Jurgen Klopp is adamant the Premier League title race will go down to the wire. He insists it is premature to discuss ending Liverpool’s long wait for the crown. But while there are many months of the season still to run, and while there is the small matter of a trip to Manchester City to come on Thursday, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep a lid on the optimism.
Liverpool moved nine points clear on Saturday, their 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal ensuring they did it in brilliant style. Just hours after Tottenham had crumbled to a 3-1 loss against Wolves, Klopp’s men fought back from a goal down to blow their opponents away. It was their ninth consecutive Premier League win and arguably their best attacking display of the season.
Such an emphatic scoreline looked unlikely after Ainsley Maitland-Niles slid home Alex Iwobi’s cross in the 11th minute – but only briefly. Within five minutes, Liverpool were in front. By the end of the half, the contest was over. Roberto Firmino’s hat-trick goal, slotted home from the penalty spot midway through the second half, capped a perfect day for the hosts.
Liverpool’s unbeaten run goes on. They have taken 54 points from a possible 60 this season. If they continue at their current rate they will finish the campaign with 103, breaking the record set by Pep Guardiola’s City just seven months ago.
Their success so far has been built on sturdy defensive foundations – Arsenal’s opener at Anfield was only the eighth goal they have conceded all season – but it is their attack that has made the difference recently. Having won a string of games by a single goal in the early months of the campaign, Liverpool are now destroying opponents with ominous regularity.
They have scored 21 times in their last six Premier League games and that total could easily be higher. Rather than fading as the games pile up, Klopp’s side seem to be getting better and better.
It is less than two months since Arsenal held them to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium but this time they could not cope with their intensity. Liverpool were too fast, too powerful, and their relentless improvement was typified by Firmino. The Brazilian had started the season in relatively quiet form but he was the catalyst for their comeback on Saturday.
Firmino was in the right place at the right time to tap home the equaliser following a fortuitous deflection, but there was nothing lucky about his second goal as he waltzed through Arsenal’s defence and slotted his finish past the advancing Bernd Leno after Sadio Mane had robbed Lucas Torreira in midfield.
Firmino walked off with the match ball at the end of it but Salah and Mane were similarly impressive. The pair combined devastatingly for Liverpool’s third, Salah prodding Andrew Robertson’s long pass across goal for Mane to score. The Egyptian then won the penalty for the fourth, converting it himself to further extend Liverpool’s lead on the stroke of half-time.
Having struggled to replicate their output in the early months of the campaign, Liverpool’s front three are now firing on all cylinders. And what’s even more troubling for their rivals is that fatigue does not appear to be an issue. This was Liverpool’s eighth game in a packed month but their intensity was unrelenting.
Liverpool outran their opponents by 114.8km to 112.7km and their pressing was ferocious. As early as the second minute, an under-pressure Leno could be seen nervously passing the ball out of play. According to Opta, Liverpool won possession the final third nine times over the course of the 90 minutes – their second-highest total in any game all season.
There were moments of sloppiness in the first half, with Fabinho squandering possession in dangerous positions on a couple of occasions, but such errors matter little when Liverpool’s attack is in this kind of form. City should put up more of a fight than Arsenal on Thursday, but Klopp’s men go to the Etihad having scored nine goals in their last three meetings.
On this evidence, Liverpool have the stamina to produce more of the same, and there seems little prospect of them losing focus, either.
“For sure today with the Tottenham result there are people saying we acted on that, but there was absolutely no reaction, no smiles on the faces,” said Klopp afterwards. “It is not allowed to have any influence on our game. We have three days to prepare. We need the time to recover but now we will prepare, clearly.”
It is clear, too, that they will take some stopping. Klopp is not getting carried away, he knows there is still a long way to go, but Liverpool are out in front and they are growing stronger by the week.