Here’s a question. Why aren’t Liverpool the bookmakers’ favourites for next season’s Premier League title?
This isn’t glib. And don’t be hoping for an answer because I don’t have one. Not a good one, anyway.
Any considered thought of this question just throws up more and more reasons why Liverpool should be comfortable favourites.
At the moment, it’s Manchester City who head the betting at around even money with the defending champions available at nearly 2/1. Now, with all the usual caveats about how you never see a bookie on a bike and so forth applied, that just seems mental. Those prices are the wrong way round, surely. Especially when you consider that Liverpool usually start the season a daftly prohibitive price due to the sheer weight of money that gets chucked on them every year.
There are just so many reasons to think they should win it again, and so few to think they shouldn’t. First and most obviously, they’ve just won the league by about a million points. That’s a good starting point.
Second is one potential negative that is easily turned back the other way: they weren’t that great during Project Restart. But that’s mainly because they didn’t need to be. Liverpool’s season, in a meaningful on-field sense, was over as soon as football was halted in March. The glory may have been rubber-stamped in June, but it was all sorted long before.
What that means is that Liverpool are the one team who might actually start the new season suitably rested. Having quite rightly treated the restart as a victory lap, they haven’t been at full tilt since March. Compare that to everyone else. City had the Champions League, dragging their season right into the middle of August for, ultimately, nothing, while everyone else was forced to scramble like mad for league position or cup success while Liverpool had the cigars and slippers out.
And worries that they may not be able to simply switch back on are allayed by a look at last pre-season. Having had one of the most ridiculous Premier League seasons ever and backed it up with a sixth European crown, Liverpool went completely missing during pre-season. Any kind of reaction one way or the other to pre-season is always foolish, but there were concerns being aired after defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Sevilla and then a thrashing against Napoli. SPOILER ALERT: It was pretty much all fine in the end.
All great teams have a shelf life, but this doesn’t feel like the end for this Liverpool team, or at least it doesn’t have to be. There is no tangible reason why this squad shouldn’t again prove itself comfortably the best in the country as long as they remain determined to do so. That’s the one intangible – having scaled the mountain can they do so again? – but they are nearly 2/1 in a two-horse race against an opponent who feel far nearer the end of their particular cycle.
And, for all the noise coming from elsewhere, it really is a two-horse race barring something extraordinary.
Whatever qualities your Lampards, your Solskjaers and the Artetas of this world bring to their teams – and they all bring something – it doesn’t yet look like being the flint-eyed relentless consistency required to challenge the top two.
You can rule nothing out, of course. Chelsea have recruited well and may well be the most interesting of The Projects currently in their infancy. United might manage to get 50 penalties. Arsenal might treat league games like FA Cup games. But they’re all double-figure prices and rightly so, as are Spurs despite perplexing signs of a coherent and pragmatic transfer strategy and, even more astonishingly, Mourinho and Levy remaining, for now, on the same page. But again, they’re not a team Liverpool will currently be too vexed about and nor are the 200/1 trio behind the ‘big six’ in the betting: Leicester, Wolves and, er, Leeds.
Liverpool have the best team, have had the longest rest, have shown they can jump straight back into it when it matters and whatever doubts might exist about the Reds are dwarfed by those elsewhere.
So…why aren’t Liverpool the bookmakers’ favourites for next season’s Premier League title? Seriously.