3 Liverpool Players Who Need to Improve Heading into Busy Christmas Period

Scott Burns@@scottb86Featured ColumnistDecember 4, 2013

3 Liverpool Players Who Need to Improve Heading into Busy Christmas Period

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    Liverpool have had their fair share of standout performers during the opening months of the 2013/14 season, but there are still a select few who are yet to hit the heights.

    The likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Simon Mignolet have been outstanding in the Reds' impressive start and have, in some instances, won games single-handedly.

    The goals of Suarez and Sturridge have propelled the Reds to the top end of the table while Mignolet has settled superbly into life at Anfield.

    However, for those who have impressed, there are then those who have not.

    It has been a frustrating season for the likes of Joe Allen and Iago Aspas who have both seen the majority of their season disrupted by injury.

    It would be unfair to highlight these players as individuals who need to improve over the coming weeks when they have yet to put a good run of games together.

    As Brendan Rodgers' men head into the busy Christmas period where the league table can really start to take shape, it is vital that the players stand up and be counted and prove that they are serious top four contenders.

    This article will highlight three players who all have the potential or ability to contribute to the side more than they have done so far this season and look at where they have perhaps gone wrong.

    Read on to see who makes the list.

    *Please Note: This article was published prior to the Liverpool v Norwich City fixture (04/12/2013).

No. 3: Raheem Sterling

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    Many may feel the inclusion of Sterling is harsh given that the winger is still only 18 years old, but having seen glimpses of what he is capable of in the early stages of last season, Reds fans are entitled to expect slightly more.

    Sterling—when selected—has been a shadow of the player who took the Premier League by storm in the first half of the 2012/13 season and who also forced his way into Roy Hodgson's England squad.

    The tricky winger has only started three games for the Reds in all competitions this season but has appeared lacklustre and short of confidence on numerous occasions.

    He has appeared a further seven times as a substitute, but in those 10 appearances he has scored only once and failed to provide any assists for others, managing only two shots in the process (via ESPN).

    In his last outing—Sunday's 3-1 defeat at Hull—he was replaced by Philippe Coutinho just after the hour mark after again failing to pose a threat or make any impact whatsoever.

    The one-cap England international has all the attributes to be a real talent. He is tricky, decent with the ball at his feet, finds space well and is lightning quick, an old-fashioned winger in some senses.

    Where Sterling at the moment lets himself down is in his decision-making.

    Time and time again, he has struck fear into opposition defenders when running at them only to let himself and his teammates down with his final ball.

    Decision-making is something that improves with time and experience, and Sterling has enough experienced heads around him to guide him.

    Maybe fans were expecting slightly too much after his explosive start the year previous, but the talent is without doubt there.

    The Christmas period could be the perfect time for Sterling to burst back on to the scene, for him to establish himself in the side and to prove that he can be key cog in Liverpool's bid for a top-four place.

No. 2: Victor Moses

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    Signed on a season-long loan from Chelsea in late August, Victor Moses began his Liverpool career in the perfect way, scoring just 36 minutes into his debut against Swansea City.

    Since then he has failed to add to this solitary goal and has been largely ineffective when starting games or when asked to come on as a substitute.

    Moses has recently vented his frustration at the lack of playing time he has had since joining Brendan Rodgers' side (via Sky Sportsbut has ultimately failed to impress when indeed selected.

    Many Liverpool fans—if being completely honest—would probably admit to still not knowing what Moses' best position actually is, whether he is more comfortable as a winger or playing through the middle.

    With the likes of Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho providing competition for attacking places, it is imperative that Moses seizes any opportunity afforded to him by Rodgers.

    Something the Nigerian international failed to do during his last outing against Hull.

    Not only was he ineffective as an attacking threat, Moses inexplicably gave the ball away for Hull's opening goal when he tried to flick the ball over the head of his opponent despite having much easier options available.

    With seven Barclays Premier League fixtures to come over the next 28 days, coupled with an untimely injury to Sturridge, the Reds need their attacking players to be firing on all cylinders if their excellent start to the season is not to be undone.

No. 1: Glen Johnson

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    Despite being first-choice right-back for both club and country for some time now, Glen Johnson has recently failed to show any signs of the form that prompted Liverpool to pay Portsmouth in excess of £18m for his services (via the Telegraph).

    Johnson—despite being immensely talented—has perhaps been the beneficiary of a lack of any real competition for places at right-back.

    Martin Kelly has suffered endlessly with one injury after another while John Flanagan is still young and learning the ropes.

    The England international has suffered his own fair share of injury heartache during his time at Anfield, which has in all probability played a significant part in this writer labelling his Reds' career as inconsistent.

    Selected regularly by club managers Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and Brendan Rodgers as well as at international level by Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson, Johnson has always had the backing of those around him.

    Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard even named Johnson in his all-time XI of players he had played with throughout his illustrious career.

    Johnson possesses all the attributes to be a truly great full-back.

    He is big, strong, quick, good in the tackle and has fabulous ability with the ball at his feet—both left and right.

    His positioning and awareness, however, need to be worked on because as good as he is going forward, lapses in concentration and lack of positional sense have at times been apparent.

    Despite his ability, there have at times this season been occasions when Johnson has simply not been up to scratch.

    In the recent 3-3 derby draw with Everton, he was time and time again caught out of position and had Simon Mignolet to thank for sparing his blushes.

    For somebody usually so comfortable in possession, during the recent 3-1 defeat to Hull, Johnson appeared bereft of ideas.

    On more than one occasion, he was hesitant when in control of the ball and, as a result, gifted Hull possession and at times simply passed the ball sloppily into touch.

    Johnson can be a big player for the Reds over the festive season as his ability going forward is as good arguably as good as anyone in his position in the Premier League.

    He now needs to put all the attributes he clearly has into practice and become the marauding full-back all Reds fans know he can be.

    Do you agree that the three players selected need to up their game or are their others who deserve a mention?

    Have I been too harsh on any of those selected?

    As usual, leave your comments below.