Liverpool are currently 3rd in the Premier League with yesterday’s 4-1 win at home to West Bromwich Albion.
This win might just be Liverpool’s best performance of the season so far. Liverpool were well organised at the back, strong in midfield, and of course it helps to have strikers like Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez. The performance and result could not have come at a better time, with Liverpool’s trip to the league leaders Arsenal next week. It was important, therefore, that Liverpool put in a good and professional performance yesterday.
However, West Brom have become a bogey team for Liverpool. Up to yesterday’s win, West Brom had won four of the last six league games against Liverpool, including inflicting the ‘Double’ on Liverpool last season. Before yesterday, Suarez hadn’t scored against the Baggies since he came to England in January 2011 (five games), but put pay to that with a stunning hat trick, while Sturridge’s late chip put the cherry on top of the cake.
Sturridge is now looking like inspired business by Brendan Rodgers. Sturridge joined for £12.5 million in January 2013 from Chelsea, and is repaying that fee now with his goalscoring – he is the quickest player to notch 20 goals for Liverpool (26 games, last week). And some people thought it was a gamble, eh Fergie? Liverpool’s best business of the last transfer window in the summer was keeping Suarez despite the Uruguayan wanting to leave. Rodgers and FSG were resilient throughout and refused to buckle. Both Rodgers and FSG deserve huge credit for keeping Suarez away from the vultures that circled – namely Real Madrid and Arsenal.
Many would argue that the strike partnership of Suarez & Sturridge at the moment, and they’d not be too far wrong. Sturridge’s fantastic chip over the keeper gave the 24-year old his 8th league goal of the season and Suarez now has six league goals since he returned from suspension. Both are strong candidates in the race for the Golden Boot and if Liverpool are to launch a top four challenge and an FA Cup challenge, that will be very important for Liverpool. I think both are both very realistic aims for Liverpool this season.
However, it wasn’t just about the strikers yesterday. Lucas Leiva in the centre of midfield deserves a mention too. He was Liverpool’s only change from the side that drew 2-2 at Newcastle United last week, and put in a fantastic performance. Lucas snatched the ball all over the pitch, thereby restricting West Brom’s attacking opportunities, and was also tidy with the ball. Other players steal the headlines for Liverpool but Lucas also plays a vital role for Liverpool, holding the midfield, thereby making it more solid.
Lucas’ presence in midfield allowed Steven Gerrard and Jordan Henderson to have an influence in more advanced positions. Henderson put in another impressive performance in the week when his running style came in for criticism from Alex Ferguson in his book. Henderson almost scored before half time when his shot went just wide, and Gerrard did well too, particularly with the assist for Suarez’s hat trick goal. Ferguson also took a swipe at Gerrard, saying he “wasn’t a top, top player” (despite once trying to bring Gerrard to Manchester United). I particularly liked Rodgers’ response in his post match press conference, where he said Gerrard was a top, top, top, top, top player.
With Gerrard, Henderson and Lucas performing well at the minute, there is a conundrum for Rodgers next week to solve with Philippe Coutinho on the brink of returing after a shoulder injury. The strike partnership that Sturridge and Suarez have is firing on all cylinders and it is exciting to think about the strike partnership up front with Coutinho supplying them, but although I’ll be glad to see Coutinho back, I do think it would be unfair on the midfield trio of Lucas, Henderson and Gerrard for one of them to make way next week.
This is another positive about Liverpool now – starting places must be earned. Coutinho will have to earn back his place, like what Daniel Agger is having to do now. Agger was appointed vice captain in pre-season to replace the retiring legend Jamie Carragher, but the form of Kolo Toure, Mamadou Sakho and in particular Martin Skrtel has restricted Agger’s Starting XI opportunities. Skrtel put another good performance in, and his goal line clearance off Nicolas Anelka on the stroke of half time was vital with the score at 2-0. If he didn’t intervene then, the scoreline would probably not have been so convincing in Liverpool’s favour. So Skrtel had a massive influence on the result as well.
The fact that Agger is now on the subs’ bench now shows that there is good strength in depth at Liverpool now in many areas of the pitch, even without the bottomless pit of financial reserves that Chelsea & Manchester City have. Many of the teams challenging at the top of the division have strength in depth in their squad and there’s a good strength in depth at Liverpool, which makes a very welcome change to last season when Suarez was Liverpool’s only fit first team striker in the opening months as they struggled in that period of last season.
Liverpool’s trip to Arsenal will undoubtedly be very tough. Arsenal are the league leaders at the moment, and might have pulled off the signing of the summer in Mesut Ozil. The German adds to the ample quality Arsenal have throughout the pitch, and they are certainly surpassing many people’s expectations.
It was therefore vital that Liverpool beat a very good West Bromwich Albion to gain some confidence ahead of that vital trip to The Emirates. They put in their best performance, and their first 90 minute performance this season. Liverpool have taken their foot off the gas far too frequently in the second halves, and on occasions it has cost them. Luckily, there was none of that. It was a very good performance ahead of a very stern test and there are aspects of Liverpool that will make Arsenal a bit nervous ahead of next week’s massive game. All of which should make for a cracking game next Saturday.