Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen believes last season’s title near-miss will stand them in good stead in the race for the top four.
History repeated itself on Sunday when 11 months on from beating Manchester City, who eventually went on to be crowned champions, the Reds defeated Manuel Pellegrini’s side with another winner from Philippe Coutinho.
While Liverpool could not go on to close out their first title since 1990 after that City win, this latest victory maintains their momentum for a Champions League place.
“We learned a lot from last season and hopefully that will help us between now and the end of the season,” said Allen. “The disappointment of those games against Chelsea (2-0 defeat) and Palace (3-3) during the run-in hurt us but sometimes you forget how good that run was.
“We won 12 of our last 14 games. In the last couple of seasons we’ve finished really strongly and hopefully we can do something similar again.
“Our target is the top four – there’s no secret in that.
“Nothing is impossible in football but it’s the old cliche of taking each game as it comes. That was the secret to our run last season.
“We didn’t look too far ahead and I’m sure it will be more of the same.”
Liverpool enjoyed a significant swing in form in mid-December and since the turn of the year have collected more points (20) than any of their rivals – with Arsenal (18) closest.
Unlike last season, when the Reds had Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge scoring goals for fun this time around it is more of a team effort.
“We lost a world class player (when Suarez was sold to Barcelona),” added Allen. “That is bound to have an effect and you want it to be short term. It was a bit longer than we probably hoped but in terms of everyone else as individuals we have all moved on.
“That is the beauty of having a young squad which is always developing, learning new ways of playing, playing different systems.
“We have a squad of versatile players. At this stage of the season that has really helped us.”
The Wales midfielder had arguably his best game against City since moving to the club and he has stepped up to the plate after injuries to Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard left the team light in central midfield.
“It’s unfortunate for individuals when you do get injuries. I’ve been on the other side of it,” said Allen. “But it has given me my opportunity in recent weeks and when the team wins it’s always fantastic to be part of it.
“It was probably one of my best performances for Liverpool. If I can maintain my fitness and make sure it doesn’t break up my season going forward then I’m confident I have the ability to put in those kind of performances consistently.”
Coutinho’s form has also been a significant factor in Liverpool’s rising fortunes and Allen believes the 22-year-old has gone to the next level after his third goal in seven matches – all of which have been stunning strikes.
“He’s so good. The Brazilian team is obviously full of talent but he has to be really pushing for that,” he said. “I think some people forget how young he is at times. He’s a young player getting better all the time.
“He’s so unpredictable and that’s such a good skill to have. He has the ability to turn both ways, he’s skilful and a player who comes into that versatile bracket.
“He can play in different positions and teams are struggling to deal with him.
“He showed with the goals he’s scored that he has that as part of his game. He was always on this path.
“Those of us who work with him on a daily basis always knew he was going to kick on and reach this kind of level.”