GERARD Houllier once claimed that his Liverpool side were ‘ten games from greatness’. Less enthralling, but just as significantly, Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool are now seven games from contention.
More possession kept, more spirit shown, more chances created, more chances wasted and depressingly, more dropped points.
A familiar pattern played out for the Reds at White Hart Lane in their 2-1 defeat.
Losing away at Spurs shouldn’t be seen as a disaster, especially given the resilient nature of the performance after a terrible opening ten minutes, but the defeat now places extra significance on Liverpool’s next seven league games between December 1st and January 2nd.
Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and Sunderland visit Anfield in that time. Away from home West Ham, Stoke and QPR lie in wait. All are games that Liverpool can and will be expected to win. 21 vital points are available in total over the next 33 days and it is the perfect opportunity to for Liverpool to start climbing the table.
The problematic start thus far has been (rightly, in my opinion ) excused to some extent given the paucity of depth in the squad, the difficult fixture list and the fact that high performance levels have failed to be rewarded in the form of points on several occasions.
Now though, Brendan Rodgers has seven league games where, on each occasion, he will be in charge of the stronger team. He isn’t facing the might of City, United or Chelsea. He isn’t taking on the much more evolved and settled squads of Everton, Spurs or Arsenal and this period of back to back Premier League games will give fans, owners and players alike a clear picture of what Liverpool can achieve this season.
Despite only three league wins thus far, the potential for relative success (4th place isn’t good enough, but it is all we can hope for at the moment) still remains. Currently 10 points off 4th placed West Brom and only 4 points above the drop zone, December looks like being the measuring stick for Liverpool. Come the final whistle on January 2nd when Sunderland visit L4, Liverpool will have played 21 league games and their position in the table will be more telling than it is at present.
Amazingly, if Rodgers can guide his team through this period while accumulating the requisite amount of points expected, then his side will probably be placed well enough to make an assault on 4th place. It is unlikely, of course, given that stringing just two wins back to back has been impossible for Liverpool this season, but on paper, it is eminently possible.
Every team the Reds face over the next four weeks are weaker and should be vanquished. The woeful home record will need to be finally eradicated and consistency must be found during this period. Drawing at home to Newcastle and Man City is bearable when the performances are good. Losing to Spurs and Manchester United after being the better team in both fixtures can be put into context and digested easily enough.
That will not be the case if results against the likes of QPR, Villa and Sunderland are not favourable. Promise has been shown this season, but now is the time for delivery.
Seven games to get back in contention. Seven games for Brendan Rodgers to haul his side back up the league table and if that is achieved then Liverpool will likely be within touching distance of the Champions League place that they desire. If anything would persuade FSG to loosen their purse strings significantly in January then surely it would be the potential of a quicker than expected return to Europe’s premier money spinning competition.
Fourth place is, unfortunately, the most that fans can dream for Liverpool right now and despite an underwhelming opening to this season, the lack of consistency exhibited by rival teams fighting for this coveted spot means that, incredibly, a good December is all it would take for the Reds to be genuine contenders for the position again. Then it would be over to FSG to show us how serious they really are about making this club a force again.
‘Greatness’ is a long way off but come the New Year, fourth place shouldn’t be.