Siao Mates Oct 02

Liverpool are going to win the Premier League title this season. Unless...


IT’S been an exciting season so far – especially for a neutral like me. 


With just 28 games played, we’ve already seen 103 goals scored and not a single goalless match.


There have been 20 penalties awarded, 18 of which were converted. And astonishingly, Manchester United, who set the Premier League record of 14 penalties awarded to a team last season, have had only one penalty given to them while conceding two.


Liverpool, in contrast, have scored two important goals out of two from the spot (in their 4-3 win against Leeds United at Anfield) and have had one penalty awarded against them (against Chelsea, which Alisson saved in their 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge).


WATCH: Alisson's journey at Liverpool so far


There have been controversies, most of which involving ridiculous handball laws that nobody seems to understand – not offenders, not those who benefit from penalties won as a result, not referees, not fans and, we suspect, not even the clowns who put the laws there in the first place. 


It used to be simple – intentional or not? And we left that to the referees to decide. Or, was it hand to ball (foul, obviously) or ball to hand (no foul)? And again, the referee’s decision was final, the only recourse being chants of the English equivalent of “referee kayu” from the fans (which are not present at the famous stadiums all over England during these times, although broadcasters would like you to imagine they’re there with that annoying fake crowd noise when you watch the matches on TV).


But you have to hand it to the International Football Association Board (IFAB) – the fellas responsible for football rules – for succeeding in complicating something so simple that even they themselves must have a facepalm moment every time a handball decision is reviewed. 


The question now, as we approach Matchday Four, is – no, not “was it handball?”, but – “Who will win the Premier League title?”


There are variations to that question, of course, depending on which team you love or hate, but they all seek the same answer.


Will Liverpool retain the title? That’s probably how Liverpool fans would approach the question. I’ll return to this in a while. 


WATCH: Klopp expects multiple challengers to Liverpool's title this season


Can Manchester City stop Liverpool winning back-to-back titles? That’s what United fans dreading another Liverpool title run that would equal their team’s league wins might ask. At this stage, a positive answer would probably be more highly-valued than Jadon Sancho’s signature.


A slightly tentative, “Could Arsenal win the title?” would be something some deluded fans of the Gunners might ask, despite their 3-1 loss at Anfield earlier this week. They might argue that they knocked Liverpool out of the most important English domestic competition for 17-year-old players and ageing ones who would struggle to make it to the bench on a normal matchday – the Carabao Cup (5-4 on penalties, after a goalless 90 minutes). Not my friend and fellow Siao Mate, the very sensible Noah Tan, of course, who probably wouldn’t waste money betting on his team to win, or, perhaps more prudently, bet against Liverpool retaining their title.


Can Frank Lampard do a Mourinho with Chelsea? The former Chelsea star and its current manager has spent the most so far among Premier League teams this season – which is what the “Special One” did when he first arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, and won his first Premier League title. A home loss to Liverpool after going down to 10 men and a great escape against West Bromwich Albion to get a point after going 0-3 down would suggest Lampard needs to strengthen his backline and offload Kepa Arizzabalaga, the most expensive flop between two sticks.


WATCH: Lampard aims to keep supporting Kepa


Other variants of the question include:


Can Spurs …? Don’t start, Edwin. It’ll only end in tears.


Or, can Leeds...please, shut up and drink your beer.


Which brings us back to the question: Will Liverpool retain their title this season?


As it stands, the two Manchester sides – United and City – haven’t truly settled, but after City were massacred 5-2 by Leicester at the Etihad, I get the feeling Pep Guardiola will continue to struggle like he did last season to keep up with Liverpool. I don’t know how many more matches he is allowed to lose in a season before he gets sacked, but I suspect this may well be his last season at Manchester City, even if he manages to complete it with a title.


WATCH: Bielsa discusses why he considers Guardiola a unique coach


Manchester United, meanwhile, are no longer the great team that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer played in. Sadly, the current side is a dream team for all Liverpool fans, and Solskjaer remains one of their favourite United managers of all time. 


The Norwegian appears hopelessly out of his depth when it comes to team selection. He is awkwardly passive – looking at the TV monitor beside him while his team languishes on the pitch awaiting direction and tactical substitutions, which hardly ever materialise. 


I wonder how long more before the fans and the United management lose patience at his meekness.


So, will it be Liverpool’s season again?


As a neutral, I really like what I see when Liverpool play. They look so lively and so energetic, and always appear to be enjoying themselves. They look relaxed even when they’re playing their pressing game, and even their reserves play like the first team.


As a neutral, I would rather they don’t win, though. It’s not fun to see one team dominate. But that’s what they do. They usually have the lion’s share of possession, and if not, are always just moments from getting the ball back. Opponents eventually crumble, and would be very lucky to escape death. It is their mental strength and sheer power that would see them get those wins. Manchester City are ruthless, but they can be beaten. Liverpool doesn’t seem to know how to lose, or give up. Manchester United, third last season, are, quite unfortunately, nowhere close to the Reds. They struggle against ordinary teams, giving their opponents acres of real estate to play in. I hope they’ll improve, but as long as Solskjaer remains, and as long as he remains loyal to the static pairing of Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, that’s not going to happen.


WATCH: Solskjaer puts his faith in Maguire and Bailly partnership


Arsenal are a season away from greatness, Spurs a lifetime, and Chelsea another £200 million. 


Which means it’s inevitable: Liverpool will win the title. Again. It will be their season. Again. So, I’ll say it once again, like I did last season, and was proved right: The title is Liverpool’s to lose. 


And if they do not win it this season, every Liverpool fan would understand: Football Siao’s Gold-maned Oracle jinxed their team.




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