Liverpool have sent shock waves around the Premier League after thrashing league leaders Arsenal 5-1 at Anfield, and the result might have far reaching repercussions in the title race. For one, it means that Arsenal have dropped three precious points in a tight title race, allowing Chelsea to leapfrog them into the lead.
The top of the pile is incredibly close even this late in the season, with the top three teams separated by just 2 points. Chelsea (56) lead Arsenal (55) and Manchester City (54) with 13 rounds to go, and common sense suggests that it is going to be one of the trio to lift the silverware at the end of the season. However, Arsenal’s heavy defeat and Manchester City’s dropped points present a very curious case- that of a Liverpool title chase.
Liverpool currently are in fourth place, six points of leaders Chelsea, and they hold a key advantage that might prove decisive late in the race- they will face both Chelsea and Manchester City at home with Manchester United being their only big away game. Going by the form they have shown at Anfield, especially in the four goal margin in wins over cross-town rivals Everton and title contenders Arsenal, it would be foolish to discard them just yet.
Arsenal have perhaps the hardest fixture list of the lot, playing Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton away and the two Manchester clubs at home combined with a Champions League encounter with Bayern Munich and a FA Cup match with Liverpool. It is hard to see them coming out of this continuous run of tough games unscathed, and they look the most likely to stumble at this point.
Manchester City also have a lot of away games to contend with- Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton while Chelsea is the only home game for them. Chelsea have a comparatively easier fixtures list and City and Liverpool are their only major away games. However, both teams have deep squads and their bench strength should see them through the tough games.
Both Chelsea and Manchester City will be coming to Anfield in April, towards the end of the league race, and that could be crucial as any dropped points will be difficult to make up so late in the season. If Liverpool are able to maintain their winning run, and not drop silly points like they did against West Brom last week, they should be within touching distance of the leaders at that point, making the wins even more vital.
Even though Liverpool failed to add to their squad in January, they now seem to have settled on a very fluid system that best utilizes the talents of the players they have at their disposal, and that has shown in the excellent performances the Reds have put in at home of late. They are no longer a one man team as they have shed their dependence on their Uruguayan striker; in fact, Suarez has failed to find the back of the net in the last two Premier League games- a mini crisis of sorts.
In absence of goals from Suarez, his team mates have taken up the responsibility of sticking the ball in the back of the net, most notably Daniel Sturridge. Against Arsenal, Martin Skrtel and Raheem Sterling scored two goals apiece, meaning that even though Suarez is no longer scoring for fun, the goals are still coming for the league’s second highest scorers. It is this fact that will be most worrisome for opposition managers- stopping Suarez no longer means stopping Liverpool.
Manager Brendan Rodgers has been quick to dismiss suggestions that his team is still fighting for the title, and has instead prioritized Champions League qualification as his prime goal. Even Sturridge and Sterling stated the mindset of focusing on one game at a time in the post-match reactions. Yet, as a Liverpool fan, one can’t help but feel optimistic about the team’s chances given the way the team is playing.
As many pundits have said this season, if you stick around long enough, you might just find yourself in the mix. It is now up to Brendan Rodgers to ensure that Liverpool do stick around till the end, one game and three points at a time.
God knows it’s been long enough without a league title at Anfield.
Maybe, just maybe, the fans can dare to dream.