Unstoppable SAS are on the verge of something very special
Free-scoring Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez have gone a long way to helping Liverpool mount a genuine title challenge this season – and Brendan Rodgers’ side cannot stop breaking records as they continue their search for Premier League glory.
The last time two Liverpool players scored over 20 goals in the same season, they went onto win the league title (1963/64). Can the Reds keep their consistency to be crowned champions of England for a magnificent 19th time when May comes around next month?
It’s the first time Liverpool has managed to mount a sustained title challenge for almost three years. They’ve kept key players fit at crucial stages in the season while their non-involvement in the Champions League means that training regimes are more focused and concentrated on upcoming domestic opponents.
And what about their rivals? Chelsea lead the way but have the distraction of a Champions League quarter-final on their minds later next month. Arsenal remain in the mix despite missing the likes of Mesut Özil, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere, while it seems that Manchester City – who have two games in hand over Liverpool – pose the biggest threat to Liverpool’s title hopes right now.
Leadership, balance and confidence
The Liverpool squad is brimming with a balance of top, young talent and experienced players. Raheem Sterling (19), Jordan Henderson (23) and Jon Flanagan (21) have played superb cameo roles this season, while 33-year-old club captain and talisman Steven Gerrard can always be called upon when the Reds need him most, having been involved in 20 goals (scored 11, assisted 9) in 26 Premier League starts for Liverpool this season.
The club’s refusal to let Luis Suarez join Arsenal in the summer was another turning point for Rodgers and co. The Uruguayan had a release clause activated in his contract by the Gunners in the summer but saw a potential move to north London blocked by Liverpool owner John W Henry. Joining a direct rival, while also strengthening Arsenal, would have been admission that the Anfield giants are no longer one of the Premier League’s heavyweights.
A cliché it may be, but goals certainly win you games. Suarez and Sturridge are the third and fourth Liverpool players to score 20 goals in a Premier League season after Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres. The Reds finally have a prolific, clinical and technically gifted strike partnership worthy of Premier League success. It’s worth remembering that Liverpool have only failed to score in two league games this season.
European football is vital
Wherever you like it or not, football is no longer just a sport. The figures involved in today’s game make it one of the most lucrative businesses around. Liverpool’s lack of involvement in the Champions League was emphasised after the club announced losses of almost £50million in 2012/13. Liverpool last competed in the Champions League during the 2009/10 season, when they were eliminated at the group stage.
“We weren’t in the Champions League and found it difficult,” said Northern Irishman Rodgers.
“In order to get in some of the types of players we want, that’s where we need to be and we’re trying to be.
“We have a long way to go but have shown great potential to be in there. I believe if we can get to that level then it gives us a massive advantage as a club.”
The increase in games by competing with Europe’s elite will force Rodgers to strengthen his Liverpool squad. Despite having the division’s top two scorers at their disposal, the Reds’ defence can be considered a major weakness. They’ve conceded 39 league goals this season, the same amount as relegation-threatened Crystal Palace.
What you can be sure of is that Liverpool have played the most attractive, exciting, free-flowing football in England’s top flight this season. From Suarez to Sturridge, Sterling to Gerrard, and Henderson to Coutinho, there are goals running through this tactically astute side who continue to surpass expectations of supporters and pundits alike.
Enthralling, entertaining and unpredictable. The 2013/14 Premier League has thrown up several surprises this season. Could Liverpool winning their first league title since 1990 be the next one? Time will certainly tell.