Liverpool’s win over Queens Park Rangers confirmed two things: that it’s better to be lucky than good, and that the Reds are a far weaker side than the one that came second in last year’s Premier League. It also failed to answer questions about Harry Redknapp’s future at Loftus Road and QPR’s chances of avoiding the drop.
The Reds’ defensive woes have regularly been cited as one of the main reasons they were beaten to top spot last year by Manchester City. City scored only one goal more than Liverpool but the 13 fewer goals conceded equated to two extra points and a second title in three years. No team in the top five conceded more than Liverpool and the same is true today.
Prior to Manchester United’s Monday night trip to West Brom, Liverpool are fifth and have let in 12 goals, one more than fourth-place West Ham. Indeed, no team in the top half has conceded more goals than Liverpool and there are teams in the bottom half with better defensive records, West Brom among them. There are no Liverpool defenders in EuroFantasyLeague’s top 50 for the Premier League and the trouble caused by Bobby Zamora illustrated why.
Zamora unsettled the Liverpool centre-backs in a way Mario Balotelli utterly failed to do to the QPR pair of Richard Dunne and Steven Caulker. Balotelli’s performance was of greater concern to the travelling Liverpool fans and the coaching staff watching on from the touchline, not to mention his teammates, who were visibly frustrated with the Italian on more than one occasion. Balotelli ranked placed highly in last year’s EFL striker’s charts but has barely made a dent so far this time around.
And yet Balotelli, Martin Skrtel, Dejan Lovren and the rest of Liverpool’s underperformers ended up on the winning side. QPR contributed massively to their own downfall and the three goals conceded mean they now have the worst defensive record in the Premier League – yes, worse even than Liverpool’s. Redknapp was said to be under pressure before the match and some reports went so far as to claim a defeat would see the veteran sacked. The defeat duly arrived but assessing Redknapp and QPR on Sunday’s evidence is nigh on impossible.
What is for sure is that QPR are approaching crunch time. With eight games played and only one win, back in late August against Sunderland, there can be little doubt the London club face a relegation battle. They’re below Burnley, who have yet to win a game, thanks to their porous defence. Dunne and Caulker’s own goals exacerbated matters but it’s not as if the QPR defence was a safe bet before then. Redknapp’s job may rely on tightening up at the back, a precarious position for the ex-Tottenham Hotspur manager to be in.
Liverpool, meanwhile, won’t get that kind of luck every week. They have to hope it holds a bit longer, though, as there’s precious little reason to believe Brendan Rodgers can plug the gaps in time for another sustained title challenge.