Liverpool climbed into the top half of the Premier League table for the first time under manager Brendan Rodgers after edging past a resilient West Ham United side on Sunday. Many expected the Reds to struggle without their suspended star striker Luis Suarez – and after squandering a 1-0 lead, it appeared as though the Uruguayan’s absence would hurt the visitors – however goals from former Hammers Joe Cole and Jonjo Shelvey handed the Merseysiders three valuable points, meaning that they are now just four points behind fourth-place Everton.
Clinching a Champions League spot at the end of the season would represent a fine first season for Rodgers; however his task is still very much a difficult one. A four point gap may not sound impossible to bridge, but a congested table makes it tough to do so. Liverpool will have to overcome the challenges of Stoke, Swansea, West Brom, Arsenal, Tottenham and Everton, not to mention the two sides who are behind the Reds just on goal difference – West Ham and Norwich. Only an extreme optimist would expect all these sides to go through blips at the same time and allow Liverpool to overtake them. The Anfield outfit will simply have to win as many of their games as possible and see what happens.
But despite four of their next five fixtures coming against sides in the bottom half, Liverpool have not made a habit of winning many games in the league this season. In fact, the victory over Sam Allardyce’s men was the Reds’ fifth in 16 matches and the first time they had recorded back-to-back wins in the top-flight for almost a year. Rodgers will be hoping that this inconsistency now ends and that Liverpool can string some positive results together to keep the pressure on local rivals Everton.
The return of Suarez from suspension may provide Rodgers with a boost; however the psychological impact of Liverpool’s weekend win without the Uruguayan should not be underestimated. That result could have given the players a real belief that they do not need to become too reliant on their star forward and are capable of achieving results and scoring goals without him. Furthermore, the Liverpool squad may now have more confidence in Rodgers’ theory that the Reds are a team rather than a set of individuals. The win over West Ham may have given Liverpool much more than just three points.
However, despite the positive result in Suarez’s absence, it is crucial that the Anfield outfit sign at least one striker in the transfer window next month. Such a signing would ease the burden on the Uruguayan and also help Liverpool to challenge their competitors in the race for fourth spot. Without a new striker, qualifying for a place in the Champions League next season seems unlikely.
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