Can Liverpool win the title this season? That's the question that everyone's asking. I don't know the answers, no one does, but I do understand something about the season so far. I've read quite a few articles regarding Liverpool's title chances this year, and most of it (especially from bitter fans of other teams) has been sheer rubbish.
For a start, the notion that Liverpool are top of the league due to "luck". This seems a particularly lazy and patronising comment from people who really don't seem to understand football. To back up claims of lucky wins, people have referred to last minute goals, deflected shots, and red cards.
So let's look at it objectively.
Of the 14 goals that Liverpool have scored at the time of writing, five of those have come after 80 minutes of play, and they were in wins against Sunderland (Torres 83), Middlesborough (Pogatetz og 86, Gerrard 94), Man City (Kuyt 92) and Wigan (Riera 80, Kuyt 85). But the fact that no one has mentioned is that against Sunderland, Middlesbrough, and Wigan, Liverpool were on top for the majority of the game, and deserved to win. The second half performance against Man City was likewise dominant.
Does a late goal count as luck anyway? Surely any match event that occurs prior to the end of the allotted injury time is a legitimate event and equal in value to an event that took place in the 77th minute.
The game lasts 90 minutes for a reason after all, and I very much doubt that Manchester United fans consider their two goals in the 1999 European Cup final, with the winner coming after the end of normal time in a game that Bayern Munich could have won by a few goals in the first half, in any way lucky.
Of the deflected goals that Liverpool have scored this season, only the equaliser against Middlesbrough (given as a Pogatetz own goal) and the winner against Chelsea were deflected. All teams get deflected goals, but you don't get them unless you're forcing the attack and in the positions to shoot, which is why they never come for struggling teams.
Ask for the red card issue, no one asked anyone to foul Xabi Alonso in the games against Man City and Wigan. Against Manchester City, Liverpool had already got a goal back at that point, and when the winner came they were also on ten men after losing Martin Skrtel to injury after all substitutions were made.
In their first games of the season (difficult away fixture against Sunderland and at home to Middlesbrough), Liverpool struggled with two major players (Mascherano and Babel) missing at the Olympics, as well as Lucas Leiva. With more players than any other Premiership team receiving players back late from the Spanish Euro 2008 winning squad, Liverpool had fitness issues with quite a few first-team players, including Reina, Arbeloa, Alonso, and Torres.
Speaking of whom, I've heard it said that Liverpool will struggle without Torres and Gerrard. This is undoubtedly true were they to be missing for a few months, although Rafael Benitez planned their absences well enough against Manchester United and Chelsea.
But against Liverpool, Chelsea were missing Didier Drogba, and against a well-organised defence, their attack stuttered. If Manchester United were to lose Ronaldo and Rooney for most of the season, no doubt they'd struggle too, but they'd work hard and grind out results. The loss of a main squad member can be disastrous to any team, not just Liverpool, but they have to manage and that's what the Reds have done so far.
For me, Liverpool have done everything asked of them this season and they've done it with players missing and fitness struggles, always with doubters on every side picking at everything their team and their manager does.
They've come through adversity to snatch victories, and they've out-worked the two current favourites for the title. They thoroughly deserve to be top of the league, and only time will tell if they can continue that form to break the only record their fans care about:
18 years without a league success.
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