After opening 2013 in style at Anfield last night with a convincing 3-0 victory over Sunderland, can we say that our boys have finally turned the corner?
I don’t want to get carried away and say that we’ve turned the corner completely just yet because we need to find some real consistency first. However, the lads have showed some really good signs of progress in recent weeks.
If we go back to our 11th game of the season; the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge on November 11th, Luis Suarez scored our equaliser which was our 14th goal of the season. Afterwards, I wrote an article “Rodgers Review: An in-depth analysis of our season so far” which was a very lengthy piece that explored the reasons we had underperformed.
I included tables of statistics which compared our opening 11 games under Rodgers to those under previous managers. I also included tables of statistics on the source of our goals compared to those in other seasons. After the Chelsea game, Luis Suarez had scored 8 league goals but there had only been minimal contributions from the rest of the team; Steven Gerrard, Nuri Sahin, Raheem Sterling and Martin Skrtel had each contributed one goal; a contribution that I believed wasn’t good enough.
Now, here we are 10 games later. Suarez’s brace last night were his 14th and 15th league goals of the season and it’s absolutely brilliant that he has kept that form going for us. Both Martin Skrtel and Raheem Sterling have now doubled their tally to 2 goals. Steven Gerrard has now scored 4 in total after hitting 3 goals in 3 consecutive matches last month.
But more importantly, other squad members have contributed too. Daniel Agger has scored 2 and Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson, Joe Cole, Jonjo Shelvey and Stewart Downing have all grabbed one goal each. Even Joe Allen hit the back of the net last night but the linesman ruled it out for offside. Positive signs though? Definitely.
After that Chelsea game, we had only won 1 league game at Anfield this season out of our opening 6 and teams were coming here with plenty of confidence; something that rarely happened at Anfield in the past.
However, we’ve now won 4 of our last 5 home games in the league and we’ve won three of these very convincingly; 3-0 v Wigan, 4-0 v Fulham and 3-0 v Sunderland. I know these teams are hardly title contenders but that doesn’t matter because we were dropping points against teams like this at the beginning of the season and it’s nice to see things starting to look up. With a bit of consistency, we could make Anfield the fortress that it used to be.
We’ve now scored 15 goals in our last 6 games taking our season tally up to 34…and that’s 10 more than we’d scored at this stage last season, believe it or not. We did have 35 points and sit 7th in the league at this point last season though. But considering we had our worst start in over 100 years, 4 points short of our tally under Dalglish at this stage last season doesn’t seem too bad anymore.
Brendan Rodgers obviously had a word with a few players including Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing. Both appear to have turned their awful early season form around and started to look like different players. Both look hungry to play and get forward and it’s a massive shame that the former picked up an injury last week against QPR. I for one, hope he isn’t out for too long. As for Downing, most people wanted rid of him during this transfer window but recently I’ve heard a lot of people saying keep him, which shows the difference in his recent performances.
Lucas Leiva returned from injury last month and since then, Steven Gerrard’s form seems to have picked up greatly, which is no coincidence because those two are without a doubt, our strongest combination in the heart of midfield. You only have to look at Gerrard’s 60 yard pass to Suarez last night to see that our captain is far from “finished.”
I must point out that Jordan Henderson’s form has improved greatly too and the healthy competition between himself and Joe Allen for that place in midfield won’t do either of them any harm.
We have also seen some early activity in the transfer window too with the signing of Chelsea striker Daniel Sturridge. I think it is great that we have acted so early this time. Nobody wanted a repeat of last summers’ embarrassing charade after all. Sturridge’s opportunities for Chelsea have been somewhat limited due to injury and falling behind in the pecking order, so we haven’t really got too much evidence from which to judge him. He did well at Bolton a couple of years ago, scoring 8 goals in 11 games. We’ll have to wait and see what he does for us though. One thing is for sure; he will be eager to impress and hungry for goals, both of which can only be good things. Hopefully he can combine well with Suarez up front, help us gain some consistency and get us the goals we need to climb the table.
Let’s not forget we have Fabio Borini back soon too. If we can offload Joe Cole to West Ham, which seems very likely at the minute, hopefully that will free up some space on the wage bill and who knows, another signing could well be on the cards.
We’ve got Mansfield Town in the FA Cup next Sunday which will be a tricky tie. Still, it’s a game we should win, without a doubt. And after that, we have a tough run of fixtures, which includes visits to Old Trafford, The Emirates and then The Etihad. We are capable of winning all of them on our day though as we all know.
3 points at Old Trafford against our arch enemy would be the perfect way to kick-start our season though. Of course it’ll be very difficult but I think we’re overdue a win there!
A repeat of 14th March 2009? Yes please… we can dream!
All the best for 2013.