Liverpool are already eight points behind Man City in the title race but Jamie Carragher called out an advantage for the Reds early on.
Liverpool’s hopes of wrestling the Premier League title back off Manchester City may not look particularly promising at the moment, but there could be plenty of twists and turns to come.
Two draws and a defeat in their opening three matches saw Jurgen Klopp’s side surprisingly drop seven points in August, handing an immediate initiative to Pep Guardiola’s side, who currently sit eight points above the Reds and a point behind early pace-setters Arsenal, albeit the Merseyside club does have a game in hand.
Last season also showed observers that the FA Cup and Carabao Cup holders are more than capable of chasing down a deficit, coming from 14 points adrift of City to push them all the way to the final minutes of the season in pursuit of the league title. But if the Reds’ results, performances and injury list has been a cause for dissatisfaction in the early knockings of a season that will be played out in two parts, comments from Jamie Carragher before the new campaign got underway offer a ray of hope.
Appearing on The Overlap, alongside broadcast partner Gary Neville, Carragher offered up an alternative viewpoint after Neville suggested that he wouldn’t be surprised if Manchester City won the league by a large points margin this time around.
Carragher said: “Two things, look Man City are favourites, I think most people in the room would think City would win the league. I think, there’s a couple of things that I’m maybe hanging on to with Liverpool is the fact that, I think once Virgil van Dijk was up to speed last season – you got the first three or four months out of the season – in the second half of the season, him and the goalkeeper [Alisson Becker] were absolutely what you would expect them to be and what they’ve been for the last three or four years.
“If you get them [Liverpool] at their best, at the very sort of start at the season, and don’t forget, every season van Dijk has been at Liverpool a full season, Liverpool have got over 90 points and the other thing is that Liverpool have got sort of three or four top players.
“I don’t know about City to be honest; it might be the same, not going to the World Cup. So, Luis Díaz is not going, [Mohamed] Salah’s not going. I don’t really know City, but there’s a few decent players from Liverpool I think, you know, could that make a difference in the second half of the season.”
Despite Liverpool’s indifferent campaign opening, the sentiment of Carragher’s comments still ring true. Van Dijk has not been at his very best in the first six weeks of the season, but now has regular defensive partner Joel Matip alongside him, with whom he is sure to re-establish his dominance.
The Premier League’s season will take a six-week break for the first ever winter World Cup after the weekend of November 12/13 and resume on December 26 (Boxing Day). Neither Diaz or Salah will partake in the competition, affording them a month-and-a-half break from football.
Football is quite literally a game of two halves but never has that divide been more evident than in the 2022/23 season. If Van Dijk can quickly get back to his best and the inconvenience of the World Cup provides an opportunity to keep some of the Reds’ star players fresh, then we could yet see a title run-in that provides all the drama and excitement of the last one, just as Carragher had hoped for.