The dust is only just settling at Anfield after the incredible 5-1 thrashing of Arsenal, but I imagine rumours are already being whispered around Liverpool of an end to the title drought. The victory today sent a very real message to the rest of the league and was a strong signal of intent from Brendan Rodgers’ side.
As a lifelong Liverpool fan I am undoubtedly biased towards the reds, but even an outsider can see that a Premier League title is within reach. The first twenty minutes today was scintillating. Quick pressing, high tempo, passing and moving, not letting the opposition settle, and in truth Liverpool could have scored two or three more than what they did. They were that good.
Over the busy Christmas period Liverpool had two huge decisions go against them and this toppled them from the league summit. The first, against Manchester City, was an obviously incorrect decision to disallow a Raheem Sterling goal, declaring him offside when he simply wasn’t. That could have led to three points at the Etihad. A week later Liverpool were again undone by a poor referee’s decision when they were not awarded a penalty for a blatant foul on Luis Suarez by Samuel Eto’o. That could have led to a point from Stamford Bridge. Perhaps this sense of injustice has created an atmosphere beneficial to Liverpool’s title challenge. Twice they were unfairly denied points, and now it seems they have something to prove.
We should not feel bitter about what happened. Unfortunately in football these things occur, and it is usually a sign of a great team when these events are used to their advantage. The title challenge would be significantly easier if Liverpool had gained these points, but even without them, Liverpool should feel optimistic.
In Sturridge and Suarez (SAS) Liverpool have the most potent strikeforce in any of the top European Leagues. Suarez leads the European goalscoring charts, ahead of Ronaldo, Costa, Ibrahimovic and then his teammate and strike partner Daniel Sturridge. In the League alone they have scored thirty-eight goals between them, as well as getting eleven assists. At the time of writing, this is more goals than the entire Everton team, the entire Tottenham team, Southampton, Newcastle, in fact more than every team in the league except four. Manchester United are one of those four and their team has scored just one more than the partnership of Suarez and Sturridge. Much has been written about SAS in the media, and their phenomenal partnership and contribution shows no signs of slowing. With thirteen games still to play I fully expect SAS to surpass the fifty goal mark.
As well as the strikeforce, Liverpool also have the added bonus of having next to no distractions. They are out of the Capital One Cup, they are not in Europe, gallivanting across the continent, and I would not be overly upset or disheartened if they failed to advance further in the FA Cup. I am not sure how Rodgers will view the competition, but focusing too much on domestic cups could hinder the title challenge. Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal are all still very much involved with Champions League, and though there is a tough task ahead, they may still advance further in the competition. We should not be so naive to overlook the effects of travelling and playing oversees, injuries, morale and jadedness can all play a pivotal role.
With the strikeforce in place, and the focus firmly on the league, only the fixtures could provide Liverpool with a problem, but even these seem favourable. Liverpool have travelled to all three of the top teams home stadiums and the only tricky away fixture left appears to be at Old Trafford on the sixteenth of March. Even this does not pose the threat it once did, Manchester United have lost their edge, and there may be no better time to play them. At home this season Manchester United have lost four of twelve, and the game against Liverpool comes just three days before United have to play the second leg of their Champions League tie against Olympiakos. April will be the crucial month for Liverpool. With the season drawing to a close, if Liverpool are still in contention, or perhaps even at the summit, there are two vital games to be played against Man City and Chelsea. Both of these are at Anfield, and with Liverpool’s excellent home form, they have to be considered favourites.
Added to this Liverpool currently have the second best goal difference in the league, trailing only Manchester City, and they have arguably five of their first eleven out injured. Glen Johnson, Daniel Agger, Mohmadou Sakho, Jose Enrique and Lucas are all yet to return to match fitness.
The future is bright for Liverpool, and though it is important for the players to stay grounded and focused, the players may well be starting to set their sights on something higher than fourth. The title race is wide open and a lot can change in football in a very short space of time. Despite this, fans of the club should not blacklist the Premier League title as a topic of conversation. There is ambition, there is desire, and there is hope. Liverpool are title contenders and come the end end of the season, I would not be terribly surprised to see them looking down from the top of the table.
This article was originally posted on Proven Quality on February 10th 2014.
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