Lads in red: Can the already impressive Liverpool stop Manchester City?

Liverpool Mohamed Salah

New signing Naby Keita got away from two West Ham players as he pushed up the field from midfield. To his left was an overlapping Andy Robertson, who’d been bombing up and down for most of the match. In the D-box was lurking the holy trinity of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah. Robertson drilled a low cross across the face of the goal in the area of uncertainty where neither the goalie nor the Hammers’ defence could clear. Salah gently stabbed the ball home from five or so yards away to score Liverpool’s first goal in the Premier League this season.

And so began the dreams. The dreams they, the Liverpool fans have been seeing for more than two decades. The dream of this being finally their year of breaking the Premier League duck since the tournament was renamed.

Anfield erupted to the wild cheers of the 53,000 or more Kopites who couldn’t contain themselves. They went onto win by a handsome margin of 4-0. Dominance in attack, composed in defence and pact midfield. One simply can’t complain about Liverpool fans’ ecstasies after what their team had produced. After much promise last season, Liverpool ended up getting into the Champions League by the skin of their teeth. They ended up losing the Champions League final as well. But it’s a new season, a new beginning. And Liverpool already look more than up for it.

This season, Liverpool’s target in the Premier League is simple. To get better of the ever rampaging Manchester City. After his first season in England, Pep Guardiola was ridiculed for ‘getting exposed’ and what not. He was the main attraction of banters, trolls for not being able to crack it in the biggest and the most competitive league in the world. Guardiola took notice. And the following 2017-18 season, fans saw an absolutely devastating Manchester City who literally ripped apart the record books. Most consecutive wins in a Premier League season, most points, most goals, most away wins, fewest losses- you name it. Guardiola got City dancing to his tune and the music they created was a treat to everyone’s eyes. Even a City hater would’ve to admit just how entertaining and destructive they were. Free scoring Liverpool couldn’t crack their defence in their first encounter at The Etihad. Therefore, much has been anticipated on who, or if anyone, can actually beat Guardiola’s marauding squad to the EPL title of 2018-19 season.

Being rational and seeing what the first game week brought us, it definitely looks like City would once again be the prime candidate to win the League. And it also showed that the title would be won by any one of the top six teams. Arsenal, Tottenham looked the most underwhelming. Manchester United were decent in their win against Leicester but lacked that title winning vibe and cutting edge. Chelsea were composed but, no disrespect to Huddersfield, you can’t judge a prime title contender by their performance against a team who might very well be fighting relegation. City were absolutely majestic. While the scoreline may not suggest so, they indeed were a class apart.

And then, there is Liverpool. Agreed, beating West Ham may not go a long way of proving their abilities, but The Hammers have had one of the best transfer windows this time. They’ve signed players like Marko Arnautovic, Andriy Yarmolenko, Filipe Anderson. With that attack, they’re capable of giving anyone a hard time. But Liverpool weren’t fuzzed at all. Instead, they showed their class. Apart from the front three, the most stand out player was undoubtedly Naby Keita. With his aggressiveness and intensity in the midfield, the Guinea midfielder also displayed his vision and an eye for goal. With everything working in their favour, Liverpool really look like a prime candidate to City’s title this season.

One might say that Liverpool’s fringe players aren’t that impressive. To some extent, that statement is true. But manager Jurgen Klopp showed last season that he can indeed get the best out of those players. The squad depth is still a doubt for Liverpool. But let’s not forget, this was more or less the same squad that took them to the showcase final of the Champions League last season. If anything, they’ve only gone on and improved the squad with the signings of Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Keita (who was already signed last season). But Liverpool’s main ace is their manager. Klopp, someone who always manages to get the better of Guardiola. When every defence was falling apart in front of City, Klopp’s team only conceded once over two legs in the Champions League last eight against City. So we can see that Klopp can also shut up shop against the very first.

But it’s still early days of the season. There’s still 37 matches left in the Premier League. And not to mention the FA, Carabao cup games and European journey in the build up. For a long and tiring season like this, one needs a squad big enough to sustain the fatigue and the injuries to players. Take City for example. Kevin De Bruyne has been ruled out for around three months but there are players like Bernardo Silva, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez who are already queuing up to perform. But for Liverpool, that may not be the case. Having said that, if Klopp can achieve what he did last season with that squad, who’s to say he won’t improve and win the prized one this season with an upgraded squad? Exciting times await for Liverpool. 2018-19 may very well be the year all those Liverpool and EPL title jokes are put to bed.

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