What now for Liverpool after ending Premier League title drought?
LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom – Liverpool's romp to a first league title in 30 years with a record 7 games of the season remaining could herald a golden new era for the Reds with Jurgen Klopp at the helm.
Klopp has delivered the holy grail of a long-awaited league title to Anfield, a year after winning the club's sixth European Cup. (READ: 'A season for the ages': Liverpool crowned Premier League champion)
Further records could yet tumble before the season is out, with Liverpool on course for an all-time high Premier League points tally and the biggest-ever margin of victory.
A 23-point gap to Manchester City is all the more remarkable given how Pep Guardiola's men themselves have raised the bar in recent seasons.
"How is it possible anybody is 20 points ahead of this team?" Klopp himself said after watching City's 5-0 demolition of Burnley on Monday.
City's brilliance has pushed Liverpool to new heights.
Even during the trophy-laden 1970s and ‘80s at Anfield, Liverpool never amassed as many points as they have in losing just two of their past 70 league games.
A 4-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace on Wednesday was a 23rd consecutive Premier League win at home.
"It is not over yet, that's the good thing," said an emotional Klopp, who extended his contract until 2024 earlier this season. "The team all look like they have a good few years in their legs."
The club has also tied down a core group of key players to long contracts over the past two years.
Wayne Rooney helped win 5 of Alex Ferguson's 13 league titles during the Scot's spell as Manchester United manager and believes Klopp could leave a similar legacy.
"They have huge potential to win more trophies," Rooney, a former Everton and United captain, begrudgingly admitted in his Sunday Times column.
"Klopp says it's impossible for any club to dominate like United once did but he is wrong," added Rooney. "There's a simple way for Liverpool: let Klopp go on and on."
City boss Guardiola highlighted Liverpool's "passion" as the key component his side could not match.
And Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson urged his teammates to remain "hungry" and "keep wanting more" next season.
More than a two-horse race
However, plenty of hurdles stand in Liverpool's way if it’s to establish such a spell of dominance, principally City's reaction to losing its title.
"When we retained the title we were the first for 10 years so you know how difficult it is to do that," Guardiola warned this week.
As it stands, City will also be banned from European competition for the next two seasons.
Should its appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport next month fail it could be a fatal blow in the push to convince Guardiola to stay beyond the end of his contract in 2021, but would also allow City to concentrate their resources on toppling Liverpool domestically.
Unlike the past two seasons, the title race may be more than a two-horse race in 2020-2021.
Chelsea's 2-1 win over City on Thursday was the result that finally crowned Liverpool champions and the Blues have already stated their intention to challenge with the signings of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech.
Manchester United is unbeaten in 13 games, with the January signing of Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes transforming their fortunes.
Other factors such as the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, still scheduled to take place from January 10 to February 8, could also play a huge role in Liverpool's title defense should Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane be absent for two months in the middle of the season.
The return of the AFCON to the European winter had seen Werner strongly linked with a move to Anfield.
However, the economic fallout from coronavirus meant Liverpool was not willing to commit to meeting the German international's 60 million euro ($67 million) buyout clause from RB Leipzig.
The chemistry between Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino has been key to Liverpool's rise from struggling to qualify for the Champions League to the dizzy heights of European and English champions.
"The front three we know are as good as anything in Europe," said former Liverpool captain Jamie Carragher.
"They don't miss too many games but when they do there is a massive drop-off and that's why I feel Liverpool still need to strengthen."
For the first time in 3 decades, though, Liverpool can build from a position of strength to tighten their grip on the Premier League rather than playing catch-up. – Rappler.com