It’s been sometime since the optimism has flown through the Kop chants as it has this season. With exile for 4 years from Europe’s finest competition, the Reds look all set to return to the European stage with a bang, unless the footballing Gods have a devious plan! The last time Liverpool FC played in the UEFA Champions league – in 2009 – was also the season they came close to challenging for the title under Benitez, which sadly was the Spaniard’s penultimate season in charge. Back then, Liverpool FC boasted a hitman in Fernando Torres. And now, Luis Suarez along with Sturridge is pulling similar strings for the Merseyside outfit. The two have complimented each other so meticulously this season that, they’ve earned the plaudits of being the best strike force in the premier league, period. The duo boasts a combined 37 goals between them. Suarez being the protagonist, by all fairness, with 23 goals to his name after missing much of the start to the season with a lengthy ban! The lad is head and shoulders above the rest, with Aguero, his nearest competitor, trailing him by 8 goals. But the fact of the matter is that, even after possessing one of the most deadly strike force in all of the league, and boasting the second best goal difference in the league, bettered only by Man City, the Reds find themselves sitting 4th in the table; 8 points adrift the table toppers – Arsenal.
Who would’ve thought that a club which finished 7th last season would finish top of the league come Christmas and then be sitting quite comfortably in the 4th spot come January? But then again, that’s how open this premier league season has been in recent years, with this being the most open title race for some time. And this weekend could very well add fire to it. Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield this week, knowing that a win would ascertain their top 4 credentials while a loss would mean that they are back in the midst of a fiery top 4 race.
But does Liverpool really look like a top 4 side? If Liverpool’s performances against the top sides is anything to go by then, they’ve faired really well, though at times they might not have earned the points to testify this claim. But it’s not how they’ve faired against the big teams, which is an issue, as much as how they’ve performed so abysmally against the lesser sides, is a cause for concern! A week ago, a certain Liverpool side thrashed Everton, another team vying for the top 4 spot, at Anfield, with an emphatic 4-0 score line. Fast forward to the following weekend, and you’ll find the same starting 11 draw a game at The Hawthorns against a lowly West Brom side. The performance was as contrasting as Ebony and Ivory! They were so shabby, lethargic and lost that one may argue whether they really are a top 4 contender. Resting on their laurels, perhaps?
They’ve quite mysteriously failed to add a new face in the January transfer window and with injuries aplenty, Liverpool look to be walking a tight rope. With an injury prone Sturridge, and lack of quality on the bench coupled with a lack of squad depth, an injury to Suarez or any of the other playmakers could really hamper their top 4 chances this season, let alone challenging the title. The returning [from injury] players will only aid their top 4 push, esp. Enrique, without whom the left back position, currently occupied by Cissokho, looks jaded.
Liverpool fans will be hoping that the lapses in concentration like the ones at The Hawthorns or that home draw to Aston Villa don’t come to haunt them come the end of the season. As of now; the optimism has ebbed a bit, but make no mistake, it’ll be flowing like a river if they manage to beat the current table toppers at the reinvigorated fortress that is Anfield. With both sides going for a pass and move football philosophy a.k.a the 21st century football unlike some others who prefer playing the 19th century one, one can hope to witness a mouth-watering clash; A beautiful game of football. So sit back and be entertained, in what could turn out to be a deciding week in the title race and a race for the top 4. With Everton hosting Spurs, in another of weekend’s fixture, it’s a chance for Man United to make some ground or risk losing a place in top 4 since 1990-91. The season is still far from done, though.
The problem with Liverpool is that, you just can’t write them off, but given their unpredictable performances so far this season, you might want to think twice before taking them seriously.
A loss at home against Wenger’s boys would mean that Liverpool fans are up for a long hard season, again.
~Guest Author, Gauresh Khanolkar.