"I don't want to say we have to wait the next 20 years. When I sit here in four years, I think we've won one title in this time. I'm pretty sure."
Those were the words of Jurgen Klopp in his first press conference as Liverpool manager in October 2015, as quoted by Sky Sports, as the charismatic German looked to endear himself to a fan base with talk of winning the club's first league title since 1990.
It's a target that could very well be realised come the end of this season, although with Liverpool suffering somewhat of a blip in recent weeks, the self-imposed aim set by Klopp could become another source of pressure the Reds must contend with between now and May.
There's no doubting the positive effect Klopp has had on Liverpool during his tenure at the club, with the German guiding the Reds to both the EFL Cup and Europa League final in his first season in charge, although both occasions saw the Reds finish as runners-up.
His first two full seasons in charge of the club - 2016/17 and 2017/18 - saw the former Borussia Dortmund boss record back-to-back fourth place finishes, with the latter also resulting in a Champions League final, but that game against Real Madrid followed the same fate as both previous finals Klopp has managed Liverpool in, which has created a stick to beat the German with during his tenure at the club.
While this season has seen the Reds make significant progress, with them currently top of the Premier League and on course for their best points tally under Klopp, there's a general consensus that the wheels will eventually come off, just as it did for previous managers who were hoping to secure Liverpool a trophy that has alluded them since 1990.
Gerard Houllier (2001/02), Rafael Benitez (2008/09) and Brendan Rodgers (2013/14) have all fallen short during the Premier League era of winning the title by finishing second, so can Klopp buck the trend of previous Liverpool managers?
Before a trip to the Etihad to begin 2019 - when Liverpool had a chance to extend their lead over Manchester City to ten points - then that seemed to be the case, although a 2-1 defeat to Pep Guardiola's side saw their lead cut to just four points.
While losing to last season's champions can be tolerated, it was the results that followed, such as successive draws against the likes of Leicester City and West Ham United, games that saw the Reds pegged back having gone ahead, that began to raise genuine questions regarding their title challenge.
Even results before those aforementioned draws, such as a 1-0 win over Brighton and 4-3 win against Crystal Palace at Anfield, did little to convince doubters that this side could handle the pressure of a title race, while a continually animated and frustrated Klopp on the touchline fails to portray a side in control with just 11 games remaining.
Yet Liverpool are just that; in control that is, but by the narrowest of margins.
The Reds are the ninth team during the Premier League era to have 66 points or more after 27 games, with all previous eight teams eventually going on to win the league come May:
Premier League leaders with 66 points or more after 27 league games
|Season||First-Placed Team||Points||Second-Placed Team||Points|
|2011/12||Manchester City||66||Manchester United||64|
|2012/13||Manchester United||68||Manchester City||56|
|2017/18||Manchester City||72||Manchester United||56|
The unfortunate issue for Liverpool is that City are only one point behind, and having secured the first of a touted 'quadruple' following their recent Carabao Cup final over Chelsea, their tails will be well and truly up for the final stage of the league season, while the factor of extra games depending on progress in the Champions League's latter stages shouldn't be overlooked.
While Guardiola's side were preparing for their final at Wembley, Liverpool played out a frustrating goalless draw against a depleted Manchester United side, giving further ammunition to those who doubt the Reds' title-winning credentials.
Whether it should be viewed as a point gained to go top of the Premier League or a chance to go three points clear of last year's 'Centurions' missed, the fact that Klopp acknowledged the added pressure that his side have to embrace post-match highlights an issue that must be addressed, because dropping six points in their last four league games doesn't scream 'title winners'.
Jurgen Klopp: “There have been a bit too many draws in the last couple of games, but we are still where we are. We cannot say there isn't pressure. Of course there is. It is a very positive pressure. Now everything is equal games-wise, and now let’s play the rest. All good.”— Oliver Bond (@Oliver__Bond) February 24, 2019
"Of course there is pressure. Actually, from my point of view, it is a very positive pressure, but I don't have to play - I only sit here and say dumb things, so that's easy," said Klopp, following the Old Trafford stalemate, as quoted by Sky Sports.
"We all have to learn in these situations, the only way we can do it is with passion. This club, the heart and soul of this club, is passion. On Wednesday night we have another chance (at home to Watford) and then there's the derby, which is always a very emotional game so, again, passion.
"I get there has been a few too many draws in the last couple of games but, still, we are where we are so let's go on."
With Klopp boasting a squad - albeit talented - without an abundance of title-winning experience, the German must fall on his times in Germany, where he won consecutive Bundesliga titles between 2010-2012, to help Liverpool over the line, while hoping his side have the capacity to handle internal and external pressures and end the club's 29-year wait of winning a league title.