music friday: linguistics and me
tv catchup, part 2

liverpool

I think it was back in 2007 when I decided I had to pick some European teams to root for. Before that, there wasn't much to watch here in the States, but gradually, most of the big European leagues were being shown fairly regularly to us, and while it seemed unlikely only a few years before, it got to the point where there was actually too much soccer for an American to watch. I already had our San Jose Earthquakes, although at the time they had moved to Houston and no replacement had yet arrived. I had been following Mexican soccer forever, since the days when it was the only club soccer we could watch, and rooted for Chivas of Guadalajara. I felt a connection to a small club in Wrexham, Wales, which is a different story. But by 2007, it was a cacophony, too many teams, and I thought perhaps if I just chose one team from each major European league, it would be easier to follow, and I might actually learn something about those teams.

I picked teams that were good, with history, but also ones that weren't dominant at the time ... that sounded boring. I tried to avoid the bad teams because they were never on television here. My choices have had various success over the years ... Inter Milan in Italy have won 6 Serie A titles since then, as well as one Champions League title. In Spain, Sevilla is usually in the running for a title, although they never actually win it, but at one point, they won three straight Europa League championships. Werder Bremen of Germany have had the worst of it since 2007 ... they never win anything, and are currently in danger of relegation.

But then there was Liverpool. When I latched onto them, they had won 18 titles at the top tier of English soccer. They had also won 5 European Cup/Champions League titles. Their history was as storied as any in England, but they hadn't won the league since 1989-90, although they always had top players and they usually were close to the leaders.

That first team of the Steven Era (2007-08), Liverpool was managed by Spaniard Rafa Benítez. They were unbeaten through their first 14 league games, but faded and finished fourth. They did get to the semi-finals in the Champions League. Spaniard Fernando Torres scored 33 goals in all competitions, and I became a big fan of the hard-working Dutchman Dirt Kuyt.

Over the years, they finished second in the Premier League three times. Last year, they won the Champions League. But a 19th domestic title eluded them.

Early in the 2015-16 season, they hired German Jürgen Klopp as the manager. Klopp had won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund. Klopp is charismatic, and is considered one of the great managers of the modern game. Under Klopp, Liverpool have played an entertaining style, one that leads to plenty of goals. Their defense often suffered, but Klopp and Liverpool signed Virgil van Dijk, arguably the best defender in the game, in January of 2018, and followed that by getting Brazilian goalie Alisson, also a candidate for the best at his position. Those two players shored up the defense, the offense continued to score, and Liverpool were a real threat, as their Champions League victory last year showed.

This season, Liverpool have run away with the Premier League. Their front line of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mané, and Mohamed Salah thrill on a weekly basis, and young Trent Alexander-Arnold has developed into one of the best right backs in the world. It's been a pleasure watching them play.

They would have clinched their first title in 30 years long ago, but the COVID-19 crisis delayed things. Play finally resumed last week, and after a dull 0-0 draw, Liverpool reminded us of what they do in their second match back (the crowd noise is fake ... there is no one in the stands due to the virus):

It may have seemed anti-climactic when Liverpool clinched the title Thursday after Manchester City lost, but I don't think the long-suffering Liverpool fans minded (not a lot of masks or social distancing here):

The club released this video, featuring their theme song, "You'll Never Walk Alone":

Finally, this, after they won the Champions League last season. The fans lead the singing ... it is their song, after all:

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