Premier League

Liverpool have been crowd pleasers, but they may be out of the race

No joy for the Kop this year?
No joy for the Kop this year?

Roger Daltrey and Leo Sayer both sang a song that could well become the new anthem at Anfield. It was called “One man band” and the one man currently wearing the red shirt of Liverpool is none other than Luis Suarez.

A brilliant player, arguably one of the top six strikers in world football today, Suarez is not an easy man to like, but his finishing is quite superb.

But despite Suarez’s 19 goals this season, it’s not enough to keep Liverpool in the title race. They had a dreadful Christmas, losing ground against Manchester City and Chelsea, games in which Liverpool took the lead both times and Suarez failed to find the net. Despite manager Brendan Rodgers’ claim that Liverpool are still in the title race, the two defeats may have already ruled the Reds out of contention.

A little early?  Maybe, but they’ve lost five games and that’s the sum total of Manchester United’s defeats in 2012-13 when they won the title.

Look at Liverpool’s results and perhaps their early season revival can be explained. They’ve won 11 league games, but nine have been against teams in the bottom half of the table, and eight of them have been at Anfield. Their three away wins have been at Tottenham (admittedly, very impressive), Aston Villa and Sunderland. They have beaten an out-of-sorts Manchester United 1-0, though.

Liverpool’s dependence on Suarez is plain to see. They used to say when Ian Rush scores, Liverpool never lose and the same applies to Liverpool this season. Suarez has scored 19 across nine games. And, of those nine games, Liverpool have won eight and drawn one. He has made 13 Premier appearances and has netted 19 of the Reds’ 44 Premier goals.

Liverpool’s problem is breaking into the top four and getting results against those clubs. In four meetings with the current top four (Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton), they have one point to show for their efforts. It’s not an unfamiliar tale, as over the previous seasons, they have won just four of 24 meetings with the top four, and only one in the past two campaigns.

There’s also every danger that Liverpool may not finish above a resurgent Everton who are playing some excellent football this season under Roberto Martinez. The Merseyside derby was one of the games of the first half of 2013-14 and with Liverpool stumbling over Christmas, Everton have crept into that Chamopions League spot. Neither Mersey club should get too comfortable, Manchester United are just behind them and will surely be in the top four in  a week or two.

So what next for Liverpool? They have been good to watch, no question, but their reliance on Suarez could be their undoing. He is too unpredictable not to gain a suspension or two in the second half of the season. With Everton and United to think about, Liverpool can hope for a Europa place and maybe a good FA Cup run. They will be desperate for European football once more, but alas, it will probably not be the Champions League.

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