Liverpool Focus – Cautious optimism around Anfield after Swansea win

Lively Liverpool made amends for their disappointing recent defeats at the hands of West Bromwich Albion and Zenit St Petersburg as Brendan Rodgers’ Reds sealed an emphatic 5-0 victory over League Cup finalists Swansea City at Anfield – a result which brought an end to the most crucial week in the Merseysiders’ topsy-turvy season thus far.

With one eye on the Swans’ upcoming trip to Wembley, manager Michael Laudrup rested his star players at Anfield, and the hosts took full advantage of that gift by showing up the Dane with his most humiliating defeat in charge of the usually silky Welsh outfit. However, given the utter inconsistency Liverpool have shown throughout the campaign, such a satisfying result will give little encouragement to those who have been bitten by the expectation bug in previous weeks.

The Reds recorded back-to-back victories over promoted sides Southampton and West Ham United early in December – results which saw Rodgers’ men climb into the top half of the table for the first time in the season – only to crush that momentum with an embarrassing home defeat to relegation-threatened Aston Villa.

Then came Fulham. A splendid 4-0 win over the Cottagers restored some belief, but that was undone with another poor defeat, this time at Stoke. Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland and Norwich were soundly beaten within the space of three weeks and despite a negative result at Old Trafford, there was a sense that Liverpool were on the up. Then came Oldham Athletic.

Supporters were once again tricked into thinking that things would turn out just fine when the Reds achieved impressive draws at the Emirates and then at the Etihad Stadium within the space of just a few days – with many adamant that Liverpool could even have returned from both arenas with maximum points.

If they had been able to compete with the biggest sides in the league, surely they would be capable of beating a West Brom team which had not tasted a league victory in 2013? It was not to be. The hope, anticipation and expectation proved too much. Therefore, Liverpool’s latest victory will be treated with caution.

On a positive note, however, Rodgers will be content with how this result alters the overall picture. In the last two seasons, Liverpool had collected 39 points from 27 games. The win over Swansea means that the Reds have now equalled that games-to-points tally – with 10 victories, nine draws and eight defeats this term.

To put it simply, at this point, Liverpool are performing no better in the league than they were last season or the season before, but crucially for Rodgers, neither are they performing any worse. That the Reds reached two cup finals in the last campaign is a separate issue.

But Rodgers must now build on that. Two seasons ago, Liverpool collected another 19 points from their final 11 games to seal a sixth-place finish. Last term, Kenny Dalglish’s side managed just 13 more points and finished eighth. The Reds’ boss will be looking to guide his side to a higher finish than last season. Only then will it appear as if Liverpool are making progress.

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