“Listen, this is gone. We go to Norwich, exactly the same. We go together. We do not let this go!”
These rousing words of motivation provided by their inspirational captain Steven Gerrard have been ringing in the minds of Liverpool players and supporters alike since last Sunday’s crucial win over Manchester City. One week later, Liverpool took to the pitch at Carrow Road and produced a vital three-point display by dispatching Norwich City 3-2 on Easter Sunday.
Having watched Manchester City and Chelsea, their title rivals in the chase for Premier League supremacy, both drop points to Sunderland in the days leading up to Sunday’s lunch-time clash, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers will surely have emphasized the importance of not taking a relegation-battling side lightly. Despite a nervy final 10 minutes, Liverpool crept that much closer to ending their 24-year title drought thanks to a Raheem Sterling brace and a clinical Luis Suarez finish from an immaculate Sterling feed.
What did this win prove?
Many have pointed to two perceived areas of weakness in this Liverpool side. First, they concede too many goals. Secondly, they are a thin squad outside their starting 11.
Yes, Liverpool give up more goals than City and Chelsea. In fact, their 44 goals allowed through 35 matches are the highest total out of the top five teams. You know what else is the highest total? Their 96 goals scored. Their three-goal performance today was the 20th time this season they have scored at least three goals, matching City’s Premier League record set two seasons ago. Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, affectionately known as SAS (Suarez and Sturridge), have combined to score 50 league goals. If SAS were a football club, they’d be the eighth-highest scoring team in the league this season, only six goals shy of equaling the output of the entire Manchester United squad.
Liverpool’s strength is their ability to score goals at a prolific rate. Naturally, a team that fields such an attacking side will be vulnerable at times in their defensive third of the pitch. In a sense, Liverpool’s best defense is their offense. Every match, Liverpool play to win by attacking and outscoring their opposition. This isn’t Jose Mourinho‘s Chelsea side of a decade ago that made a mockery of football by playing 10 men behind the ball and eeking out one-nil wins, something everyone should be grateful for.
As for the thin squad complaints, it’s important to note that Liverpool played the first five matches of this campaign without their 30-goal scorer, Suarez. Throughout the season, Lucas Leiva, Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson and Joe Allen have all missed extended periods of time through injury. The ultimate test will be this final run in, though, as Jordan Henderson, their midfield bundle of energy, serves a three-match ban for a straight red card against City. Sturridge also missed the trip to Carrow Road through injury. For their part, Lucas and Allen did extremely well filling the void against Norwich. Liverpool will need similar performances from these two in their final three games.
Just because Liverpool don’t have a bench full of substitutes making 150,000 pounds per week doesn’t necessarily mean the squad is thin. If anything, it highlights the over exuberant amounts as money spent by their rivals, Manchester City and Chelsea specifically. While Liverpool will certainly need to add depth to the squad this summer as they return to Champions League football, they have never been in a position to splash the cash the way their title rivals do.
The debate, just for the point of chatter really at this point, can continue as to whether Liverpool concede too many goals and/or have a thin squad. In the mean time, seven points from their final three games will see them win their first league title in 24 years. For a team with such flaws, Liverpool control their title destiny. They are the only team in the league that can say that.