WHY LIVERPOOL CAN WIN THE TITLE
Since returning from his suspension, Luis Suarez has been in sensational form, scoring more goals per game on average than Dixie Dean did in 1927/28 when he set his record of 60 goals for the season. He has played brilliantly in partnership with Daniel Sturridge, and also as a lone front man, and comes as near to any striker in the Premier League era to being unplayable. Liverpool are playing well at the moment and he is reaping the benefit, but in this sort of form they could play atrociously and the suspicion would be he would still manufacture enough chances to win a game.
In a world in which football seems to revolve around money and major signings, there is something heartening about the way Liverpool are competing on a relatively modest outlay. Organisation and discipline are the keys, and their pressing at times this season has been exceptional. Steven Gerrard remains a major figure, but against Tottenham Hotspur and, to a lesser extent, against Cardiff City they showed how good they can be without him. The trio of Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson seem to complement each other perfectly, a compelling blend of diligence, composure on the ball and energy. Henderson, in particular, is playing with great confidence and purpose at the moment.
Weakness of rivals
This is a strange season in the Premier League in that there is no team without flaws. Arsenal’s squad is slender and they are heavily reliant on Olivier Giroud. Chelsea seem to be struggling to adapt to Jose Mourinho, are yet to find their fluency and have been deficient at both ends of the pitch. Manchester City are awesome at home but vulnerable away. Tottenham are struggling to integrate their new signings. Manchester United are yet to find their form under David Moyes. This is a year of flux, and that could let in a less fancied side like Liverpool.
WHY THEY CAN NOT WIN THE TITLE
If Luis Suarez were to be injured, how would they cope? Could Daniel Sturridge lead the line alone? He did well in the early part of the season while Suarez was banned, but if both were out at the same time there would certainly be problems. Similarly without Philippe Coutinho, this is a side that lacks creativity from midfield. In defence they could probably cope with a couple of injuries or suspensions, but elsewhere this is a squad that lacks depth; a couple of injuries in the wrong area could cripple them.
One of the joys of this Liverpool side is that it is so fresh, so full of youthful players playing with freedom. Mircea Lucescu, the Shakhtar Donetsk coach, always said he prefers to work with young players because they lack the fear brought by experience. The flip side of that is what happens when they near the prize? At the moment, football is fun for the likes of Jon Flanagan, Coutinho, Henderson and Allen, none of them older than 23, but how will they react when the pressure is on with a couple of weeks of the season remaining? They might breeze through but, equally, they could buckle.
Liverpool have kept just one clean sheet in their past six games – in the demolition of Tottenham. At the moment that isn’t really an issue – leaking a goal when you’ve already scored three or four doesn’t worry too many people – but the late collapse at Everton and the subsequent defeat at Hull are a cause for concern. It is a particular problem away from home, where Liverpool have let in an average of 1.6 goals per game.
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