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Lessons to Be Learned If Liverpool Are to Take Advantage of Rivals' Slip-Ups

Liverpool's Martin Skrtel, centre, celebrates after scoring against Arsenal during their English Premier League soccer match at Anfield Stadium, Liverpool, England, Saturday Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press
Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistFebruary 12, 2014

Whether, as a Liverpool supporter or onlooker, you think the Reds' focus for the final third of this Premier League season should be to secure a top four berth or to look upwards toward the title, one thing remains constant: Every point dropped is an avoidable mistake, and every three points must be aimed for.

With a match at Fulham set to take place on Wednesday night—bottom of the table Fulham‚ that is—the Reds have to learn the lessons from their own recent mistakes to ensure that they give themselves the best chance to achieve one objective or the other this term.

 

Taking Advantage

Not every slip-up need be a crisis, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating at the time.

There is inevitably the feeling of "opportunity missed" when the whistle blows on a 1-1 draw or unlucky 2-1 defeat...but roll on another week, and those around Liverpool do the same.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11:  Manager Jose Mourinho of Chelsea on the touchline during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at The Hawthorns on February 11, 2014 in West Bromwich, England.  (Photo by Laurence
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Indeed, since only as recently as Saturday, all three teams above the Reds have dropped points: Arsenal in the 5-1 Anfield rout, Manchester City in a thoroughly unexpected 0-0 draw at Norwich City and Chelsea, on Tuesday night, in a late 1-1 draw at West Brom.

Aside from showing that surprise results can and will happen, it gives Liverpool the opportunity and motivation to ensure they pick up the points and close the gap to those above, or extend the breathing space they have on those below.

 

Lessons from WBA

One of the best derby performances in recent memory saw Liverpool spank Everton 4-0 only a few short weeks ago. Fast forward to the end of a quiet transfer window and a sloppy performance at West Brom, where a misplaced pass and a listless all-round display gave away a cheap equaliser, and that "missed opportunity" feeling was all-encompassing.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02:  Kolo Toure of Liverpool reacts as goalkeeper Ben Foster of West Bromwich saves his shot on goal during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Liverpool at The Hawthorns on February 2, 2014
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Then along came Arsenal and everything swung 180 degrees again.

Such is the life of the football fan.

What Liverpool have to ensure is that they repeat the performances, the energy, the clinical approach and the determination of the big games against the more minor, supposed "easier" members of the Premier League.

Fulham are bottom, they've won three times at home this season, they have the worst defensive record in the Premier League and have conceded three or more goals on nine different occasions this season, per WhoScored. Liverpool's attack is very, very good.

Commitment and focus are required from the Liverpool players to ensure those things match up at Craven Cottage the way they did in a 4-0 win at Anfield earlier this season.

 

SAS, and S, and C

Much was made of the SASSturridge and Suarez—combination in attack, but another S, Raheem Sterling, and key schemer Philippe Coutinho are just as important.

They all press, work, show great movement and are capable of creating or scoring.

Brazilian Coutinho might have been off the pace for a few games of late but at key moments in recent matches he has produced his very best talents: great dribbling ability, pinpoint passing and creating chances for those ahead.

Fulham could well opt to sit back and soak up pressure for as long as possible, just as they did against Manchester United at the weekend, so Coutinho and Sterling—his pace stretching play and running behind the defence—will be as critical as the goals from the front two.

Once again it will be, as Brendan Rodgers likes to phrase it, the team collective which can win the day for the Reds in the face of stubborn opposition.

Hit the ground running as they have against Everton and Arsenal, and Fulham could easily be overwhelmed. Start sluggish, fail to find tempo or consistency in their game and another West Brom could be on the cards instead, along with another case of opportunity missed.

 

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