Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville believe for the first time that Liverpool will win the Premier League title – but Paul Merson is still backing Manchester City.
Jurgen Klopp’s side ended Arsenal’s winning run with a huge 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium to move within one point of leaders Manchester City.
The two teams still have to play each other at the Etihad Stadium next month but after nine consecutive victories, Carragher believes the momentum is with his former team.
“It is 50-50, if you like, because of the situation with the game being at the Etihad,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.
“But this is the first time I have ever thought Liverpool would win the title – and I have always said City before a ball was kicked.
“That Chelsea game that was 2-2 and Liverpool were 11 points behind; to be fair, Graeme [Souness] was in the studio saying Liverpool were still in the race and I thought it was well gone.
“Man City are not in bad form, losing lots of games and dropping lots of points. But because these teams are so good now, just drawing a game – it feels like a defeat now. It does feel like that.”
Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah came off the bench to help Liverpool to victory on Wednesday and Carragher believes the January signing of Luis Diaz has been significant.
“I just feel that for Liverpool, the signing of Diaz, not just as an individual but what it has done to their options. What Liverpool brought off the bench is much better than the year they won the Champions League, the year they won the Premier League.
“Now if someone is having a poor game, you know someone is going to come on and improve Liverpool from the bench. That is a massive difference that this team has never had.”
Speaking on the Gary Neville Podcast, Sky Sports pundit Neville said Liverpool’s win had the hallmarks of a title-winning performance, while a variety of factors – including the strength in depth mentioned by Carragher – may now have just edged Liverpool ahead in the running.
“A classic title-winning performance,” he said. “We know Liverpool have got a big fight in front of them with Manchester City and the other teams they’ve got to play but if you ever thought of a game that reminded me of the sort of years gone by when you think ‘something’s happening’…
“You get through that difficult first period of a match when you’re not playing well, the other team are on top, the crowd are up and they’re in good form. And you get through it not comfortably but you stand your ground. You get a bit of a telling off at half-time from your manager and you even have a go at each other maybe. Then you come out early and you go ‘bop, bop’ and that’s what Liverpool did and not only did they do that then, they go and see the game out beautifully.
“Before they went and scored both goals, the keeper makes a world-class save and the amount of times that I played in games where you relied upon a Schmeichel or a Van der Sar save and you thought ‘how big was that moment?’. You don’t look back on them too much at the end of the season – they’ll be forgotten about – but they’re huge. The players don’t forget them, the coaches don’t forget them. The strong hand of Alisson there when Odegaard has that chance…
“It had everything about a title-winning team. Strength off the bench. Diaz has been outstanding. Jota, who we know has had a brilliant career at Liverpool in these last couple of seasons, they’re just not quite at it, and then Salah comes off the bench, Firmino comes off the bench and they have a big impact in the game. So everything you would imagine in a title-winning performance was there.
If you’re Liverpool you’re really, really confident going into these last nine games.
“Now, they might not win it, because they’re actually playing up against a ridiculously good team in Manchester City, but the hallmarks are there, the form’s there, the patterns are there, and if you’re Liverpool you’re really, really confident going into these last nine games. I’m not saying City aren’t, but if you’re Liverpool you’re confident.
“You’re in every competition, you’ve won the Carabao Cup, you’ve got five players up front who can win you any single game, you’ve got a great back four, you’ve got a great goalkeeper, the experience in midfield in Thiago, Fabinho and Henderson is enormous with Milner and obviously others to come in so there’s a lot to say that Liverpool could be, for the first time, be favourites I think for the title.
“And that’s a big statement from me because I’ve said Manchester City all the way through, but what I saw on Monday night has just happened a couple of times this season, not too many. Liverpool have only not scored once, Manchester City have failed to score four times in games and that could just be the difference at the end. It may not be, because Pep Guardiola is a genius of a manager and he could see them home, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this Liverpool team won the title.”
Merson: ‘I’d rather be in City’s position’
Amid the excitement of Liverpool’s win, Merson was keen to stress that the reigning champions do maintain the advantage in the title race.
“You have to remember that they are chasing down one of the best teams in the world and they are still one point behind,” Merson told Sky Sports.
“Write Man City off at your peril.
“Nothing has really changed. Liverpool have to win every game. They still have to win every game this season. City are still one point ahead and they are playing Liverpool at home. If Man City win every game and draw with Liverpool, they win the league.
“You are talking about a Man City team that have won 14 or so games on the trot so many times over the last three or four years. Everyone is celebrating tonight as if they have won it.
“You have got to remember that City went to Selhurst Park and drew 0-0 but they had enough chances to win two football matches.
“It is not like they are looking like they are not going to score a goal. It is not like you were watching it thinking they are not going to score in a month of Sundays.
“This team can reel off eight wins on the trot like that – and I mean like that – and they can do it again. I would rather be Man City at the moment, in my opinion. Liverpool still have to go to the Etihad and I know Man City. They are a proper football team.
“If Liverpool turn up at the Etihad in a few weeks and play like they did in the first half, that will be the end of it.”