After Liverpool’s recent 4-1 win over West Ham at Anfield, manager Brendan Rodgers expressed his satisfaction at being “in the title conversation.” Following Sunday’s stunning win at Tottenham that killed off Andre Villas-Boas, they are now the team that everyone is talking about.
The Reds delivered a complete performance at White Hart Lane, and whilst once again it was the marvellous Luis Suarez – the captain in the absence of the injured Steven Gerrard – who took the plaudits, the headlines and yes, the Fantasy Football points, this was very much a team performance that was inspired by some of the Reds’ bright young talents.
Raheem Sterling set the tone for the afternoon with his scorching bursts down the right touchline, whilst full-back Jon Flanagan brought the widest of smiles to Liverpool fans’ faces with his joyous first goal for the club. The pair are 19 and 20 respectively.
In midfield, 23-year-old Joe Allen controlled things and set the stage for Jordan Henderson, also 23, to rampage forward in a kind of Gerrard-esque performance circa 2006. Philippe Coutinho sparkled on the fringes of things. He’s just 21.
And it is that vibrancy and energy of youth that Rodgers and Liverpool are banking on.
The Reds last played in a Champions League match pretty much exactly four years ago, and so the absence of the prestige and finances that brings ensures that they aren’t competing with the top English clubs for the best players any more. They do have one that would walk into all their teams though.
Because of course no conversation about Liverpool is complete without mentioning Suarez, the one-man creator of chaos who is currently the Premier League master of all that he surveys.
Seventeen goals in 11 league appearances this season is the kind of statistic that is usually seen at some point of a Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo campaign. They are the kind of numbers that make everyone bemoan the state of La Liga defences.
The stats only keep on getting better too.
Those 17 strikes mean that Suarez hass now scored more goals than half of the teams in the Premier League this season, and the Uruguayan even gave them a five-match head start due to suspension. If you throw in his nine assists he’s been directly involved in 26 (twenty-six!) league goals already this season. That’s one more than Manchester United.
We could do this all day, but what you can’t measure is the level of confidence flowing through a Liverpool team at such a crucial moment of their campaign.
The Tottenham game marked the beginning of a period which sees the Reds make trips to Manchester City and Chelsea between Christmas and New Year, with a home game against Cardiff to come before that.
Beat the side from the Welsh capital early on Saturday afternoon – and with a record of 20 goals in their last five matches at Anfield that’s exactly what they’ll expect to do – and they’ll return to top spot in the Premier League ahead of Arsenal’s clash with Chelsea on Monday. Anything but a home win at the Emirates means that the Reds will be eating their Christmas dinner at the head of the table.
These are indeed heady times at Anfield then, and whilst many might focus on just what were to happen if Liverpool weren’t to be successful in their aims this season – namely the potential exit of Suarez – that would merely get in the way of talking about just how good he and his team have been.
The Manchester City and Chelsea visits will be pivotal moments in their season, but then the trip to White Hart Lane was supposed to be that too, and look how it turned out.
That conversation that Rodgers enjoys only looks like getting longer and louder.
Unlucky Clarke pays the price for improvement of others
The harsh decision to sack West Brom’s Steve Clarke on Saturday night wasn’t down to the Baggies board looking up at where they’d like to be in the table, but down at where they’re trying to avoid.
The three teams currently in the relegation zone – Crystal Palace, Fulham and Sunderland – have all made noticeable improvements since changing their manager this season, and so with West Brom just two points off the drop zone then drastic action was taken.
This isn’t an attempt to justify the extremely harsh sacking, but more to try and see things from the point of view of the board at The Hawthorns, and all the money they’d miss out on should the unthinkable happen.
The ‘bounce’ experienced by those three clubs in the drop zone will have to replicated by the Baggies, or a tough 2014 awaits.
Saints to march in
The damage done by Liverpool to Tottenham on Sunday might be felt for a little longer than Spurs fans would hope.
The AVB-less North Londoners travel to Southampton on Sunday, and the impressive hosts can prolong the agony of the visitors with a victory.
Back Southampton to beat Spurs at 8/5 with BetMcLean.com.