Monday's soccer news starts with the foregone conclusion that is Liverpool winning the 2019-20 Premier League. Beating Manchester United 2-0 at Anfield while Manchester City drew 2-2 at home against Crystal Palace extends Liverpool's lead to 16 points. Barring a slump that seems every bit as unlikely as Manchester City or Leicester City taking advantage of it, Liverpool might as well go ahead and prepare for the celebrations. Even the happiest manager in the Premier League unless you're asking about the title is softening.
"If our fans would not be in a good mood now, that would be really strange," Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. The only thing that I can tell you is that we are here to work. It's as easy as that. Of course, it is a very positive atmosphere even in the interviews after the game, but I have to keep myself concentrated in the interviews because I know already we play on Thursday against Wolves. That’s the truth. To be honest, I am only interested in that game and nothing else. But of course they [the fans] are allowed to dream, to sing, whatever they want – as long as they do their job as well in the moment when we play, all fine. We will not be part of that party yet, but it is not a problem because we know our job."
We already know that job includes defending the Champions League title. Liverpool was the team trumping the Premier League by winning Europe last season. They're well aware of what that scenario can look like. Nobody at the club would want to say that their job is to be the last Premier League team standing. It's a title defense after all. Still, the way to shut up the rest of the Premier League is to make sure none of them last longer in Europe than Liverpool.
Meanwhile, there's the separation problem lower down in the table that on paper should've worked itself out by now. Instead, the last team to go undefeated in a Premier League season is still struggling. Arsenal didn't beat Crystal Palace and they didn't beat Sheffield Wednesday. Back-to-back 1-1 draws has Arsenal in 10th place on 29 points, ahead of 11th-place Everton and 12th-place Newcastle on goal difference. It's a similar situation for their North London rivals Spurs two points ahead of Arsenal in 8th-place. Spurs lost to Southampton on New Year's Day and Liverpool on January 11, playing out a scoreless draw with Watford on Saturday. The expected push from both of them and Everton under new manager Carlo Ancelotti has yet to happen.
Those three aren't the only ones currently struggling. Chelsea seems locked in 4th-place regardless of their results, but this is a team that's taken four points from their last three Premier League games. That's an obvious problem for a club with at least ambitions to move up the table. 4th means Champions League soccer, but that's the minimum for Chelsea's design for 2019-20. The surprise decision to limit their transfer ban means that they can spend on players, but that hasn't happened yet.
"We are young as a squad and we know about the transition so the idea of bringing in experience is something I’m certainly not looking absolutely away from because sometimes the younger players need a bit of help and that may help us," Chelsea manager Frank Lampard said. "Long-term in January is very difficult so short-term is something we would look at because there are issues that are pressing for this season and for us now to finish where we want to get to. It’s something that we are looking at."
Chelsea hosts Arsenal on Tuesday in a game that is easy enough to see as the latest opportunity for a declaration of intent from either club. Arsenal needs to show that they can win against teams higher in the table, full stop. Chelsea needs to show that they can score. That it's a similar need to address problems for a 4th-place and 10th-place club might as well be the story of this Premier League season. Well, except for Liverpool the Premier League outlier across the board and at the top of the table.
The Independent's Melissa Reddy on Liverpool's dominance. The NY Times' Rory Smith with the clear differences between Liverpool and Manchester United. The Irish Times' Ken Early questions if Manchester United is getting any better. The Evening Standard's James Robson asks if any manager could improve this version of Manchester United.
The Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman has Jurgen Klopp's comments on the new Club World Cup and player fatigue. The Telegraph's Matt Law with part of West Ham United's issues. Inside World Football's Paul Nicholson on the economic importance of European clubs owning their stadiums. The Athletic's Matt Slater explains player image rights.
ESPN's Tom Hamilton interviews USMNT and Ajax player Sergino Dest. Football Italia on reports linking USMNT and Wigan Athletic player Antonee Robinson with a move to AC Milan. SBI's Ives Galarcep talks to USMNT goalkeeper Bill Hamid. The Washington Post's Steven Goff on the new safe standing section at DC United's Audi Field. Pro Soccer USA's Luis Torres stresses the importance of Orlando City's new training facility.
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Photo by Nicolas Economou - NurPhoto via ZUMA Press