FROM here it will be a major surprise if the Premier League does not have a new winner in May. Meanwhile, one of the founding members — a club that since 1992 has not been relegated — will go down in the most humiliating manner possible.
Soon, Manchester City will change their manager. So too will Chelsea. There is clamour for change at Arsenal, Manchester United and Everton. Claudio Ranieri might decide the Italy job is one he cannot reject. At the very top end of the table, things will remain as they are at Tottenham — but only if they do not lose their best players. For that to happen, it would go against recent convention.
One way or another, English football might look back upon this period as a turning point. Soon, the clubs that have not traditionally held an upward financial mobility will be awash with cash because of TV money while the established ones might not be able to attract the very best European players at their peak because they are not participating in the Champions League.
Last July, Crystal Palace were able to sign Yohan Cabaye from Paris Saint Germain. This July, West Ham United will not have to convince Zlatan Ibrahimović of their wealth but instead, of their ambition for him to be theirs. It is not unreasonable to think that next season will be even madder than this: one defined by rises and slumps that are not projected widely.
Where does this leave Liverpool — a team that supposedly has a head start on the others because of Jürgen Klopp’s appointment in October, and yet one that is presently ninth in the league and where they deserve to be?
The current position is a consequence of a bewildering transfer policy last summer, a managerial sacking of their own after only eight games, and subsequent inconsistency in performances and results.
It seems to be accepted that tactical shifts, different training patterns and injuries have all contributed towards the latter while maybe it is recognised slightly less that overriding everything else are the twin issues of a foreign coach learning about a new country as he goes with little time for reflection in between games, and the standard of player he is working with.
Thirteen days will have separated Liverpool’s last match — a defeat at Southampton after being two-goals ahead, and this Saturday’s fixture at home to Tottenham. Thirteen days for Klopp to fly to Tenerife with the fringe members of his squad: to really analyse for himself whether those in front of him are worth persevering with; thirteen days to sit on that horrible collapse at Southampton — perhaps even to agonise over it: time enough, indeed, to stare out into the Atlantic Ocean and realise what needs to be done to move Liverpool forward.
It was discussed on these pages at the time of his appointment that Klopp needed to impose his identity on the club and provoke a culture shift for him to take Liverpool to where they want to be.
He may realise by now, that the pattern of winning well and losing badly has been a theme at Liverpool for far too long; that rather than it being a simple effect of transition it is something deeper and more serious.
After winning the League Cup in 2012, form dropped off so badly under Kenny Dalglish that he was sacked a few months later. A second-placed finish in 2014 was followed by a summer where Liverpool sold its best player quite confidently, while those in a position of influence toddled off to Brazil to watch a World Cup.
Under Klopp, Liverpool trounced Southampton 6-1 and then lost meekly, on a rare day of light for Steve McClaren’s Newcastle, who did not need to play particularly well. Liverpool knocked Manchester United out of the Europa League then surrendered a safe enough looking lead at Southampton considering the manner of the first-half performance.
Whereas its relentlessness in success once stemmed from a capacity to play down its relative achievements, Klopp might have concluded that Liverpool has entered an era where it has become satisfied too quickly by what it has done.
In the mid-1990s, the problem at Liverpool was a similar one. Dazzling displays like the 4-3 victory over Newcastle United propelled Liverpool back into title races before defeats in places like Coventry took pulled them back out of it again. The team was young and too inexperienced to really know what to do from positions of strength.
Simultaneously, it was very happy with itself, indeed.
Gérard Houllier came in and recruited seven new players. Three of them proved to be excellent signings for Liverpool and the cornerstone of the team for years.
Sami Hyypiä and Stéphane Henchoz complemented each other in defence, while Dietmar Hamann offered a screen in front. In the absence of senior British players, the trio set the expected standards both in training and in games, though Hamann was more of a game-player than a trainer.
Hyypia and Hamann were nearly 26-years-old, while Henchoz was nearly 25 when Houllier bought them.
Under Fenway Sports Group, the profile of Liverpool’s signings have been focused on the very young with a view to selling them before anyone notices their decline — just as it was when the club was in the successful past. However, that model has failed since 2010 because of the barren trophy seasons, which has prompted a series of players to think about futures away from Anfield around the time they reach maturity or even before.
The indications are, Liverpool’s approach in the transfer market is changing and it seems, Klopp taking control; him showing the way it needs to be.
Joël Matip has already been signed for next season and the defender will be 25 in August. The potential purchase of Mario Götze is also increasing in probability and in June, he will be 24. It is likely other signings ready for first team action will be of a similar age.
Perhaps Klopp is imposing a new identity after all — a bit like Houllier did.