...‘We’re just taking one game at a time,’ ‘the next games the most important,’ etc.
For once though, I really couldn’t agree more. The best teams historically have simply dealt with the next fixture, placing all efforts and thoughts on that game solely. Once three points are obtained and the final whistle blows then and only then is it time to move on.
After 21 matches played 11 points separate the top 7 clubs. These seven teams will each harbour the dream of becoming Premiership Champions this year. Without doubt this season continues to be the most exciting in many a season.
Up until recently Liverpool fans, players and management alike have suggested that we can’t even whisper the word ‘Champions’ this season amid fears that it could derail our entire campaign. The belief is that seventh to fourth is a big enough jump and to hope for a greater ascent would just be greedy. Recently the mind-set appears to have changed. Steven Gerrard suggested last week that we are in the mix and following the Stoke victory Brendan Rodgers confirmed that we are indeed in the title race. The mere idea of being in contention can only be a positive thing as at the end of last season this type of scenario looked highly unlikely and at best, a few years away. It is testament to the incredible job Rodgers and his staff have done.
Never has an absence of European competition been so useful to our football club. We’ve had injuries like all the other sides but a frequent involvement against Europe’s elite would have surely only worsened the fitness levels of the group as well as proving to be a distraction, albeit a pleasant one. In the coming weeks Arsenal and Manchester eyes will be concentrating on Bayerns and Barcelonas, while a Bournemouth will be the only distraction for the reds. The major concern regards the depth of squad and this is of course a fair point. However we left the Britannia with three points and almost as importantly no fresh injury concerns. I understand that in the near future we’ll be welcoming back Sakho, Allen, Flanagan and Enrique. Their collective return will bring a stronger look to the line-up but moreover the bench.
During the course of any league campaign there’s often a winning goal scored by an unlikely suspect. Could the much talked about Victor Moses have an impact in this second half of the season? Vladimir Smicer never made the greatest impact at Anfield but in Istanbul, in his final match, he scored one of the three goals and again in the penalty shootout. His final performance for the club left as big an impression as his combined collective performances prior. Moses has done almost nothing during his loan spell but should he produce a match winning Anfield performance against the likes of Man City or Arsenal then the fans perception of him will change markedly.
At some juncture you would imagine Man City and Chelsea will pull away like two rampaging horses in the final furlongs of a titanic race. For Liverpool and the others in that group of five it’s imperative that we hang on in there till the bitter end. To use a boxing analogy, a fighter can be behind on points but in that final round anything can happen as long as he’s still standing and throwing punches.
The next league match is the most important and that mind-set will remain till the 38th fixture. Aston Villa at Anfield looks like a reasonably obtainable three points, then follows the Merseyside derby. There’s an argument to be said that this forthcoming derby is the biggest in decades. Quite simply, three points against Everton may be three of the most precious since the Premier Leagues inception in 1992. Should we win that too then expectation levels will be at an almost unbearable level. Soon after we entertain current leaders Arsenal, a fixture which will provide the clearest indication yet as to exactly where our expectation levels should be, either aiming for forth or that elusive first place.
The defeats at Chelsea and Manchester City, although disappointing, showed that we can match the two most likely contenders both in terms of quality and competitiveness. No points where taken from those games however they provided proof, if proof were needed, that this squad has something special about it.
As it stands no new faces have arrived at Anfield in this January window but should one or two key acquisitions be made that could be the small detail that makes the ultimate difference. If we had no injuries from this point till May then the squad is strong enough but no club is that fortunate. I believe we need one or two and if those individuals can hit the ground running like a Coutinho or Sturridge then even better.
As Liverpool fans we should collectively hope and dream for the top prize, it’s what our history demands and for the first time in a long time what our future suggests. Last summer when the departure of Suarez looked a certainty the prospect of a top four finish looked highly unlikely. Should we obtain qualification for the Champions League this season then an achievement of grand proportions will have been accomplished.