The final six weeks of 2014 could prove a huge period Liverpool’s season, starting with Sunday’s trip to Crystal Palace — and an optimistic Craig Rimmer explains how the Reds could come out of the other side for the better.
At Selhurst Park on Sunday Liverpool face the first of 11 fixtures in the next six weeks which will ultimately determine what their 2014/15 season looks like. It’s a schedule as vital as it is chaotic, and one which will define the limits of Liverpool’s ambitions in the second half of the season.
A potentially tame run of fixtures against Crystal Palace, Stoke City, Leicester City and Sunderland is complicated by two must-win Champions League games away to Ludogorets and at home to Basel.
That precedes league games against Manchester United and Arsenal, either side of a Capital One Cup quarter-final, and then the hectic Christmas and New Year period.
It’s a period of the season which demands negotiation and management. Damage must be limited and points put on the board.
News of Daniel Sturridge’s latest spell on the sidelines just made that task a harder one. Goals are a big concern, but after the last summer transfer window Liverpool should be in a better position and in possession of a squad to cope with such demands.
There are enough good players in the squad now; perhaps it’s time for some of those said players to stand up and prove it.
Everything is still to play for. Despite a turgid start to the season, the realistic objectives set back in August remain within reach — due in part to the failings and inconsistencies of others.
Liverpool could conceivably head into 2015 in a much happier place — how does 15-20 additional points and Champions League progress sound?
For a change, the recent international break came at a nice time for Liverpool. Following three successive defeats, it was an obvious point at which to stop, regroup and start afresh.
There were small shoots of progress against both Real Madrid and Chelsea — little consolation when both games ended in defeat. Although, for that to be anything more than consequential, Liverpool need to put together a run of good form and, more significantly, a run of winning form.
To date the season has lacked direction; any signs of progress, both individually and collectively, have been swiftly undermined. The weight of the fixture list hasn’t helped a labouring team; the increasing regularity of games acting to magnify deficiencies.
What Liverpool’s season needs is a purpose and a source of momentum. In such a busy period momentum is actually not too hard to find. Win a couple of games and the prognosis suddenly looks far rosier.
Equally, a couple more defeats and the kind of pessimism and scepticism which has threatened to confine last season to a distant memory would be cranked up a notch or two, and Liverpool’s season could just as easily get away from them.
It’s a situation which demands pragmatism; the kind of pragmatism which Rodgers was such a great exponent of during the previous season. In fact Liverpool would be well-guided to get back to doing much more of what they did well last season.
But winning football matches breeds momentum and momentum can in turn breed form. It was that kind of perfect storm which spurred Liverpool on to an epic title challenge last season and, although it is obviously short-sighted to expect anything like as memorable this time around, success over the next six weeks can still prove the catalyst for Liverpool to achieve their basic goals of Champions League qualification, Champions League progression, and perhaps even a cup semi-final to boot.
This season remains uncertain and difficult to define. It’s fair to surmise that we will likely be left in little doubt as to it’s direction come the new year. If Liverpool are to take ownership of their season and give it the kind of definition we all want, then they must start winning games. What better time of place to start than here and now.