No shame here for Liverpool fans – they should do nothing other than shrug their shoulders at their club stumbling before the 100-point mark – who have celebrated and will continue to celebrate a first title win in 30 years claimed with consummate ease and with football that transcended all other iterations of this great club in the Premier League era. The only shame may be that the trophy was both won and presented without fans but that still leaves them with a delicious cake only shorn of icing. And the icing is often too sweet to eat anyway.
Jurgen Klopp insisted that he would lose no sleep over failing to breach Manchester City’s 100-point mark but the telling part of his denial were the six words that followed – “I don’t know if it comes” – because anybody with that degree of competitiveness and perfectionism will obsessively reflect on any missed opportunity. And this was undoubtedly a missed opportunity to claim a place at the table of immortality.
A place at that table would not automatically make this Liverpool side any better in the minds of those that watched those relentless victories claimed with both style and resilience, but it would make at least the idea of this Liverpool side better, especially to those looking back in the next decades. Is that important? It might not seem that way now but in 2032, when we are looking back at 40 years of the Premier League, will people credit this Liverpool side if this is their only title? When stacked against the Treble winners, the Invincibles and the Centurions, will Liverpool’s extraordinary season look ordinary on paper?
Dropping two points in 27 Premier League games and leaving an accomplished Manchester City side trailing in their wake should be enough to ensure this wonderful Liverpool side will never be forgotten but to those poring over league tables in the years to come, it will look like City failure rather than Liverpool triumph. And they really do deserve more than that. They deserve to be spoken about in the same terms as those great teams because their dominance was remorseless.
Some have argued that records mean nothing before listing records already broken (consecutive home wins, ‘earliest’ title win) but unless you knew who held those records before, it’s ridiculous to claim that they should carry any importance now. Rightly or wrongly, only certain measures count and Liverpool have breached none of them. There is no catchy moniker available to a team – aside from perhaps the self-referential ‘Unbearables’ – that will be remembered more for the circumstances of this season than their own brilliance. Unless they win more Premier League titles to leave their own legacy, they will always be the Covid champions who received their trophy in an empty stadium. The ignorant will even claim that was a factor when decades lie between this triumph and half-arsed analysis.
It’s not fair and there will be many who say they do not care, chief among them Liverpool fans high on triumph, but as the history of football gets longer and longer and it becomes harder to spot the bright spots of brilliance, we use records and milestones as our guide. It is inevitable. And the extraordinary nature of this Liverpool side will fade over time, just as Carlo Ancelotti’s free-scoring Chelsea side have become a footnote in the history books.
This is not a time to laugh at Liverpool for falling short of an arbitrary number – it’s embarrassing for any other club’s fans to laugh after being force-fed so much dust – but it might be a time to commit the excellence of this near-faultless team to memory before it is forgotten. Now that would be a shame.