As Luis Suarez sauntered towards the goal in the dying moments of the game, I sat back waiting for an inevitable sixth goal and the forward’s hat-trick, with a careless smile on my face. Two years back, even dreaming of Liverpool scoring 3 or more goals, in practically every game, would have been termed outworldly, improbable. Forward’s scoring for fun and defenders getting in on the act way too often, is something I have never witnessed in my years as a Liverpool supporter. A Torres or Owen hat-trick was something we gloated over for months to come. However, the exploits of the current Liverpool side is making it exceedingly hard for me to pick the season’s best performance or the best goals.
5 goals away at Stoke City, 5 goals at home against Arsenal and 6 away at Cardiff yesterday. These score-lines would have been expected of Manchester City. Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Alvaro Negredo and Sergio Aguero amongst the major perpetrators of inflicting ruthless destruction on fellow Premier League teams. Back in December, I for one felt scared of having to watch Liverpool go away to Manchester City when they were in top form. Avoiding a big goal thrashing seemed every fan’s cardinal target. But what happened at the Etihad convinced me, once and for all, that this Liverpool side is not a push-over. We are not mere lambs in a lion’s den. We might not have won the game or scored multiple goals, but the flair of the attacking play, the interchange of passing and the pressing when not in possession was a joy to behold. For the neutral, Liverpool was the victor that day.
Getting back to the topic at hand, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side is blowing away the opposition so frequently that a 2-0 score-line seems a dull affair. The SAS not registering on the score-sheet is considered an unthinkable anomaly. When did Liverpool turn into such a ruthless scoring machine you ask? The answer is January 2013. Liverpool have been outclassing and outplaying teams from the very turn of last year. Newcastle got humiliated by six goals at home. Norwich and Swansea both shipped 5 goals each. Undoubtedly the addition of Daniel Sturridge and the magician Phillipe Coutinho has made the Reds a force to reckon with, but the dramatic increase in quality of the players of the Hodgson-Dalglish spells has been the critical factor in improving the team as a whole.
Rodgers’ may have shifted from his philosophy of “death-by-football” but what makes good managers great is the ability to adapt. Playing 3-4-1-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3 or 4-2-2, the Reds have excelled in every formation. When faced with a surplus of defensive talent, Rodgers overloaded the defense with a 3 man shield. Still the goals at the opposition’s end kept going in. Making Lucas and Gerrard the 2 man holding midfield might have been considered a bit too defensive, but alas, goals still kept going in again. The prime reason for that is, the two precocious forwards having the season of their lives. 47 goals together, that is an incredible feat with 8 games to go. Both top the scoring charts with Suarez also the top “assist-er” in the league. If this wave of goals continues, we might blow away Man City and Chelsea too at Anfield. But then again, you dare not try to predict a Liverpool game’s outcome these days. Even God can’t forecast that.
This insatiable desire for scoring goals instills a sense of fear in the opposition. Anfield was a fortress in the 70s and 80s and so it has become one this season. Home form is crucial to sustain a fourth place challenge let alone a go at the title. That is exactly what Rodgers has implemented by making each game at home the “longest 90 minutes of the opposition’s lives”. Nobody is going to get at easy game at Anfield as long as Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge keep replicating their performances each week. Liverpool are undisputedly the current entertainers of the Premier League. Putting the ball in the back of the net is the hardest job of them all and this side is indeed making it look child’s play.
The manager deserves praise for having turned an underachieving team into an overachieving one. Champions League qualification was stated as the primary objective of the club. But here we are in March 2014, whispering about a go at the title. Rodgers himself acknowledged the fact that no club goes from 7th to 1st in one season. It’s unprecedented and would’ve been deemed lunacy at the start of the season. Yet again, this stuff is what dreams are made of and we sure might be living one.