Liverpool On Course For Fourth

20 games gone in the league and we’ve now played every other team. I always thought that the league table after 20 games was a lot more significant than the table on Christmas Day, especially with the 2 most difficult away games still to come. We led the league at Christmas, lost 2 games, dropped down to 5th and then beat Hull to go up to 4th. I’ll take that.

For a while this season we’ve been getting good results without convincing everyone that we are good enough to stay the course. The first few games we won 1-0 by hanging on in the 2nd half. Then we were beating the lesser sides at Anfield but couldn’t beat a top half of the table side away from home. The defeat to Hull appeared to confirm some people’s doubts but since then we have been very good. As if the poor performance and result at the KC stadium provided the kick up the arse that was needed. After the Hull debacle we slaughtered Norwich and West Ham at home and then went to Spurs and gave them a good hiding. The team seemed to come of age at White Hart Lane. We controlled the game, defended well and was quite ruthless in attack. Players like Flanagan and Sterling impressing. Henderson and Allen in midfield doing great as well. 5-0 actually flattered Spurs, it really could have been 8 or 9.

We followed up the White Hart Lane massacre with what I thought was our best display since Kenny’s first spell as manager. That first 60 minutes against Cardiff was fucking filthy. The pressing, passing, movement, interchanging… Iw as on the edge of my seat, creaming my pants at the sexy football. “Aww, ahhhh yes, awwwww! Ooooohh! Oh my god! Fucking hell, shit, where’s the tissues ?” I haven’t eulogised over a performance like that since Mcmanaman and Fowler ran rings around Middlesborough at Anfield in December 1996 and before that you have to go back to Kenny’s first spell for such flair, style and panache while giving the opposition a beating. I got the impression that this was Brendan’s philosophy coming to fruition. I’ve noticed that our pressing game has come on big time since Gerrard got injured. Now the skipper is back and Allen is injured it will be interesting to see if the pressing disappears or if it’s maintained.

Although we lost at City and Chelsea I was impressed with how we played. Some fans who thought we would go on to win the league were hit with a sense of reality. I think those games showed that we aren’t at title winning level but I definitely saw signs to suggest we have come a long way since the start of last season. It was a bit demoralising to drop to 5th especially with Everton above us but a good win against Hull put us back in the top 4 to make us feel good about ourselves.

After 20 games it’s clear we are genuine contenders for a top 4 spot and that’s what we all hoped for at the start of the season. Credit to the manager and players. So far so good!

For the first time in a long time I am looking forward to the 2nd half of the season. I think we’ll be battling United, Spurs and Everton for 4th. I don’t see us challenging for the title or finishing in the top 3. Unless of course we strengthen the team with top class new transfers this month.

Certain parts of the team/squad need improving if we are to challenge for the title. Full backs on both sides. We have no back up for Johnson when he’s injured and no competition for his place. When he’s off form, as he’s been the case for a while, there is still no realistic chance someone else takes his place in the side. Left back is a problem area and has been for a while. Have we ever had a top class left back at Liverpool? I don’t rate Enrique at all, but he gets injured, Cissokho gets his chance and doesn’t look great. Flanno gets a chance and is a revelation, displaying all the ability I thought he didn’t have. Intelligent runs off the ball, good passing and first touch, offering a constant attacking threat and solid in defence. Then he gets injured and we’re playing Agger at left back at Chelsea.
Left back is the priority but ultimately I think we need a right back as well. We’ve been linked with Martin Montoya from Barca and Ryan Bertrand from Chelsea but ai doubt we’ll be signing either player.

Defensive midfield player to ultimately take over from Lucas. I think we need to upgrade on the Brazilian if we are to progress to the next level. Get someone in with more mobility, pace and power. Those players aren’t easy to get so I’m not holding my breath on this one.
I am not writing off Lucas, I think he’s a very good player, I just don’t think he’s a great player. I think if we are to win the league or the CL again we’ll need a great player in the defensive midfield role. This is because the way Brendan likes to play means its likely the defensive midfield player is isolated at times and I think it takes a special talent to handle that against quality opposition.

Wide forward/attacking midfield player. We need more goals from midfield, whether from wide forward or the number 10 position. Sterling and Coutinho are doing great for players at their stage of development, but to compete for a title we need elite level decision making and end product in the final third. We get that from Suarez and Sturridge but the level drops with other players. It looks like the club are trying to address this as we’ve been linked with the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Mohamed Salah. Again I think signing either is a long shot but I don’t think we are in desperate need to strengthen this area.

It wouldn’t surprise me if we didnt sign anyone this month. It wouldn’t be the end of the world for me as I think when our injured players return we’ll have a squad capable of finishing in the top 4. However if the ownership see this season as an opportunity to win the league ahead of schedule maybe they would sanction moves for top top players. Then again getting those players is very difficult and very expensive. I think we’ll have to qualify for the CL and look good doing it before signing any top shelf players.

Next up is Stoke away and according to reports we should have Sturridge back available for this one. I’d have him on the bench. Stoke have only lost one game at home this season and have already beaten Chelsea and almost beat Everton but for last minute idiocy from Jermaine Pennant when he have away a penalty. It’s going to be a difficult game but one I think we should win considering the players will have a full week to recover and prepare for the game.

We then have Aston Villa at home which is a must win and then Everton at Anfield. 9 points would be nice.

We have a lot of big games at Anfield in the second half of the season that will determine our fate. Key home games are:

Everton 28th January
Arsenal 8th February
Spurs 29th March
City 12th April
Chelsea 26th April
Newcastle 11th May

The majority of our away games are against bottom of the table sides. The more of those we win the less pressure on the big games at Anfield. We have the following away games to come against the lesser sides:

Stoke 12th January
West Brom 2nd February
Fulham 12th February
Cardiff 22nd March
West Ham 5th April
Norwich 19th April
Crystal Palace 3rd May

The most home wins we’ve won in a season in the Premier League era is 15 in 1995/96. We’ve already won 9 this season. I think we’ll win 14 or 15 come the end of the season.

Our away record has to improve. When you look at the fixtures to come it should improve. I’m predicting 5 wins, 2 draws, 2 defeats from our remaining 9 away games.

So my season prediction is:

Home. Win 14. Draw 3. Lose 2. 45 pts.
Away. Win 8. Draw 5. Lose 6. 29 pts.
Total. Win 22. Draw 8. Lose 8. 74 pts.

This wouldn’t have been my prediction before a ball was kicked this season. I thought we’d get around 68 points. So far Liverpool have exceeded my expectations, and I think we’ll continue to exceed expectations. I’ve tried to remain realistic though. I think 74 points is doable and will be good enough for 4th place.
There is a lot of football to be played however and no honours or champions league places are handed out in January.

In early December after all teams had played 14 games I predicted what the table would look like after 20 games.

Predicted table:

Manchester City 44 pts
Chelsea 43 pts
Arsenal 42 pts
Liverpool 37 pts
Tottenham 36 pts
Manchester United 36 pts
Everton 35 pts
Southampton 29 pts
Newcastle 29 pts

Real table:

Arsenal 45pts
Manchester City 44 pts
Chelsea 43 pts
Liverpool 39 pts
Everton 38 pts
Tottenham 37 pts
Manchester United 34 pts
Newcastle 33 pts
Southampton 27 pts

I got City and Chelsea spot on but slightly under estimated Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs. United failed to meet my expectations. Ha ha.