Looking At Liverpool’s Title Challenge

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Can Liverpool win the English Premier League this season?

Well that’s a tough question. But seeing as its February and they’re still very much in the title picture, that shows just how far this squad has come in such a short space of time.

Jose Mourinho called Chelsea a little horse in the title race, Brendan Rodgers then said Liverpool were the chihuahuas of that same race. I prefer to call them the leagues show ponies.

They are unpredictable, fast, sharp and easy to watch.

Boss Rodgers has shaped the side, managed the egos and got the stars all playing good, attractive football.

Since the turn of the year, Liverpool have scored three very impressive victories that have showed off their title credentials.

First off was the 5-3 away victory over Stoke. ‘The Potters’ are a major bogey team for Liverpool. This win in January was actually Liverpool’s first league win at the Britannia since Stoke were promoted back in 2008.

Then there was the very impressive 4-0 win over derby rivals Everton. Only Chelsea have conceded fewer league goals than Everton this campaign, yet Liverpool totally destroyed the ‘Toffees’ on derby day. Liverpool’s dominance over Everton showed that the ‘Reds’ are not a team to be taken lightly this term and that they were capable of opening up any team.

We also witnessed Rodgers side dismantle and humiliate then league leaders Arsenal. Liverpool were charging around harassing the ‘Gunners’ and were in their faces right from the get go. The ultra attacking approach took Arsene Wenger’s charges by complete surprise, and Liverpool were 4-0 up inside twenty minutes! The game ended 5-1 and Liverpool had propelled themselves right back into the title picture.

Although these exciting results were highly impressive, we can’t overlook a few results over the same time period that show us that the ‘Reds’ are still a bit too inconsistent.

After the Stoke victory, Liverpool entertained Aston Villa. The Villains had just lost to Sheffield United and Arsenal, yet were two goals up at Anfield after just 36 minutes. They deserved that lead and Liverpool were fortunate to get a goal just before the break, that goal gave them the lifeline they needed. At the end up the game finished 2-2 but Liverpool had shown that they could be caught flush by hardworking opponents who were quick on the counter attack.

After the dramatic derby achievement, Liverpool came back down to earth with a bang when they dropped two points at the Hawthorns with a draw against West Brom. The draw was a decent reflection of the game as both sides managed 50% possession and 12 shots at goal.

Liverpool were set to make a similar mistake against Fulham this past midweek. But finally they got their heads together and battled back from adversity and took all three points from a tough game, after a very successful result. After twice falling behind at Craven Cottage, Liverpool would snatch victory in the dying moments, some would say in Fergie time!

That result as much as the other three impressive victories, show Liverpool are turning the tide. You can play fancy, attractive football and at times that will gain you very memorable results. But you also have to win the less pretty fixtures and above all you need a great deal of luck. That one commodity is huge in winning any competition.

When you look at the side Rodgers puts out, his style and his philosophies shine through. The manager gives youth its chance, he is loyal to his players and likes to see a fantastic amount of creativity.

Very few managers would select Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Steven Gerrard all in the same side. But Rodgers has seen that a fluid 4-2-3-1 formation works well with that attack minded personnel.

The forwards: Sturridge, Suarez and Sterling are very interchangeable. The fact that they can change positions with each other during games can often unsettle defences who struggle to mark their allotted men.

Coutinho works the middle well. He sits off and picks out splendid passes. He must be an absolute delight to play with for the strikers. The 21 year old has four assists this season, two of them coming in the big wins over Arsenal and Everton. He has been very entertaining since the turn of the year and its scary to think he will probably only just get better and better.

Captain Gerrard was very disciplined against Everton and Arsenal, playing just in front of the back four. The England star sees a lot of the ball in that area of the park and can start counter attacks with wonderfully crafted sprayed balls. His pass for Daniel Sturridge’s goal against Fulham was a joy to watch. His tackling against the Gunners was superb, winning the ball inside his own half seven times out of seven challenges. His set pieces can’t be underestimated either. Probably his finest season in a few years. Seven goals and nine assists in twenty league matches back that up in my eyes.

If Sir Alex Ferguson was trying to use mind games to deflate Liverpool and especially Jordan Henderson then he has failed miserably. The man from Sunderland has started all of Liverpool’s league fixtures this season and he has been key to their success. A player that will keep the ball moving and will search out the more creative stars in the team. He seems to just run and run, never giving up! The 23 year old certainly needs to add more goals to his game though, as one league strike isn’t good enough. He certainly gets himself into decent positions but he more often than not fluffs his lines in front of goal.

Going forward and getting goals isn’t a problem for Liverpool. Only Manchester City have bagged more goals than Liverpool’s 66 this term. Luis Suarez is the Premier League’s top scorer with 23 strikes. Second top is Daniel Sturridge with 16! The duo combined have more goals than the whole Spurs side or the entire Everton team.

Eleven players in the Liverpool squad have grabbed at least one league goal this season.

The problem for the Reds at this delicate stage of the campaign is that they have a soft centre defensively and have also suffered from quite a few injuries.

Experienced centre-back Kolo Toure has been a bit of a weak-link in the past few months. Giving the ball straight to Victor Anichebe was a mistake that cost his side two valuable points against WBA. His OG made amusing viewing for opposition fans but luckily enough didn’t cost his team any points. Toure probably needs a rest at the moment but with Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho and Sebastian Coates all out injured, the 32 year old has been forced to play on. I am actually a big fan of Toure. He is a a big part of the squad at Anfield. The Ivorian has title winning experience and is a well loved squad member. But his legs have gone a bit and opposition attackers will seek him out in games to try and force more errors.

The injury list doesn’t just stop with the centre-backs. Glen Johnson, Jose Enrique, Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva have all been out for a bit of time as of late.

With a substantial amount of players on the treatment table, it shows me that Brendan Rodgers should have added at least one or two new faces just to shore up their title challenge. A new defender and holding midfielder would have improved the ‘Reds’ chances in my opinion.

Now I can’t tell you who will win the league this term, if I knew that kind of information then I would put all my money on it and become a rich man!

Do I believe Liverpool can become the side that get their hands on the Premier League trophy?

No I don’t. I feel that they are a few players short defensively. I think that Chelsea and Man City (two sides who have haven’t lost to Liverpool this term) are better equipped for winning the title.

But look, Liverpool finishing in the ‘Top Four’ would be a huge success for the club. If they could manage a third place finish then that would be a ┬ádream scenario for the ‘Reds’ as it would mean automatic qualification into the Champions League. In fact, the side have benefitted from having no European involvement this campaign, as they have managed to incorporate breaks into their season, when other challengers Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Tottenham have had to continue to play on.

By getting into Europe’s top tournament again, Liverpool would be able to keep the likes of Luis Suarez and should they invest the European fortunes wisely then maybe just maybe next season can be the year Liverpool win the title back.

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