Liverpool Premier League title myth spells trouble for Jurgen Klopp

This Premier League season is a freak, an anomaly that will forever be regarded separate to anything before or after.

Having a minuscule number of supporters attend for a tiny fraction of matches tends to have that effect.

But while exceptionally unusual, it’s perhaps not quite as unprecedented as some people are making out.

At least not where the race for the championship is concerned.

Much excitement has been generated by the fact less than 10 points cover the top nine after 18 games, each team no doubt still fancying their chances of a title tilt.

It’s slightly misleading with Manchester City having a game in hand which would put them a point clear at the top if won, but the giddiness is not entirely misplaced.

After the processions of the last three seasons – first City in 2017/18, then Pep Guardiola’s side and Liverpool scrapping it out the following year before, last term, the Reds sauntering home – having so many teams in the mix approaching the halfway point is somewhat different.

What it isn’t, though, is entirely odd.

Consider the same stage of the 2013/14 season when eight points covered a top eight that included all of the usual suspects plus Everton and Newcastle United. Arsenal were top by one point.

And two years later, nine points covered the top seven after 18 games with Leicester City leading the way by a solitary point.

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What those seasons tell us is that the next quarter of the campaign will determine who can maintain their challenge, clubs gradually falling away in the race.

In 2014, with 10 games remaining only four clubs had a realistic title tilt. In 2016, it was down to three.

Liverpool, then, have plenty of time to address their current shortcomings and make a decisive move as they attempt to retain the crown for the first time since 1984.

But history also delivers a warning.

The team that has won the championship has been placed in the top two after 18 games in each of the last 11 seasons. Ahead of Leicester’s match v Chelsea on Tuesday, Manchester United and neighbours City occupied those slots before the Foxes leapfrogged them both, Liverpool are down in fourth.

The last team to win the title when outside the top two at the 18-game mark was Manchester United in 2008/09.

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Leading the way after 18 games that campaign? Liverpool.

In fact, it’s the only time since 1999 such a situation has occurred, although in 2001/02 Liverpool, then third at the 18-game mark, had a game in hand where they could have overhauled eventual champions Arsenal, who stood in second place.

This strange season isn’t entirely without precedent. Jurgen Klopp and his players, though, will hope it is in at least one way.

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