Richard Buxton: One-horse race in EPL again? Maybe not
Klopp's men send out strong statement of intent with thrashing of Hammers
Settling for second-best will never sit comfortably with Liverpool.
Anfield's lofty standards remain unwavering, especially after opening their English Premier League campaign with a comprehensive 4-0 win over West Ham last night.
|(Mohamed Salah 19, Sadio Mane 47, 53, Daniel Sturridge 88)|
This season's title race will not be the procession Manchester City may have believed it to be.
The last team from Manchester bidding to seal back-to-back crowns found themselves hot under the collar from Merseyside, only for their closest challengers to blink first.
Much has changed since a decade ago, not least in terms of the personnel. City have assumed Manchester United's mantle as the unassailable reigning champions, while Liverpool have assembled a squad truly capable of lasting the distance.
Under-promising and over-delivering remains the mantra of the club's American owners and Juergen Klopp's claims that the Reds are still Rocky Balboa to City's Ivan Drago continued that vein when the temptation to resort to giddy optimism is proving increasingly great.
Liverpool have been burned too many times by that before, but it is difficult to see them as anything other than the greatest roadblock in Pep Guardiola's planned procession route.
By the hour mark, Manuel Pellegrini's much-changed Hammers had raised the white flag, unable to withstand the onslaught by their hosts' free-scoring front three.
Over £175 million (S$386.9m) had been spent this summer, but some things have stayed constant, not least the fluidity of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino's understanding.
While Harry Kane is going through his slow start and United are lacking the finesse to confine the EPL's battle for supremacy to one city, Liverpool's triumvirate shows no signs of slowing down with another rampant display of attacking.
The supporting cast helped admittedly, with new recruit Naby Keita taking on a starring role as his weighted pass to Andy Robertson teed up Salah for his 45th goal in 53 appearances.
Robertson also demonstrated why Liverpool's marauding fullbacks are reminiscent of their trophy-winning yesteryear with a second assist as his cross to James Milner teed up Mane.
Mane's emergence from Salah's shadow, despite a credible return last season, has been among the greatest catalysts.
Familiar complaints still exist, not least a lack of decisions given in their favour by referee Anthony Taylor, yet there is little to argue about the speed with which Klopp recruited in the wake of May's Champions League final defeat by Real Madrid, with Fabinho signed just three days later.
With a beefed-up squad, few would bet against Klopp's side lasting the distance now, with a luxury of potential game-changers in Xherdan Shaqiri and Adam Lallana at his disposal from the substitutes' bench.
Worryingly for the rest of the EPL's chasing pack, Liverpool are still something of a work in progress, with Milner starting this game ahead of Fabinho when the opposite will likely manifest itself over the season.
In defence, too, they were only at half-strength with Joe Gomez elected to partner Virgil van Dijk, as Dejan Lovren is unavailable after his World Cup exertions.
Through all the dizzying and disorientation, Rocky managed to land a knock-out blow on Drago in the final round.
Liverpool could imitate art and do the same to City on May 12 next year.
LIVERPOOL: Alisson, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joe Gomez, Virgil van Dijk, Andy Robertson, Naby Keita, Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Mohamed Salah (Daniel Sturridge 87) , Roberto Firmino (Jordan Henderson 69), Sadio Mane (Xherdan Shaqiri 82)
WEST HAM: Lukasz Fabianski, Fabian Balbuena, Angelo Ogbonna, Declan Rice (Robert Snodgrass 46), Ryan Fredericks, Mark Noble, Jack Wilshere, Arthur Masuaku, Michail Antonio, Felipe Anderson (Javier Hernandez 62), Marko Arnautovic (Andriy Yarmolenko 67)