Are Liverpool Getting Closer to Being a Genuine Force Again?
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The climax to this season on 19 May will mark 23 long years since Liverpool won the last of their 18 top-flight titles, and with Brendan Rodgers’ side set for a seventh-place finish in the Premier League, it may appear on the outside as though the Merseyside giants are as far away as ever from claiming title No. 19.
However, on closer inspection there is in actual fact much to be positive about at Anfield under the new Reds head coach as the club gets ready to embark on what is sure to be an absolutely crucial close season in the transfer market.
For starters, Liverpool as a team look in a far healthier state than at the corresponding point of last season under previous manager Kenny Dalglish, in spite of the team reaching two domestic cup finals under the Scot’s leadership last year.
But it is how a side fares over the course of a 38-game league campaign that is the ultimate litmus test of a team’s progress, and in that regard, Liverpool in 2013 are much improved version of the 2012 model.
Rodgers’ men have already won more games and lost fewer matches than at the corresponding stage of last season, while they have also scored 24 more goals, and if Liverpool were to win their remaining two fixtures of the campaign, then a final points total of 61 would be ample proof that the club is now most definitely heading in the right direction.
However, to be a genuine force once again the Reds need to be back in the UEFA Champions League, which means finishing next season in the top four of the Premier League, no easy task when the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are also all competing for those four slots.
And yet, with a few key new additions to the squad this summer in certain areas of the team and the resultant momentum that should give the side at the start of the next campaign, then that 61-point total could easily become 70 this time next year.
In fact, had Liverpool not suffered such a horrendous start to this season, when they did not register their first top-flight win until almost the start of October, then they could very well have been challenging right now for a top-four finish, as their league form since the turn of the year has demonstrated.
Indeed, Liverpool would now be sitting just three points behind Chelsea in fourth if the league had started on 1 January, which is testament to both the game-on-game improvement that the team has made under Rodgers’ coaching this campaign and the success of his two purchases in the January transfer window.
But this is not a time now to stand still, as both Liverpool and the then Premier League champions City found out to their cost last summer when a collective failure to strengthen in the transfer market had a detrimental effect on their subsequent seasons.
And so Liverpool’s American owners, the Fenway Sports Group, now need to back Rodgers financially like they did at the turn of the year and to trust his judgement in the market to bring in the right individuals in order to take the club to the next level, players of the calibre and technique of a Daniel Sturridge and a Philippe Coutinho.
“I am happy with the squad if I can then put another three or four quality players to it,” said Rodgers in March.
“It is quality we are after, not quantity. We see Coutinho and Sturridge's quality in January, if we bring in another three or four players of that quality and add that to what we have got then we have got a strong squad.”
Will Liverpool finish in the top four of the Premier League next season?
Now, if Liverpool are able to bring in, say, a Christian Eriksen from Ajax (via the Daily Express), for example, then that will really be a sign that the club are going places, as the young Denmark international is what we would call a “Champions League” player.
And, such marquee signings not only give the other players and everyone associated with the club itself a huge extra lift and boost in confidence, but just as important are the extra options on the field of play that such an arrival gives the manager himself.
Consequently, results against the so-called “big boys” should also improve, an area where Liverpool have struggled badly this season, although encouragingly since the turn of the year the Reds have again improved drastically in this regard, even tasting victory for the first time under Rodgers against a top-six opponent when Tottenham were beaten 3-2 at Anfield in March.
So Rodgers and Co must keep on taking things one step at a time as they continue to learn to walk before they can run, but make no mistake about it, the Reds will soon be back sprinting again soon.
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