GRAEME SOUNESS: Why Liverpool have it tougher in the Premier League run-in than Man City and Arsenal


The Premier League is back – and to quote that wonderful line of Alex Ferguson’s we’ve now entered squeaky bum time. 

All those involved in one of the tightest three-way titles races we’ve ever seen in the Premier League will have been sitting with everything crossed during the international break – praying players come back unscathed, filling the endless hours by analysing their last eight or nine games to death.

It seems an important moment to discuss emotion and how to deal with it – because Liverpool, who I’ve had a sneaking feeling all along might win this title, are going to have to deal with almost unprecedented levels of it, in Jurgen Klopp’s last five home games as manager. Clinching a second league title in four years will depend on how well they can cope with that, starting this weekend.

Everyone there so desperately wants him to walk away on a high and the crowd’s emotion will bring a form of pressure that Manchester City and Arsenal won’t have to deal with in the seven weeks ahead. Believe me, that will be hard for these Liverpool players.

The Premier League returns and as Alex Ferguson would say, we've entered squeaky bum time

The Premier League returns and as Alex Ferguson would say, we’ve entered squeaky bum time

Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal are in one of the tightest three-way titles races we've seen

Liverpool, Man City and Arsenal are in one of the tightest three-way titles races we’ve seen

Liverpool are going to have to deal with an unprecedented level of emotion as Jurgen Klopp heads into his final five home games at Anfield after nine sensational years at the club

Liverpool are going to have to deal with an unprecedented level of emotion as Jurgen Klopp heads into his final five home games at Anfield after nine sensational years at the club

How do you deal with it? By rising above, it, remaining focused on the job in hand and not getting caught up in this sub-plot. It means the bigger players keeping the lesser lights focussed on the job in hand. But it also means Liverpool being able to deal with going a goal behind and suffering little setbacks – which each of these three title contenders will inevitably face between now and the moment the title is won.

Dealing with those setbacks helped the Liverpool team I played for win the First Division title five times in six years and the message they drilled into us back then applies every bit as much today. They reminded us that our way of playing had served us extremely well and that we certainly didn’t need to change it just because a little adversity might have blown our way.

‘If we go a goal behind, we keep on doing the things which have brought us success in the past,’ Ronnie Moran or Joe Fagan would tell us. ‘Don’t you be taking extra touches, thinking that it means you are trying harder. Don’t you start being the big individual. We keep doing the things we are doing. One and two-touch. Being aggressive.’ They made us believe that we could not lose. They instilled a calmness in us.

Just as these players are preparing for Jurgen to leave, don’t forget that we lost Bob Paisley in the summer of 1983, a year after he’d announced his plans to retire. The two were very different kinds of men but don’t imagine for one moment that we felt the loss of Bob any less, just because he wasn’t all touchy-feely, hugging every player in the way that managers do these days.

We won the title on April 30 in his last season, with three games still to play, and also collected the League Cup, on a day when I literally had to shove Bob up the Wembley steps to take a share of the spotlight just for once. Bob’s leaving created uncertainty for us all. But one difference between then and now was that when Bob told us he was going, he also said Joe Fagan would be replacing him. We wouldn’t be needing to prove ourselves to any new manager.

Where Manchester City have the edge on both Liverpool and Arsenal though is the absolute confidence that winning the title in four of the past five seasons will give them

Where Manchester City have the edge on both Liverpool and Arsenal though is the absolute confidence that winning the title in four of the past five seasons will give them

But I think Arsenal are much stronger this year and a win on Sunday would be huge for them

But I think Arsenal are much stronger this year and a win on Sunday would be huge for them

Ibrahima Konate has said he feels uncertainty, though I suspect that’s just a player wondering what his own future holds and whether the next manager will fancy him. Winning the league will create a lot more certainty for everyone.

Where Manchester City have the edge on both Liverpool and Arsenal is the absolute confidence that winning the title in four of the past five years will give them. I have to say that once you’ve won the league once or twice, the confidence that gives you at this time of the season is enormous. That belief. You’re not entering games so fearful of slipping up that you’re putting in an inferior performance.

I also see a stronger Arsenal now and though nothing will be decided this weekend, I can’t overstate how big for them a victory at City would be. Not just because it puts them in a very strong position, with their goal difference, but because it would make so many people see Arsenal in a totally different light, after the accusations last year that they’d bottled it.

How can Arsenal go one better this time? By also having that attitude and that confidence where if they slip up, it’s not the end of the world. Every slip-up last year seemed to compound things.

Dealing with various setbacks we faced helped the Liverpool team I played for win the First Division title five times in six years (pictured - Souness after winning the title back in 1982)

Dealing with various setbacks we faced helped the Liverpool team I played for win the First Division title five times in six years (pictured – Souness after winning the title back in 1982)

Overall, we are simply talking about three excellent sides at the top, all of whom might win it

Overall, we are simply talking about three excellent sides at the top, all of whom might win it

Please don’t talk to me about who plays who between now and May 19 and quote me ‘easy run-ins’ and associated rubbish. Throw that out of the window. That’s for anoraks. Because anyone could slip up in a game and then you’re thinking ‘how did that happen?’

We are simply talking about three excellent sides, all of whom might win it. Each must assume the worst, know that any slip could cost them and calculate that they have to win win every game now. And not let the pressure get to them in the process.

Scotland need a reset ahead of Euro 2024 

It was worrying to see Scotland lose 1-0 in midweek to a Northern Ireland team who are, to be kind to them, a developing squad. 

This followed a 4-0 loss in Holland, where Scotland were really good in the first half but capitulated for what was very poor result. 

The team must regroup, regain their confidence and kick on. This isn’t what you want going into a Euros, especially when you open the tournament against the host nation who will be completely fired up.

Scotland must regroup, regain their confidence and kick on after a difficult international break

Scotland must regroup, regain their confidence and kick on after a difficult international break

Taking a test could save your life 

I’m involved in a campaign being run by the NHS encouraging people over 40 to go and get a free five-minute blood pressure check at their local pharmacy.

At 38 I was diagnosed with very high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. I got it treated and I now take a daily tablet – two and half milligrams of a drug called Ramipril – and live a perfectly normal life. 

Over four million people are walking around in England today, not knowing they have high blood pressure, which if it goes untreated can lead to strokes, vascular dementia and diabetes and indeed an early death. There are so many fabulous drugs out there that can correct so many ailments we have. If you’re over 40, do go and get that test. 

Find out more information at: https://www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/pharmacies/find-a-pharmacy-that-offers-free-blood-pressure-checks/ 

Larry Lloyd was a great servant to Forest and Liverpool 

I was sad to hear of the passing of Larry Lloyd, a great servant to Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. What a partnership he and Kenny Burns were in that all-conquering Forest team that won two league titles, two European Cups, and were our nemesis for a couple of seasons. 

Nobody defended the edge of their box better than Kenny and Larry did. And if you did get a shot off, you were up against Peter Shilton. My thoughts go to Larry’s family.

Larry Lloyd had a fierce partnership with Kenny Burns in that all-conquering Forest team that won two league titles and two European Cups. They were our nemesis for a couple of seasons

Larry Lloyd had a fierce partnership with Kenny Burns in that all-conquering Forest team that won two league titles and two European Cups. They were our nemesis for a couple of seasons



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