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Five reasons why Liverpool can turn their season around

Off the Mark: In a mad Premier League season, are Liverpool actually the sane ones?

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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.

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Ole Goner?

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.

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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.

Back Hull to beat Newcastle at 7/5 with BetMcLean.com.

@Mark_Jones86

GW26 Preview: Sturridge is outshining Suarez in Liverpool’s high-scoring team

Off the Mark: REVEALED: The two men who could define Manchester United’s next five years, and David Moyes isn’t one of them

GW22 Preview: Reuniting Liverpool’s deadly SAS could be key to Fantasy Premier League glory

Off the Mark: Joe Hart hasn’t become bad, he’s just forgotten what made him good

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FY FBA

FantasyYIRMA has been nominated for the Best FPL Football Blog at the 2013 Football Blogging Awards. To cast your vote, simply click on this link.

You’ll have seen them all by now, the hashtags, the harsh comparisons and the jokes no doubt ripped off and retold to thousands of followers across the globe. When you’re in a slump, Twitter is not your friend.

When you’re the goalkeeper for England and Manchester City, not many other people are either.

Each error is going to be seized upon and dissected in minute detail, and so the aim has to be to simply stop making as many mistakes. For Joe Hart, that is proving easier said than done.

City would have welcomed a point from their weekend visit to Chelsea, especially seeing as they fell behind in the first half and responded well in the second.

There were crucial momentum points up for grabs there, points perhaps more important than the one they were to achieve from the 1-1 result. Then disaster struck.

Hart’s error in not trusting Matija Nastasic enough to deal with both a lofted ball forward and an onrushing Fernando Torres turned one point into none, an encouraging draw into a damaging loss and a decent result into a third league defeat of the season. That’s the same as Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool combined.

Despite maintaining the title of the top scorers in the division, City’s away form now shows just one win in five. Maintaining that won’t even get them into the top four, never mind the top one.

Hart has been the man blamed by many for this slump, and decisions such as his last minute rush of blood at Stamford Bridge indicate why.

Is this the same man once widely thought to be the best goalkeeper in the Premier League? Physically yes, give or take a few skin flakes he’s removed from his scalp, but mentally the answer looks to be no.

Judging by his lack of faith in Nastasic’s ability to deal with the Torres situation, Hart simply hasn’t got enough trust in his defence at the moment. The company around him doesn’t fill him with confidence, as opposed to the Kompany who usually keeps him safe.

The absence of City’s skipper Vincent Kompany – who has started just four of his side’s nine league games this season, completing only two of them – is the key to Hart’s struggles.

Of course the Belgian isn’t a one-man defence capable of shielding Hart from any shots heading towards his goal, but he does inspire others around him, including Nastasic. Hart would have played behind the Serb on plenty of occasions, but the Nastasic he’ll have seen lining up alongside Martin Demichelis on Sunday would have been a different player to the one the goalkeeper would see playing with Kompany.

Perhaps Hart is also lacking that leadership in front of him when he plays for England too, with Roy Hodgson picking the likes of Phil Jagielka, Gary Cahill and Joleon Lescott at centre-back, none of whom possessing the organisational skills of, say, a John Terry.

Let’s not begin a tub-thumping call for the Chelsea man to return to international football though, and instead focus on a goalkeeper who hasn’t become bad, he’s just forgotten what made him good.

At 26, Hart could easily have another 10 years at the top left in him, and that decade is likely to feature one or two more slumps in form like the one he’s experiencing now.

If he can learn from it though, and remember to place trust in his defenders, then he might just look back on this period as the making of him.

City will certainly hope so anyway, as will those of us sick of reading those same old Twitter jokes.

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Clear thinking is the key to Sturridge form

Liverpool’s forwards are a joy to watch at the moment, and while the spotlight was rightly on the brilliant Luis Suarez at the weekend, it is the development of Daniel Sturridge which is the greater attraction.

Twenty-one goals in 27 Liverpool games is statistic approaching Messi-Ronaldo levels, and it has been really refreshing to see and hear the forward talk with such openness and honesty about the need to de-clutter his mind in order to become a better player.

The fact that Sturridge has only awarded himself “a six or seven” out of 10 for his Reds career so far (and the seven didn’t sit well with him) suggests that he’s his own harshest critic, but goals like the brilliant chip against West Brom at the weekend don’t come from six or seven out of 10 players.

They come from superstars.

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Swans need to avoid Euro hangover

Swansea look handily placed in ninth at the moment, but that is just three points above the relegation zone.

Such is the tightness of the division they are likely to have slipped somewhat by the time they take on Cardiff City on Sunday, in a match that those who don’t follow football outside of the Premier League might be about to realise the significance of.

It’s going to be big, and with a Cardiff win taking them above their bitter rivals in the table, the Swans need to make sure that their European campaign doesn’t distract them from the bigger picture.

That picture, for much longer than Sunday, is purely made up of South Wales bragging rights.

@Mark_Jones86

FantasyYIRMA has been nominated for the Best FPL Football Blog at the 2013 Football Blogging Awards. To cast your vote, simply click on this link.

GW5 Preview: You can’t ignore Liverpool’s Sturridge and Arsenal’s Giroud

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