For all the relief of the restart, Liverpool — the club and the fans — knew they would be denied that moment. On Wednesday night, after Klopp’s team had produced a display of swagger and power and intent against Crystal Palace to move to the brink of the title, the German manager had daydreamed what it would have been like with fans inside the stadium: the delirium of the goals, the noise, the fervor.
Instead, the moment, when it arrived, was a fractured, distant one. Liverpool’s players were at a hotel in Formby, watching the Chelsea, Manchester City game together, counting down the last few seconds before the title was won. Liverpool’s fans were in their own homes and gardens, doing the same.
Perhaps, though, that was fitting. The history of Liverpool’s last three decades suggests that it could only, really, have won the Premier League like this: by producing a season so imperious it was all but devoid of drama.
Every other modern incarnation of Liverpool, after all, has fallen short. The youthful, homegrown team of the mid-1990s had brio and panache, but lacked grit and steel. Gerard Houllier’s obdurate, grizzled 2002 edition lacked imagination. Rafael Benítez’s finest effort in 2009 ran into a superior Manchester United.
Brendan Rodgers came close, his frenetic, flawed team denied by a single slip from its shot at history in 2014. Klopp’s altogether more finessed version seemed to have missed out last year thanks to the relentlessness of Manchester City.
That year, Liverpool became the only team to lose just one game in a season and not win the league. Only one team has ever lost just two games in a season and failed to win the league, too. There are no prizes for guessing its identity.