Leicester reminded us why they won the title last season with a ruthless destruction of Liverpool, as the Reds showed us why a top four spot could be beyond them this season.
LEICESTER’S RARE MASTERCLASS – BUT QUESTIONS NEED ANSWERING
It almost felt like 2016. This time last year, Leicester City were blitzing most before them on their way to the most unlikely of Premier League titles – the likes of which we’ll never likely see again.
This season hasn’t so much been a wake-up call, but more a reverting to type. Everyone knew this Leicester side realy that good – this season’s form (the Champions League aside) was merely proving that point. If you’d proclaimed in th summer that the Foxes “would struggle this season”, you’d neither be Mystic Meg, not would you be the world’s greatest soothsayer.
However, after the controversial sacking of Claudio Ranieri last week – an act that Gary Neville branded Leicester’s players “despicable” for – the Foxes rewound time to put on a display that was purely vintage 2016.
Jamie Vardy scored twice to show us that he still knows where the net is, while Danny Drinkwater also netted a trademark screamer. More importantly, the entire team played as a unit, defended with vigour and attacked with pace and swagger: exactly the ingredients they’d shown when marching towards last season’s title triumph.
Play like this and there’s no doubting Leicester will stay up with ease. However, despite player denials about their role in Ranieri’s sacking, this performance will raise more questions than answers about just what went wrong this season.
Leicester were great, but you couldn’t help feel even more sympathy for the deposed Ranieri as a result.
KLOPP AND LIVERPOOL FACE TOP SIX BATTLE, LET ALONE TOP FOUR
As good as Leicester were, you couldn’t help but feel Liverpool played their part in handing them victory. The malaise set in from virtually the first kick, with some careless passing allowing the Foxes to gain the early initiative. By the time Vardy opened the scoring, the only surprise was that the opener had taken so long to arrive.
The injury absence of Jordan Henderson was an obvious blow to the Reds and his replacement, Emre Can, just doesn’t have the energy or drive needed to become a regular at a top club like Liverpool.
In fact the Reds looked limited. Exposed. Flimsy….
But Can wasn’t the only one below his best and it would be unfair to berate him alone; the entire team’s performance served as a stark reminder why Liverpool need serious investment this summer.
Liverpool’s capitulation since the turn of the year means the Reds face a serious fight to reach the top four. It’s a battle I’m now convinced they’ll lose.
With Chelsea looking virtually assured of top spot, the race for the top four is now essentially a six-way fight to finish second, third or fourth – and I’m not discounting the much-improved Everton from the reckoning either.
Which team is most likely to miss out on a Champions League spot?
Of those teams in that battle, you’d have to say that Spurs and Manchester City look safer bets to finish above the Reds. While Arsenal also look vulnerable this season, the form of the teams directly below them, Man Utd and the aforementioned Everton suggests Liverpool face a huge uphill struggle. Two wins in 12 games tells you everything you need to know about their form and how poor they have been….
Klopp actually has a transfer balance sheet in the black since joining Liverpool: if the club are to return to Europe’s top table, then four or five quality additions will have to arrive in the summer to ensure they can at least sustain their challenge next term.