Mane
Sadio Mane salutes the crowd after his winner over Wolves. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: While it is hard to see past Liverpool ending their 30-year wait for an English league title, as 2019 draws to a close, it is worth while to look back and marvel at the progress of Jurgen Klopp’s team over the past 12 months.

Shell-shocked and down-hearted after missing out on the Premier League trophy in May, as Manchester City nudged them out by one point on their way to an unprecedented domestic silverware treble, the Reds of Anfield dusted themselves down to dismiss Tottenham Hotspur in Madrid and claim their fifth European crown.

That seemingly insatiable hunger for glory has propelled the team — led by Mo Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino up front and the steady head of Virgil Van Dijk and safe hands of Allison Becker at the back — to even greater aspirations during the current campaign.

Zero losses, and one paltry draw against Manchester United after 19 games has them towering over everyone else in England with a seemingly unbeatable 13-point advantage over nearest rivals Leicester City.

Defending champions Manchester City languish one point further back in third, and even the most pessimistic Liverpool fan must be thinking about venturing up to the attic to dust off their flags from the last coronation back in 1989-90, before the Premier League even existed.

Liverpool went one further, by claiming their first Club World Cup title in Doha earlier this month, defeating Flamengo 1-0 in the final after extra time.

Most guys would think this is the time to rest on those heaps of laurels, but — if anything — Klopp looks more and more determined to add to his swag for the Anfield trophy room.

Yes, there has been the odd aid of a dodgy VAR/referee decision on the way, but these things always even out (except for Sheffield — who seem to always be on the wrong end of such moments). The burgeoning talent and oozing confidence on show at Liverpool means it is impossible for them to throw this march to the title away.

We always have to bring the clouds with the good news and sadly it was not the struggles of Manchester United, Arsenal or even Watford that claim that rain shower — it is the misuse of VAR. This system, brought in this current season to ‘eradicate’ contentious issues such as hand-balls or offside goals, has simply added to the mire of confusion.

Not a week goes by where a controversial officiation is debated with colourful vitriol on social media, and there is no consensus as to how this new technology should be implemented. Even Fifa boss Gianni Infantino himself admitted that Premier League refs are misusing the VAR system by not using the touchline replay TVs and passing the buck to the guys upstairs.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola this weekend declared VAR a “big mess” after yet another weekend saw a series of controversial decisions.

“Every weekend is a big mess,” he said after defeating (you guessed it) Sheffield 2-0 on Sunday. “Hopefully next season, it can do better.

And that was from the winning manager.

Down at the bottom of the table there is the same old story of which teams will take the dreaded drop to the multimillionaire Championship league (poor guys). Newcastle and Sheffield have defied the odds and looks safe. Watford looked dead and buried but have rallied of late and make yet make the cut. Norwich City, Aston Villa, West Ham and Bournemouth should be the most worried, as Southampton and Watford should have enough talent to pull themselves out of the mire.

Standings

P W D L F A Pts

1 Liverpool 19 18 1 0 47 14 55

2 Leicester 20 13 3 4 43 19 42

3 Man City 20 13 2 5 54 23 41

4 Chelsea 20 11 2 7 35 28 35

5 Man Utd 20 8 7 5 32 23 31

6 Tottenham 20 8 6 6 36 29 30

7 Wolverhampton 20 7 9 4 29 25 30

8 Sheff Utd 20 7 8 5 23 19 29

9 Crystal Palace 20 7 6 7 18 22 27

10 Everton 20 7 4 9 23 30 25

11 Newcastle 20 7 4 9 20 30 25

12 Arsenal 20 5 9 6 26 30 24

13 Burnley 20 7 3 10 23 32 24

14 Brighton 20 6 5 9 24 28 23

15 Southampton 20 6 4 10 24 38 22

16 Bournemouth 20 5 5 10 20 28 20

17 West Ham 19 5 4 10 21 32 19

18 Aston Villa 20 5 3 12 25 36 18

19 Watford 20 3 7 10 15 33 16

20 Norwich 20 3 4 13 21 40 13