Amid Manchester United’s capture of Juan Mata and the assumed resurgence that would start immediately after his helicopter touched down in Manchester, it was easy to forget the strong position Liverpool had ahead of United (and Everton and Spurs) for a place in the top four.
Following Brendan Rodgers’ high praise of his “SAS” attack towards the end of last year, it appeared that all Liverpool needed was another strong January window to supplement Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, who together have been the primary reason for Liverpool’s continued stay either in or just below the Premier League top four.
It goes without saying that both Liverpool and United have a lot of work to do, but Liverpool are further down the road to being a side complete and fully able to land fourth in the Premier League this season. At this stage, and considering the might of Manchester City and Chelsea, Liverpool look to be out of the title race.
What was a little worrying, though, is Rodgers’ pursuit of Yevhen Konoplyanka, a talented and exciting winger who would have been a good long-term addition at the club. But Liverpool seem to be in a state of score more than the opponent, which they’re more than able to do with Suarez and Sturridge in such good form.
The problem for the team is at the back, where evidently they’re never too far away from a Kolo Toure or Martin Skrtel-sized slip up.
The loss of Lucas Leiva to injury seemed to confirm what most already knew: Liverpool needed further protection ahead of the back four. Not only that, but a system which best utilises Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge as a front three needs strong, able and technically gifted runners in the midfield; players who can work at both ends of the pitch and won’t allow themselves to be overrun.
So far, and even with Lucas available, Liverpool haven’t always looked secure ahead of the defence. It’s certainly a worry that they’re light of creative talents, but thus far we’ve seen that Suarez and Sturridge are either able to work in tandem or able to craft their own scoring opportunities. Liverpool could afford to address the issue of creativity at a later date.
What is needed, however, is a Nemanja Matic. The Serbian was a pricey acquisition for Chelsea, albeit one well worth the money, but Liverpool should have been hot on the tails of a player of similar ability. Games like the recent draw with West Brom will come around again, and it’s to be expected: there will be games where Rodgers’ primary goal threats fail to hit the target. But Liverpool as a collective haven’t been goal-shy this season. Liverpool have only failed to score twice in the league this term.
Liverpool may yet finish fourth. Being two points ahead of Everton and seven ahead of United, it’s not out of the question. But the decision to overlook the reinforcing of the midfield may come back to haunt Rodgers. The club had the opportunity to round out the current squad with one or two additions but failed to make a signing.
Rather than pulling away from those just behind with a much-needed January addition, Liverpool, for now at least, remain very much in the mix.