Off the Mark: In a mad Premier League season, are Liverpool actually the sane ones?
Mad, bad, dangerous to know, an absolute joy to watch. There have been few teams in recent English football history that are quite so compelling as the current Liverpool side.
With most clubs facing 11 remaining matches in the Premier League this season, you’d think that we knew pretty much all there was to know about the teams vying for places at the top end of the table, and for the most part we do.
Chelsea are a winning machine built on Jose Mourinho’s twin foundations of control and intimidation. Arsenal are a tremendously talented bunch that are now being fuelled by the desire to prove the many people who are waiting for them to malfunction wrong. Manchester City can be an unstoppable force when all of the expensively assembled parts are in full working order and put in the right place. The rusty Martin Demichelis occasionally throws a spanner in the works though.
But Liverpool? There is nothing robotic about them.
Take their last three Premier League fixtures, matches which saw the Reds bludgeon the then league leaders to death with four goals in the first 19 minutes, twice come from behind to win at a normally sleepy Fulham with a last minute penalty from their captain, and then contrive to twice throw away a lead before winning what should have been a routine home game 4-3.
Predictable isn’t a word that features in the much-storied Brendan Rodgers coaching manual at the moment, but is that such a bad thing?
In those last three league games, the Reds conceded six goals but scored 12.
All football logic, all the football voices on Twitter, message boards, blogs, the corner of the pub, the middle of the pub, from behind a pundit’s desk are shouting at us to focus on those six goals conceded. On Kolo Toure’s comedic moment at Fulham, on Martin Skrtel’s failure to clear at Craven Cottage, on Simon Mignolet’s uncertainty, on Skrtel wrestling Wilfried Bony to the ground. On Toure at West Brom. We could go on and on.
But how about we look at those 12 goals scored instead?
Skrtel doubling up against Arsenal, Raheem Sterling leaving scorch marks on the Anfield pitch, Philippe Coutinho at a crucial time at Fulham, Steven Gerrard nerveless from the spot, Jordan Henderson all energy and boundless enthusiasm, Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Sturridge and Daniel Sturridge again.
This is the best attack in the country right now, and this is also the furthest that anyone has got into an article about Liverpool for the last three years before mentioning Luis Suarez.
Rodgers’ decision to move the Uruguayan into a perceptively deeper position in the past few weeks has had the effect that the manager will have wanted it to on Sturridge, Sterling, Coutinho, Henderson and Gerrard, all of whom have scored a Premier League goal more recently than the division’s top scorer.
So with such an imbalance in the qualities of their squad, are Liverpool not right to simply try and blast their way to the league title?
It isn’t a long-term plan, clearly, but until Rodgers either brings in some new defenders, learns how better to coach his current ones or we see rapid development from the promising but injured Mamadou Sakho, then why not just go with it?
Let Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City worry about the serious business of defending, the Reds should just carry on doing what it is they do best.
It’s mad, obviously, but this is a team and a manager who brought on Toure with the score at 3-3 against Swansea in a bid to calm things down. They do mad well.
There should be no pressure on Liverpool to win the league simply because nobody thought it was possible at the start of the season, or at the start of this year, or at the start of this month, or at the start of this article, but if they aim for first they might land fourth or third or second. Any one of those positions would be an outstanding success.
By sticking to their principles the crazy Reds have the best chance of achieving whatever it is they are capable of, and they might even end up proving that it was they who were the sane ones all along.
What a mess Cardiff are in. They’re in the wrong kit, with the wrong owner, the wrong manager and in potentially the wrong division soon.
The 4-0 loss at home to Hull last weekend was far worse than anything experienced under Malky Mackay, and whilst Ole Gunnar Solskjaer deserves time and a chance to get things right (although his scouting knowledge seems worryingly limited to Norwegians, ex-Manchester United players and sometimes both), Vincent Tan’s itchy trigger finger doesn’t need much encouragement.
The sooner Tan is out of the club the better, but if you had to bet on whether it would be him or his manager out of the door first then it should be pretty obvious where your money will go.
Tigers to maul Geordies
Everton came within a minute or two of landing our Double Chance bet at Chelsea, but Hull should have no problem making us some money at home to Newcastle this weekend.
Alan Pardew’s side beat Aston Villa but were still unconvincing, and with Nikica Jelavic and Shane Long forming a fine partnership, the 7/5 on the hosts looks a good price.