Liverpool remain title favourites but don't expect perfection
The last three years have seen something close to perfection achieved from the eventual Premier League champions.
On two occasions, Man City took home the glory, before Liverpool got the better of their rivals emphatically last season, finally get their hands on another league crown.
City reached 100 points in 2017/18, swatting everyone aside and playing some of the most unstoppable attacking football in the history of the English game.
The following year, their relentless battle with Liverpool was one of the all-time great title duels, with a solitary point separating them in the end.
Ninety-eight was enough to get Pep Guardiola’s men over the finish line, with City winning all of their last 14 matches and the Reds losing once all season, away at the Etihad.
Rather than feel sorry for themselves, Liverpool roared back last season, dismantling all who stood before them, on their way to a club-record 99 points. Had they not been crowned champions so early, that total would almost certainly have been higher.
What we have witnessed during this period has been unprecedented, with two magnificent sides finding outrageous levels of consistency and resolve, reaching points tallies that have seemed almost unfathomable in the past.
But this isn’t the norm, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.
The truth is that these last three years have been unrivalled, and in decades to come, supporters will look back at this brief spell and applaud something special.
With COVID-19 still affecting the world, and the lack of supporters at grounds acting as a leveller, this season was always going to feel slightly different.
While it may not be football as we know it, we are seeing a more normal season take place when it comes to the title race.
After 13 matches, Liverpool lead the way by three points, with the likes of Tottenham, City, Chelsea and possibly even Man United all believing they have a chance of going all the way in 2020/21.
Even teams such as Southampton and Leicester may feel they could do the unthinkable if they build up some serious momentum. It’s highly unlikely, but you never know.
Whoever does end up being crowned champions will be nowhere near that 100-point mark this time around, with draws and defeats arriving at a far more regular rate.
Liverpool are already nine points worse off than they were at this stage in 2019/20, yet still lead the way.
Klopp’s men are currently averaging 2.15 points per game in the league – if they continue at that rate until the campaign reaches its conclusion, they will amass 81 points.
That is the exact amount Leicester won the title with in 2015/16, while five other teams have gone all the way with an inferior tally – United in 1996/97 (75), 1998/99 (79), 2000/01 (80) and 2010/11 (80), and Arsenal in 1997/98 (78).
Some football lovers enjoy being nostalgic and thinking those United and Arsenal teams were unplayable, but they would drop points left, right and centre, invariably finding momentum at the back-end of the season.
A draw against an inferior team, or even a defeat, was rarely disastrous, whereas in the past three years it has felt fatal for Liverpool and City.
We have allowed this recent brilliance to cloud our memories, instead of remembering that most champions win the league having lost around five games, with 90 points often seen as outstanding.
This season is going to be far more like that, which is why something like last Sunday’s disappointing 1-1 draw at Fulham should cause no alarm.
Results of that ilk are going to keep happening between now and May, whether it be Liverpool, City or any of the chasing pack, as we revert to the pre-2017/18 numbers that often occurred.
Liverpool visit Crystal Palace on Saturday lunchtime and they may slip up – if that happens, there should be no panic, or claims that the Reds’ title hopes have taken an almighty blow.
We’re just seeing how normal title races play out, rather than freakish ones.