It’s official: Man United have become Everton
The Reds only have themselves to blame for a putrid showing against Erik ten Hag’s side on Sunday, on a day when their fiercest rivals turned up and approached the game like relegation fodder.
Sky Sports sound-bite Roy Keane can put on a faux outrage about Virgil van Dijk’s comments all he likes, but this is what United have become.
They essentially sacrificed almost all attacking intent to play for a 0-0 draw at Anfield, and if Liverpool had even been mediocre on the day, they would have coasted to victory.
This was like watching so many Merseyside derbies down the years, with the Blues often battling to an ugly and defence-minded stalemate.
How the mighty have fallen
Ten Hag’s approach ultimately worked, but Liverpool’s sloppiness was the reason for that, and this wasn’t an afternoon to truly gauge the Merseysiders’ Premier League title hopes.
That will arrive on Saturday evening, when top-of-the-table Arsenal make the trip to Anfield, for what already feels like something of a defining 90 minutes in the title race.
The Gunners came close to going all the way last season, and while not always wholly convincing this time around, they have been made steelier by the arrival of Declan Rice, and their ability to score late goals is arguably as good as Liverpool’s.
Mikel Arteta’s side should have learned so much from their late-season capitulation in 2022/23, and there are a growing number of people in the game swaying towards them being favourites to go all the way. They feel increasingly complete.
What happens this weekend is going to put such a different spin on the title race, with all three outcomes likely to be telling.
A Liverpool win would be no shock, considering their largely imperious home form this season – Sunday was their first dropped points there in the Premier League – and it would be an incredible shot in the arm that suggests the reaction to the United match has been over-the-top.
Liverpool Need to Improve
The Reds will need to be so much better, however, or they will leave with nothing.
An Arsenal victory would not only be a severe dent to the Reds’ prospects, but also be one of the most important results of Arteta’s tenure to date, especially given his penchant for having meltdowns at Anfield.
Not only would it put the Gunners four points ahead of Liverpool, which would immediately be a tricky gap to claw back, but it would also see their confidence grow and the Reds’ shrink.
A draw would be an adequate result for both sides, but it would also play into the hands of Man City, who are always capable of hitting ludicrously consistent form in the second half of the season, especially with Kevin De Bruyne back.
There was an overconfidence from Liverpool supporters ahead of the United clash, but the game always felt like it had the potential to be a hard watch, in a fixture that can often throw up surprise results.
Saturday’s meeting with Arsenal promises to be a thriller, though. Both teams will attack, creating space in dangerous areas, and Klopp and Arteta will be preparing for a fascinating tactical battle all week.
Liverpool’s chances of winning a second Premier League title will look so much clearer come Sunday morning, with the difference between winning and losing this weekend feeling vast.