Liverpool’s meteoric rise to within touching distance of their first league title in 24 years is undoubtedly the story of the 2013/14 season. Brendan Rodgers’ team has matured at the perfect time, whilst many of their rivals have been in transition. Much has quite rightly been made of Rodgers’ attacking style of play that has blown teams out of the water and made Liverpool by far the most exciting team to watch in English football, but there is more to their success this season than attacking talent. Here are three more subtle factors that have contributed to Liverpool’s renaissance.
1. Early goals
Sir Alex Ferguson may have been famous for conjuring goals in injury time, but Rodgers has done things the other way around. Time after time, Liverpool have come storming out of the blocks, quickly putting their opponents on the back foot with an early goal. The Reds have scored 58 of their 96 goals in the first half, 15 of which came in the first 15 minutes. Contrast that with an underperforming Spurs side who have managed with just 16 goals in the first half all season.
Early goals have been key for Liverpool this season as they have forced their opponents to open up early on, playing into their hands tactically by allowing The Reds to play their attacking brand of football. Lower table teams who have set up defensively looking for a draw or to grab a late goal have seen their pre-match plans go up in smoke, forcing them to attack and leave themselves open to the counter attack.
But this tactic has worked equally well against Liverpool’s title rivals, most notably in the 5-1 win over Arsenal, where Arsene Wenger’s team were 2-0 down before they’d even worked up a sweat. The Gunners then capitulated, with a hasty reorganisation proving too little too late. Liverpool remain frail in defensive but their early goals have allowed them to compensate for this weakness.