It seems premature to worry about the fate of the title race in mid-August, but with the bar now set by the Premier League’s top two, four points dropped from two games seems like a lot.
After their opening weekend draw at Fulham, Liverpool were held again last night, this time by Crystal Palace here at Anfield, while Manchester City swept away West Ham and Bournemouth in convincing and ominous fashion.
If this were a Formula 1 Grand Prix, you’d already fear the fun was over, with the champions on pole having arrived at the first corner unscathed and already out of the way.
In pre-season testing (read: the Community Shield), it looked like Liverpool had all the momentum going from the start. Now increasingly racked with injury and suspension too, after Darwin Nunez’s crazy red card, they need the safety car.
Jurgen Klopp was without Joel Matip, Ibrahima Konate, Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Roberto Firmino and Diogo Jota for the Eagles visit, while Joe Gomez and Naby Keita were deemed fit enough only for the bench.
The sight of Nat Phillips – who didn’t do much – drafted in at centre-back, brought back memories of not being in contention for the title two seasons ago, when Liverpool finally finished third, 17 points behind City amid a defensive injury crisis. , rather than the epic of the last quarter, when they were divided by one.
Don’t worry, the XI Klopp was able to field, which included at least seven of his first-choice squad and was led from the start for the first time by £64million summer signing Nunez, is still expected in have enough to get the job done and maybe they would have if the Uruguayan or Mo Salah had taken one of the first chances offered by the excellent Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Instead, they were torn apart in the 32nd minute by a devastating counter-attack, completed by Wilfried Zaha, and only caught Palace after Luis Diaz was stunned just after the hour mark.
It happened just minutes after Nunez was shown a red card for a brainless header on Joachim Andersen and, despite everything they were outplayed, Palace, with a man advantage, really could have winning it, Zaha missing his best chance as he found the outside of the post stretching to meet a cross with his right foot when he should have used his left.
It was an impressive performance away from Palace and a big draw for Patrick Vieira’s side, who were given a nightmarish start by the match computer, with Arsenal on opening night and City coming ahead of the game. end of August. A loss at Anfield would have put undue pressure on the weekend’s encounter with Aston Villa, where another defeat could suddenly have seen the Eagles staring down the barrel of four in a row to start the campaign.
Klopp said last weekend that his side’s 2-2 at Craven Cottage felt like a loss and here he could at least take solace in a much improved display and defiant response following the dismissal of Nunez.
“Really good,” Klopp said. “I told the boys after the game that I was proud, and I am – that’s how I feel.”
However, the 55-year-old will surely wonder, in the context of the title race, how much damage has already been done. Perhaps with a World Cup sandwiched in the middle, this could be the season where standards at the top slip out of necessity.
Perhaps things could even look a lot different this time next week, with City traveling to Newcastle on Sunday for a game with all sorts of wider meanings, while Liverpool travel to whipsaw Manchester United on Monday night.
Or perhaps it will take until mid-October, when City travel to Anfield, for Liverpool to have a chance to fight back. Surely, until then, they can’t let the pacemakers stray any further.