Well it finally happened. After going unbeaten for the last 44 Premier League games, Liverpool finally lost. Over the weekend, 19th place Watford put out a very defensive setup and won the physical battle over Liverpool’s high back line and shocked the world with a deserved 3-0 win.
Liverpool may have been wildly successful in the Premier League but they have been vulnerable many times. Liverpool left it late in the Champions League group stage. Yes, they won the group but lost to Napoli, drew to RB Salzburg, and won the group on the last day when they could’ve been knocked out. In addition, Liverpool faces a 1-0 deficit to Atlético Madrid in the round of 16.
Liverpool has been struggling ever since the winter break. On top of the Champions League defeat, a 1-0 win to last place Norwich and a 3-2 win to West Ham were both games where Liverpool was in real danger of losing. They gained a reputation for pulling out a miracle win no matter the circumstances and while that’s a great skill and mentality to have, there’s a fine line between believing you are going to get the win no matter what and believing you are going to get the win no matter what so you can be on autopilot the entire game.
I hate the logic that losing actually helps a team because every team should be trying to win but maybe this is useful for Liverpool. As great as their record is, they aren’t even close to perfect. Especially now that captain Jordan Henderson has been injured. They have vulnerabilities and a well-coached team like Watford can, and did, exploit that. Now that Liverpool knows they can be beaten, it’s the kick in the pants to get them back in gear and start up a new streak. Liverpool had a 17-game Premier League win streak before drawing to Manchester United. Liverpool answered that with a top-flight record tying 18-game PL win streak.
In other words, Liverpool has shown to be a team who can usually come back from a loss better than before, and that might come at the perfect time. Even though the idea of being “invincible” is gone, Liverpool still has a chance to do something only Manchester United has ever done. Win the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League treble.
Despite the loss, Liverpool is up 22 points to newly crowned EFL Cup champs Manchester City. Even with Man City’s game in hand and assuming City beats Liverpool in April, that puts the margin down to 16 points. Assuming Manchester City wins every game (which isn’t a guarantee) Liverpool only need to win four games in order to clinch the Premier League. Spare me the “choker” stereotype, not even Liverpool can mess this up. If the powers that be cancel the rest of the Premier League due to the Coronavirus and that keeps Liverpool from winning, maybe that’s the case but if that doesn’t happen, Liverpool is winning the title.
So now that they lost, and are up by so many points, Liverpool can put the Premier League on the back burner in favor of the FA Cup and Champions League. Liverpool had been mostly playing the U23’s in the FA Cup but now that it’s the round of 16 and Liverpool is facing Chelsea, it may be time to get the starters in there. Next week, Liverpool play the second leg of the round of 16 leg against Atlético Madrid while down 1-0. We knew Liverpool was going to play the starters but now with the Watford loss, it means some people may get a rest against Bournemouth this weekend to be ready for Atlético.
With the potential added focus, Liverpool can still do something special, that “something special” is now different than what it was a week ago. Despite the setback, it’s still a spot just about every team would love to be in, so I can’t see the Watford loss being a sign of things to come. Liverpool is still on pace to win between three and five trophies this season.
[Photo: Liverpool FC]