The Merseyside giants played better than any team this season against the then-Premier League leaders who now slip down into second position behind Chelsea.
Chelsea are six points ahead of Brendan Rodgers’ side, Arsenal five.
The Reds played the Gunners off the pitch in the opening 20 minutes at Anfield, a brace from Martin Skrtel in the opening ten minutes was followed by a brace from Raheem Sterling in the 16th minute and 52nd minute with Daniel Sturridge scoring on 20 minutes to make it 4-0 at half-time and 5-1 after 90 minutes with the North Londoners managing to pull one back in a consolatory penalty in the second half.
“Our ambitions, there’s no limit on them…I just believe in terms of where we’re at, at this stage, and the momentum’s been building and building, I just think it’s unprecedented to go from being where we were last year in seventh position,” said Rodgers.
In my humble opinion, after having watched that opening 20 minutes spell against the Gunners and the subsequent 70 minutes over the course of which Liverpool kept their focus, commitment and consistency, even when their intensity and tempo necessarily dropped in the second half, there is absolutely no reason Liverpool are not genuine title challengers this term.
In fact, I’d even go as far as to say, I think they have a better chance this season than they will in the next few to follow.
Whilst Chelsea took charge and moved top with their impressive 3-0 win over Newcastle at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, I haven’t seen the Blues play consistently with the kind of ‘killer instinct’ we’ve seen at Liverpool for the majority of this season.
Manchester City were lacklustre in the 0-0 draw with Norwich this weekend following their defeat to Chelsea at the Etihad last week.
Whilst both the Blues and the Citizens undoubtedly have the upper hand financially, the astute signings Rodgers has made in the last 12 months, the likes of Sturridge, Coutinho, and Simon Mignolet, as well as the emergence of young players like John Flanagan, Andre Wisdom, Sterling, and Martin Kelly, puts Liverpool in the frame to give the so-called favourites a real run for their excessive money.
Luis Suarez didn’t even manage to get on the score-sheet at the weekend but he is the Premier League’s current top scorer and I think it’s fair to say there is no better player in England at this moment.
Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho has repeatedly claimed his Chelsea side will be genuine title challengers the next few seasons as he reshaped and rebuilds his squad for the future at Stamford Bridge and I believe Chelsea have the capacity to dominate for the next decade domestically but this season they started poorly and inconsistently and, at present, Eden Hazard’s superb form is what’s separating them from their opponents.
But Brendan Rodgers has two players capable of performing around that level of quality and superiority on the pitch and Sturridge’s return to fitness and form has come at just the right time. Meanwhile, Mourinho undoubtedly won the battle of the tactics at the Etihad but Rodgers’ formation, shape and direction at Anfield on Saturday was nothing short of mesmerising to watch and, furthermore, successful in terms of its implementation from start to finish.
Manchester City have been sublime at home this term under new boss Manuel Pellegrini but they have failed to take their opportunities to move top against Chelsea and Norwich in their last two games. If there was a moment for Liverpool, a chance to take aim, they must fire now.
The Reds are just 6 points off the top with 13 games left to play and 39 points for the taking. They have swept Arsenal and their North London rivals Tottenham aside in recent weeks and are unbeaten in their last 6 games since defeats at the Etihad and Stamford Bridge I January.
Arsenal have a run of death now to follow in February and it doesn’t get much easier in March either whilst Liverpool face the league’s basement team Fulham, Swansea at home, Southampton, and Sunderland before their trip to Old Trafford I mid-March.
Those four games you could expect them to take maximum points from if they play the way they proved they can at the weekend. The other three teams in the top four have Champions League fixtures to take their focus in the coming weeks as well as a Manchester derby next month and both of them playing against Arsenal.
Overall, you would have to say, if Liverpool aren’t title challengers this season, I don’t know who is. Nobody has played that exceptionally in this league in a very long time. There really are no limits on what this team can achieve.
image: © Ben Sutherland