MICAH RICHARDS: Win it by miles again and Liverpool will be the best EVER (but Marcelo Bielsa might just have something up his sleeve for them)… plus Foden and Greenwood must learn from their mistake
- If Liverpool dominate once again, they’ll be the greatest Premier League team
- Should they do it, Jurgen Klopp’s men would better Arsenal’s Invincibles squad
- To win it again by another wide margin would be a stunning achievement
- However, they face a tougher opener against Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds at Anfield
- Mason Greenwood and Phil Foden must learn from their mistake on England duty
In his first ever Sportsmail column, Micah Richards believes Liverpool can write themselves into the history books by repeating last season’s dominant title run
If Liverpool win the title this season by clear daylight once again, we will be talking about the greatest team in Premier League history.
That might seem a big thing for a former Manchester City player to say, given the rivalry that has developed in recent years between the clubs.
I’m also making the statement as someone who was an Arsenal fan as young lad. I idolised the Invincibles and never thought they would be surpassed.
But if Liverpool march away from the pack as they did last year, we will have to give them the ultimate acknowledgement. To win it again by another wide margin would be stunning as the challenge they face is completely different — and even more intense.
The world changes after you become champions. When I won the title with City in 2012 I heard people say we failed to retain it the next year as we’d lost hunger, but that was rubbish. The hunger never, ever goes. Believe me, when you win it once, you want it again.
Hunger won’t be a problem for Jurgen Klopp and his players. I look at their squad and I see strong characters. They have become accustomed to being successful, adding the Champions League, the Super Cup and Club World Cup, and they will be greedy for more. It was the same for us at City.
Winning the FA Cup in 2011 made us feel like we were a coming force. We fostered a spirit, there was a buzz because we had signed so many big players and it all felt right for us to deliver. We added the Community Shield, too.
What we struggled with, I believe, was the change in how we were perceived after we had become champions. We had put so much into winning the first title — and did it so dramatically — it took so much out of us. I’m not sure we fully understood how those around us were going to come for us.
Suddenly, you are the team who everyone hates and there is a difference to the tempo of games.
Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool dominated the campaign to win their first Premier League title
Should Liverpool walk the league again, they would surpass Arsenal’s Invincibles team
Liverpool aren’t the underdogs anymore, so how will they adjust to pressure? When you are champions, people resent you. Have a look at the guard of honour City gave to Liverpool in July. Bernardo Silva, for one, was highlighted because he looked uninterested when he was clapping and walked off before it had ended.
I don’t advocate bad sportsmanship but I know what he was thinking. The mentality of elite players means they are never satisfied. They can’t stand seeing rivals win.
How, then, could Bernardo or any other City player have enjoyed standing in a line with their title gone? Liverpool are going to find themselves under attack from all angles.
It suited us at City to be the ones doing the chasing and I’d say Klopp’s team have relished the last two years when they had a target. How will they cope with the change in the roles?
Klopp has done an incredible job. When he came to Liverpool in October 2015, I was very much a disbeliever. I couldn’t possibly see a time in the near future when Liverpool would be champions and it seemed to me that they would just be happy to get back in the top four.
To turn it around and make them one of the best teams in the world is absolutely remarkable.
After I won the title with City in 2012, our perception changed as a team and we struggled
Just look at the front three and their development. People questioned the £34million they spent on Sadio Mane in 2016, but he is one of many outstanding buys. And what about their defence.
Trent Alexander-Arnold has the potential to become England’s greatest right back. Joe Gomez is the best young English central defender to emerge in the last 10 years. Virgil van Dijk could play in any era.
Perhaps Liverpool are a little bit light in terms of squad numbers and it would concern me if Roberto Firmino suffered a bad injury because they cannot play the way they want without him.
They could do with more depth, but I have sympathy for Klopp and what he can do to bolster his group. There has been a lot of excitement around them signing Thiago Alcantara from Bayern Munich, but it isn’t that easy.
Thiago is world-class but if Liverpool sign him, think how James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will feel. They played a part to get the club where they wanted to be only to see someone jump ahead of them.
Liverpool are a little bit light in terms of squad numbers and key injuries will hamper them
One of the aspects Klopp has done so well is forge a team spirit, a mind-set where everyone is together, and he won’t want to put that in jeopardy. You can shake off the odd bad result but the wrong signing at the wrong time can have huge consequences.
City are many people’s favourites — and my tip — for the title because they have more strength in depth. I know they finished 18 points behind last season but they haven’t become a bad team and they will be ferocious in their efforts to become champions.
This is without me mentioning how Chelsea have improved, how much Manchester United want to fight for the big prizes and what a challenging year it is going to be with so many games squeezed into such a short space of time.
If Liverpool overcome all this to win their 20th title in 2021 in the manner they ended a 30-year wait, we will have seen something extraordinary. It’s why we would have to regard them as the best of modern times.
FODEN AND GREENWOOD MUST LEARN FROM THEIR MISTAKE
The biggest story of the week left me feeling let down. I will always try my best to support players, but there is no defending Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood.
I was surprised when I heard that Foden was involved in bringing two Icelandic girls back to England’s team hotel and breaching the strict protocols England had put in place for coronavirus. He’s a quiet lad and an unlikely candidate to be involved in this kind of situation.
Neither he nor Greenwood, however, need me to join in the public condemnation.
I know from a time early in my career, how it feels to be on the front page of a newspaper, having caused embarrassment for my family.
I’ll try my best to support players, but there is no defending Phil Foden and Mason Greenwood
It was not a nice experience feeling that I had let people down.
When you become an England player, you move into a different sphere. But when you are a teenager, you don’t fully understand the world you are going into.
You play football, you are well rewarded, but mentally you still want to be doing all the things your mates do. It’s impossible to do that. Foden and Greenwood will know now the level of scrutiny and exposure and the sting from being in the wrong.
The only positive I took from what happened to me was that it helped me become mentally strong.
You only get one opportunity at being a footballer. When I won my first England cap at 18, I thought I would end up with 60 or 70.
When I won the title with City, I thought I’d collect another four or five. I finished with 13 England caps and one Premier League medal.
My point is that things can happen and the dreams and expectations you had disappear.
You get one shot at being a footballer – your dreams and expectations can disappear in a flash
Foden and Greenwood are the country’s two most exciting young talents and I believe they will have long, successful careers. Foden could become the best player City have ever produced.
They don’t need unnecessary distractions getting in their way.
These kids need to be protected now and must learn from their mistakes. They also need to understand just how fortunate they are to be doing what they are doing. It’s a cliche but it’s true. Bad decisions put it all in the balance.
The thing I am most looking forward to on the opening weekend is the tactical battle between Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa.
Liverpool v Leeds at Anfield would have been a fantastic occasion with fans, but in an empty stadium the game will be intriguing nonetheless.
We know how Liverpool are going to play and Klopp promised yesterday that Leeds would face ‘the most intense game of their lives’. But what I am fascinated about is what Bielsa will do.
I am really looking forward to the tactical battle between Jurgen Klopp and Marcelo Bielsa
He and Pep Guardiola are probably the only two coaches in the world who, at the last minute, will do something completely left-field — and that’s why I am not sure whether Leeds will press high up the pitch like they did in the Championship.
The challenge facing Leeds is a little easier with no fans inside Anfield — trust me, with a crowd in there, it can feel like you are being squeezed from all sides — but I just wonder what Bielsa has up his sleeve.
It will be fantastic to watch.
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