5 Biggest Worries from Liverpool's Season So Far
Despite securing a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace at Anfield on Saturday, a win which took them temporarily back to the top of the Premier League, Liverpool's players weren't exempt from criticism from their manager Brendan Rodgers (via The Guardian).
The Northern Irishman wasn't impressed with the manner that his side kept the ball in the match, bemoaning what he saw as a "lack of control" as newly promoted Palace were spared in the second half the type of onslaught they experienced in the first.
Of course Rodgers will be happy to see his side amongst the leading teams in the division, and it must be said that the dynamic duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were exempt from his harsh words following yet another game in which both scored, but he is bound to have concerns despite the plaudits.
But what exactly will Rodgers be worried about?
Here we look at five of his team's concerns that might just be nagging in the manager's mind as the Reds seek to continue their good form.
The Second-Half Situation
It is scarcely believable that, in seven Premier League games and two Capital One Cup ties this season, the only goal that Liverpool have managed in the second 45 minutes of matches was the Luis Suarez strike which sealed victory at Sunderland late in the game.
The fact that 14 goals have been scored in that time in either the first half or in extra-time suggests that this isn't a drastic problem for the Reds and Rodgers to have, but it creates a curious imbalance that they'll be keen to redress.
The recent matches against Sunderland and Palace saw a clear difference in the amount of chances that Liverpool created in the second 45 minutes compared to the first, and given the split-second nature of Premier League matches where everything can change in an instant, that is something that the Reds are going to have to change if they want to continue to be successful.
Failing to Share the Goals Around
Suarez and Sturridge have been excellent, clearly, and their stellar form should be celebrated by Reds fans who will long for it to continue. But there will be a concern over just where the goals would come from should one of the pair become unavailable—Suarez does have a penchant for suspension after all.
Against Palace, Steven Gerrard became just the second other player after Victor Moses to score a Premier League goal for the Reds this season, a tally which doesn't stack up favourably to the likes of Manchester City, who had six different league scorers even before they took on Everton over the weekend.
The likes of Philippe Coutinho and even Glen Johnson will add to Liverpool's goal threat when they return from injury, but all the players will feel a responsibility to get on the scoresheet, and the sooner that happens the better.
The Clean Sheets Have Disappeared
The first three weeks of the Premier League season contained a welcome symmetry for Liverpool; they would always win 1-0 and Sturridge would score the goal.
However, since that run has stopped, the Reds have failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last four league games, with Dwight Gayle's consolation strike on Saturday the latest effort to breach their defences.
Conceding five goals in four matches is hardly the stuff of crisis of course, but Rodgers will be hoping that his team can tighten up again following the international break, particularly with a big clash at Arsenal on the horizon.
Will the New Formation Work Against Better Sides?
Liverpool's 3-4-1-2 setup is still very much a work in progress and something that Rodgers is using in a bid to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal.
It does, however, seem to be here to stay given the way that the team have embraced it, but perhaps the bigger tests for it are yet to come.
Of the traditional big clubs, Liverpool have only faced Manchester United so far this season, and when they come up against the bigger tests, it'll be interesting to see how the formation stacks up against teams that appear to play a universal 4-3-3.
Midfield will be a key area in these contests, and with "the 1" in this Reds formation (Victor Moses in the current lineup) seemingly encouraged to get forward at every opportunity, perhaps that'll create space that the better sides can exploit.
The January Transfer Window
With every goal that Suarez scores, Real Madrid's interest in the Uruguayan is sure to increase.
Liverpool have made it quite clear that they will not countenance a sale of their star forward to Arsenal, but the Spanish giants could well be a different matter, and any bid from the Bernabeu is sure to turn the forward's head.
It is his reaction to it that then becomes crucial, though. A repeat of his summer-long transfer saga would obviously be more damaging during the winter due to the fact that the Reds will be in meaningful action, and if Liverpool tell Suarez that he can't leave (perhaps with a caveat that he can go in the summer) then he'll have to react well to that news in order for the boat not to be rocked.
Like many defenders who face him will feel though, it's hard to predict what he'll do next.