.
After all, Jadon Sancho only became this Jadon Sancho when given the chance.
Williams, in particular, shone in his 15-minute Premier League debut.
The Wrexham-born 19-year-old has been with the club since he was six years old and looked, on Wednesday night, for all the world as if he had spent those 13 years specifically learning Klopp's gegenpressing demands.
The right back, sporting the number 76, was even unlucky not to score after some neat footwork opened up space for a shot on the edge of the area.
Add Curtis Jones, Rhian Brewster, Ki-Jana Hoever and more to the mix and the future looks bright for Liverpool. But - and again, this should be obvious - so does the present.
30 Premier League goal involvements for Trent Alexander-Arnold.— 90min (@90min_Football) June 24, 2020
Special talent. ⭐ pic.twitter.com/OJ3MTtbK5n
Think for a moment about the challenge facing Williams. He is 19, homegrown, immensely talented and on the verge of a first-team breakthrough at one of the biggest and best clubs in the world. In his way, however, stands a 21-year-old homegrown right back already established as perhaps the best in the world in his position, setting new records for assists for a defender season after season.
How Klopp manages to find a way to find space for the rising tide of starlets will be, to use a football cliche, 'a positive headache' for the manager to have.
The average age of the starting lineup on Wednesday was just 26.7, while captain Jordan Henderson was the only player to have celebrated his 30th birthday. On top of that, no first-team regular player has a contract up this summer, or is being seriously linked with a move away and only Wijnaldum's future beyond next year carries a slight question mark at this moment in time.
This is a happy, settled squad, at the peak of their powers, capable of going toe to toe with the best and blitzing the rest, with a kind of consistency rarely - if ever - before seen in this division.
Presuming they seal the title by the Aston Villa game on 5 July, Liverpool will be the Premier League's earliest ever champions - a weird notion in July - while they can still also top the best-ever points tally (100) and number of wins (32).
The win over Palace highlighted with all the colour of Wednesday's banner-laden Kop that, just in case you'd forgotten amid everything else, they probably will.
Source : 90min