It was a good weekend to be a Liverpool fan. Luis Suarez signed a new contract, they gave Cardiff a thorough spanking (at least in the first half) and spent Saturday and Sunday gazing lovingly at the league table, admiring their position at the top, at least until Monday night’s clash between Arsenal and Chelsea.
This has inevitably led to talk of a possible title bid, their first serious one since the remarkable tussle between Rafa Benitez’s side and Manchester United in 2008/9. Indeed, that was the last season that Liverpool even finished in the top four, an absence from the Champions League that has caused much strife on Merseyside.
A more realistic target might well be the top four, but why shouldn’t they be considered as contenders? In Suarez they have probably the best player in the Premier League in magnificent form, Jordan Henderson is playing as well as he ever has done and these past few games have proved that they can still play well without Steven Gerrard and Daniel Sturridge.
Brendan Rodgers wasn’t getting ahead of himself too much, though. The BBC quoted him as saying:
Jan Kruger/Getty Images
"I still believe the title is Manchester City's to lose. They have the strongest squad. The resources they have are incredible.
"We can't ever think we have cracked it," he said. "We can't become complacent. You have to be focused and move on to the next game.
"We are very calm. We are not getting carried away. We are focusing on improving our performance level. We know the natural consequence will be to win games and if you win games you will be in a good position."
This is of course good news for Liverpool fans, but it should also be good news for the Premier League as a whole. Quite apart from anything else, the more competitive teams are in the division, the better it is for the neutral observer.
In the heyday of the old "Big Four," the Champions League spots were virtually guaranteed—it was a closed shop, as close to a disorganised cartel as a collection of football teams can be.
Now, with Liverpool strong again, Everton improving, Spurs in the mix (despite their current issues), along with the obvious contenders in the shape of Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, there are at least seven teams who could feasibly finish in the top four.
One of the advantages the Championship has over the Premier League is the play-offs, the knowledge that the season is not over if you’re a long way off the top of the table. This collection of realistic top four contenders brings a little of that excitement and competitiveness to the top flight.
In addition, a truly strong Liverpool add something to the rivalry at the top of the table. When Liverpool were weak, games against the likes of United and Arsenal were big, but they could only really be viewed as single entities, as relatively independent games that would have little impact on the rest of the season.
With Liverpool genuinely contending, that all changes, and a win over United is not just worth pride, but something tangible in the league table as well.
And it’s not just that Liverpool are winning games, but the manner of those victories is good for the league. While Rodgers’ talk of playing "the right way" and so forth might be a little tiresome, they are playing some exhilarating football, with the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling gelling wonderfully, quite apart from the flashes of genius that Suarez displays.
It is sometimes a chore to watch some of the Premier League’s top teams, but not this Liverpool, when they’re playing as they can.
A strong Liverpool may not just be good for their fans.