As Chelsea put six, seven, and then eight goals past a hapless Aston Villa in a one-sided Premier League affair on Sunday, Liverpool fans cast an envious look towards Stamford Bridge, wondering whether the Villa team in question was really the same one which had emerged victorious at Anfield just a week earlier.
Paul Lambert’s side had produced one of the performances of the season to beat the Reds 3-1, but Villa’s embarrassing performance in London left many supporters of the Merseyside club scratching their heads. A win over the Villains last weekend would have seen Liverpool climb even closer to fourth spot – instead they are in eighth place and five points behind Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton and West Brom.
As easy as it may be to look back at the past, there is a saying in football which goes ‘you are only as good as your last result’. Liverpool’s last result was a comfortable 4-0 win over Fulham – one which saw the Merseysiders climb the table and reach their highest position of the season so far. Skipper Steven Gerrard, who is reportedly set to be offered a new contract with the club, sparkled on the afternoon, as did much-maligned winger Stewart Downing. The former Aston Villa man, who arrived at Anfield two summers ago for a significant sum of money, had previously failed to claim a single assist or score a goal in the Premier League for the Reds. He managed to break both ducks against the Cottagers.
Downing’s immense vision allowed him to expertly slip a glorious pass into the path of Gerrard, who scored. The English wide-man then went on to score a fabulous goal of his own, cutting in from the right wing before slamming a shot past Mark Schwarzer in the Fulham goal. There has been much talk about the possibility of Downing leaving the club when the January transfer window opens, but a performance like that would suggest that he could yet prove to be a valuable member of the squad.
Take Jose Enrique as an example. The Spanish full-back appeared to be out-of-favour just a few months ago following some inconsistent performances, but he has emerged as one of Liverpool’s greatest threats going forward in recent weeks. A blossoming partnership with star forward Luis Suarez is helping his cause and there now appears to be little chance that Rodgers will let him leave next month. Downing could use Enrique’s change in fortunes as inspiration. The winger has looked low on confidence during his Anfield career, but his excellent display against Fulham may give him the boost in morale that he so desperately needs.
Finishing in a Champions League place come the end of the season is Liverpool’s target – and Rodgers’ men are not far behind as things stand. With three Premier League games in eight days on the horizon, starting with the trip to Stoke on Boxing Day, this would be the best time for the Reds to string some positive results together and apply some pressure on those sides above them. If Liverpool manage to stay in touch with their rivals, then the arrival of Daniel Sturridge and possibly Thomas Ince in January could give them a better chance to continue their climb up the table.
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