Liverpool only have themselves to fear

November 22, 2013 in Premier League by George Curtis

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As the first Merseyside derby of the season approaches, Liverpool can reflect on a portion of the season which has surpassed expectations and catapulted them into a position of contentious solidarity. For the most part, Liverpool have been belligerent and driven in their style, both on the pitch and in the aura they eject when speaking off it. They are compelled by a lingering wiff of underachievement and ridicule. There have been signs, however, of the ‘old’ Liverpool, if you can call 12 months ago a distant memory; in the defeats to Southampton and Arsenal and the sluggish draws with Swansea City and Newcastle United. Inconsistency is a symptom of a team striving for the opposite.

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Liverpool sit perkily in second position in the Barclays Premier League table, propping up Arsenal, whose defeat to Manchester United allowed the Reds to creep up to within two points of them. Liverpool themselves defeated United at Anfield earlier on in the campaign, a match that was designed out of chance to provide Rodgers with a litmus test for a season that promises much. Daniel Sturridge’s third goal in three games guided Liverpool to their third consecutive 1-0 victory, thrusting them to the summit of the prize they long for so fervently. How they wish the season could have ended then.

But, that particular game changed the belief within Liverpool Football Club to something genuine, rather than the hollow words of hope and appeal that rung out during the ill-fated ownership of George Gillett and Tom Hicks. It was a long time since the Liverpool faithful had a perfect start to the season to cheer about. What’s more, Liverpool showed they could play football to a level that had escaped them since Rafael Benítez lost his mojo and ultimately his job. That performance, in the first half at least, was an indication of Rodgers’ ingrained intent.

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Everton provide the Reds’ 12th examination of the season in a classroom that will offer no mercy for the losers. Merseyside derby’s are traditionally tempestuous affairs, but of late have been cautious, cagey meetings. There have only been three red cards in the last 10 contests between the neighbours, compared to eight in the previous 10. Regardless, there is much at stake for both teams.

For Liverpool, a statement of authority is never too feeble an incentive to ignore, and Rodgers seeks his first victory in the fixture. Sturridge’s partnership with Luis Suárez has yielded 16 goals so far and has everyone drooling at their prospective success in the immediate future. Steven Gerrard has been the linchpin of the side, even at the age of 33. Gerrard’s professionalism has been hailed by his manager recently and the engine continues to run smoothly. Gerrard’s deep-lying influence could be crucial in a match neither side can afford to lose, if only for bragging rights.

Everton, on the other hand, are enjoying an invigorating season under Spaniard Roberto Martinez. David Moyes’ departure left a gaping hole in the management hotseat, but much to the surprise of neutrals, the former Wigan Athletic man has excelled in his new position. Romelu Lukaku’s physical presence represents their greatest threat to Liverpool’s standing.

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That said, Liverpool have nothing to fear but their own intentions. The club are so determined to end their barren spell of trophies that their train may drastically derail. Money has been spent on strengthening and deepening the squad and the foundations have been laid by Rodgers’ very words. He has set himself up for a fall. At least, that is what an outsider may believe.

From a Liverpool supporter’s viewpoint, of which I am one, Rodgers’ calmness and intent on focusing on the collective team effort ensures that Liverpool have a squad of players who are completely grounded and realistic in their ambitions. The only thing that worries me is the temptation to think of what might come of their good early work. Take your foot off the gas and eye off the ball and you can sink perilously close to failure, something Liverpool have become all too familiar with.

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