It’s no secret that Liverpool need further quality in depth, signings to keep them challenging at the top of the Premier League table. The team’s run of results don’t change that, despite going into Christmas day as league leaders. But it’s also very difficult to paint a damning image of the club off the back of two high-profile losses. The two issues are not exactly intertwined.
Liverpool needed the 5-0 win at Tottenham to put wind in their sails. They went into the game at Manchester City with all the confidence that they could be the first team to hand a defeat to City at the own ground this season. Brendan Rodgers’ side looked like they belonged. They outplayed City for spells in the game and should have gone ahead early when Luis Suarez put Raheem Sterling through on goal. City weren’t at their best without their talismanic striker, Sergio Aguero, out injured, but you felt that Liverpool were playing a hand in the home side’s sluggish start.
Liverpool don’t have the squad to challenge Manchester City or Chelsea, but they’re nevertheless doing a good job of it this season, almost defiantly. Rodgers has to take a lot of the credit. He’s recalled Sterling, who was extremely poor in the past, and entrusted him to spearhead counter-attacking operations. His pace more than troubled City and Spurs. Jordan Henderson is another who has been instrumental in Liverpool’s good form of late, doing much more than offering simple industry.
But Liverpool failed at City because of poor officiating, not because they couldn’t match up to one of the other big names in the league. How much of a difference would a handful of star signings have made on the day? Liverpool did miss plenty of good opportunities, but there is no guarantee that even the most clinical of finishers would have put them away. Liverpool had done enough to take a draw from the game but were left with nothing due to the inadequacy of one of the officials.
From a Liverpool perspective, you could make a similar case for their loss at Chelsea. Rodgers’ side weren’t played off the park; they were very much in it, taking the early lead and missing out on a penalty towards the end. There were many questioning Howard Webb’s decision to let play continue after Samuel Eto’o’s foul on Suarez in the box. Again, would a handful of world-class additions have made much of a difference when the outcome of the game at Stamford Bridge was arguably decided by the official?
There are shortcomings to this Liverpool team. Can they sustain what they’re doing at present? They have one fit centre-forward and a lack of creativity in the middle of the pitch. But that’s an issue that speaks of the wider picture; City and Chelsea weren’t great and Liverpool were good enough to get results.
The lack of quality throughout can and likely will be exposed elsewhere down the line at a much less obvious time, for example in the way Hull convincingly took all three points from Liverpool just prior to this good run of form.
Wherever Liverpool finish this season, they will need reinforcements of better quality than they already have. Importantly, though, the results in these recent big games haven’t condemned Liverpool to a lesser standing. They were good enough to stand up to the two strongest squads in the league.