Thanks to other top four candidates playing well below par Liverpool is still in the mix. Yesterday a lot of results went our way but can the Reds capitalise by beating Swansea at Anfield tonight? I have my doubts.
It´s a funny old season we are witnessing. Liverpool is underperforming and should be out of contention for a top four place. But other teams predicted to be fighting at the top are also out of sorts. A comparison with last season paints a clear picture.
As we all know the Reds has been far worse than last season. After 18 league matches the difference is 11 points, this season we´ve gained 25, last season it was 36.
But our rivals for top four has also done worse. Arsenal for instance has 33 points now after 19 games, last season it was 42. Tottenham was three points better off last season, 31 points now, 34 then after 19 matches. Everton is a lot worse off. Last season they had 37 points after 19 fixtures, this time around it´s only 21.
This is working in Liverpool´s favour. Because if for instance Arsenal had been as good this season as they were last then we would have been stranded with no chance of reaching top four. At the moment we are 21 points behind Chelsea, 18 behind Manchester City, trailing Manchester United by 11 points and if Arsenal had been in last season´s form they would be 17 points ahead of us. In these circumstances we would have been out of the top four race.
But thankfully none of our main rivals for top four, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton has clicked into gear so far. We are still in with a shout. No, I am not forgetting the other four sides above us in the table, Southampton, West Ham, Swansea and Newcastle. But none in this quartet is going to be contenders for top four when the season is coming to an end. That I´m pretty sure of.
And since Everton has even bigger worries than us our two rivals for top four will be Arsenal and Tottenham. Right now Tottenham is six points ahead of us and Arsenal eight. A win tonight versus Swansea would cut the deficit to three respectively five points with half a season passed. To leapfrog the London teams would not then be an impossible task. But to have a platform to do so Liverpool must beat Swansea tonight.
And it will not be easy. The Swans had a difficult period recently but seems to be back on track again and can boast two straight wins in the league. They´ve got a lot of potent players who can trouble us. Striker Wilfried Bony is one of the most lethal in the league, capable of scoring both with feet and head. They have three quick wingers in Wayne Routledge, Nathan Dyer and Jefferson Montero (could be out injured) and in midfield former Red player Jonjo Shelvey can both shoot dangerously from distance and run things.
Their wekaness lies in defence. Sometimes Swansea can be tight at the back but on other occasions they are as clumsy as our defenders. So a suitable approach for Liverpool would be to attack a lot, win the ball quickly when Swansea got it, and keep them defending as much as possible. To do that the Reds need to be bold, aggressive and focussed. And field a brave line-up with attack-minded players. My starting eleven would be this one:
GK: Simon Mignolet. RB: Javier Manquillo. CB: Kolo Toure. CB; Mamadou Sakho. LB: Alberto Moreno. DM: Emre Can. RM: Lazar Markovic. CM: Steven Gerrard. AM: Adam Lallana. LM: Philippe Coutinho. CF: Raheem Sterling.
I don´t think the Reds has got the right players to field a back three as we have done in recent times, so I´d go for a back four. Sterling is not the ideal choice for striker but the best one we´ve got as long as Daniel Sturridge is out injured. Coutinho seems to be more effective when he cuts in from the left so let him do that. I don´t know if Lallana is up to the task of being attacking central midfielder and playmaker but let´s give him a chance in that role.
Liverpool has not been able to string together several good results or fine performances this season. The form is like a roller-coaster. So no-one knows which team we will see tonight. Our guys seems to freeze a bit when playing at Anfield and so far they´ve only managed three wins in nine home games. If we are going to make a serious attempt to reach top four then a excellent display and a convincing win is minimum requirement this time. I am not so sure we can do it but nevertheless:
We Go Again.