Liverpool’s job this season has been clear, albeit incredibly difficult.
Pick up where you left off, somehow collect even more points than last year and beg Manchester City to win a few fewer games.
What actually happened during the campaign, however, was something completely different.
The Reds are well on their way to picking up a couple of points more than last season (they could still land on 104), while Manchester City could earn 20 odd points less.
Jurgen Klopp would never admit it, but his attention will already have passed to next season. The remaining six games of the campaign are a chance to gain an edge over the rest of the division, treating that period as a pre-season.
Records count, but trophies count more, and Liverpool know the importance of starting a season in flying form: this year, they have been at the top of the table since day one, without ever giving up first place, as City it slipped early.
The challenge for next season, to keep the Premier League title, is even more difficult ̵
Despite not having collected the trophy last season, the Reds have basically performed according to a winning standard, and therefore have already put together consecutive winning seasons, even if the history books do not show it. History suggests that it is almost impossible to put three together.
Speaking at the debriefing, live on Blood Red’s YouTube channel after the clash at the Etihad Stadium, Matt Addison said: “I said to join the game that this was an important game in terms of fiction for Liverpool.
“We know that Liverpool have been much better than Manchester City this year, but I think when we start the preview of next season, people will say, even if Liverpool could win the league by a record margin, ‘is a reminder of what the City can do and maybe the gap was not so big … ‘
“I’m not sure it’s an accurate picture. Liverpool have been significantly better, certainly on the defensive, and OK in the evening they haven’t shown it, but if you take the season as a whole rather than one-off like this, then what paints a more complete picture.
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“Going to next season will always be difficult for Liverpool because they have supported him for two seasons.
“They scored 97 points last season and haven’t won enough of the championship, but they actually performed as a championship win level for two consecutive seasons and it’s very rare to see any team doing it for three.
“Manchester United are the only team to win the Premier League three times in a row and in those days they didn’t have to recover points close to that number of points.
“Liverpool are entering unknown territory with the level they will have to continue to reach, but Liverpool have always known that next season would be that everyone started again from scratch.
“It will be very difficult for Liverpool to retain their title – it’s certainly not a shock.”
In fact, no team has ever won four consecutive first division titles. Huddersfield Town (1923–26), Arsenal (1932–35), Liverpool (1981–84) and Manchester United (twice: 1998–01; 2006–09) have managed all three, as the Reds will bet again.
But on none of those occasions was a total of around 100 points required.
Manchester United collected 90 points in 2008/09, but beat Liverpool with the title by four points and therefore could have finished with 87 points and still be crowned champion. And that was the highest score of any team that won three in the round.
If Liverpool maintains the inaugural title – and actually produces a winning performance for the third consecutive campaign – it will have to achieve a world-class level of consistency that no team has ever achieved before.
After two seasons of nearly 100 points, another may be needed. Even if not, by winning the title again next year, Liverpool would join an exclusive club.