Champions League hopefuls Liverpool dropped Premier League points for the third time this season as they were held to a 2-2 draw by Newcastle United.
French midfielder Yohan Cabaye opened the scoring for the hosts with a long-range drive midway through the first half, before Reds’ skipper Steven Gerrard scored his 100th Premier League goal from the penalty spot after Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off for a foul on Luis Suarez. Substitute Paul Dummett put the Magpies back in front after the break; however in-form striker Daniel Sturridge scored his 20th goal in just 26 appearances to secure a draw for Brendan Rodgers’ men.
Some would suggest that Sturridge’s equaliser rescued a valuable point for the Merseysiders – a point which could help them to clinch a top four place come the end of the season. They will claim that the Sturridge and Suarez partnership is among the best in the Premier League and shows that Liverpool – who have lost just once in the top-flight – are a stronger outfit this term. That Liverpool are a full nine points ahead of where they were after the same number of games in the last campaign is also a huge positive.
But, on the other side of the coin, surely it is a worry that – after recording three consecutive clean sheets at the beginning of the season – the Anfield outfit have conceded at least one goal in each of their last five Premier League games, earning them just eight points from a possible 15 in the process. Liverpool have slipped from first position, to second and now to third in the table.
Is this a sign of things to come? Is Rodgers right to continue lining up with a 3-5-2 formation in order to accommodate the vast number of centre-backs at his disposal? Did the Reds miss a trick by failing to sign an adequate back-up for highly-rated Brazilian attacking midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who is currently injured?
Indeed, there are two ways of viewing the situation. Whether the draws against Swansea and Newcastle and the defeat at the hands of Southampton were simply minor blips will only be known as the season progresses.
With West Bromwich Albion up next – a side which completed the ‘double’ over Liverpool in the league last season – league leaders Arsenal to follow and then a trip to Goodison Park to face bitter local rivals Everton soon after, the next few weeks will provide a greater indication of how strong the Reds really are and whether their terrific start to the campaign was just that, or whether they are genuine contenders for that coveted fourth spot.
With the likes of Joe Allen, Jose Enrique and Coutinho set to return soon, Rodgers will certainly have a full strength squad to select from in preparation for the upcoming tough fixtures.
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