The run-in is looking increasingly likely to be a battle to the down to the wire for Liverpool.
Pegged back by West Brom for a 1-1 draw at The Hawthorns, the Reds haven’t yet lost touch with the top of the table but are in for a real fight to accomplish their objectives.
Following are five things learned about the Merseysiders from Sunday’s stalemate in the West Midlands.
Toure soon out of the starting eleven
A promising start to life at Anfield has given way to a tough stretch for Kolo Toure. Mamadou Sakho and Daniel Agger should each be ready to return in approximately two weeks’ time, at which point the veteran quite possibly will drop on the bench. The Ivorian’s display on Sunday was a microcosm of his performance in the New Year – undisciplined, risky and insecure. Brendan Rodgers likely would expect more from a player of great experience, and in turn should be inclined to look elsewhere when other options become available.
Frustrating from Coutinho
The Brazilian struggled to really get involved until playing an intelligent ball in the build-up to Daniel Sturridge’s opener. Following the Englishman’s strike, he produced little of note this side of some aesthetically pleasing touches. It’s the struggle to be consistently influential that continues to follow Coutinho through his career. Of course, he’s still only a tender 21 years of age so it’s certainly steady opportunities are what he needs. Perhaps playing in a midfield three doesn’t suit him as well as a focal playmaker role would – but it’s up to Rodgers to get the best out of him wherever he fits into the current set-up.
Away form an issue
Liverpool now rank eighth in the Premier League in points taken away from home with four wins, draws and losses each. The three clubs in front of them and two directly on their tail have all fared better on their travels. Making the home ground a fortress may be the starting point for success, but high achieving sides profit from grabbing victories on the road when possible. Luckily for the Reds, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester City and Chelsea will all be coming to Anfield in the final months of the season – leaving less daunting opponents to be faced away from Merseyside.
Henderson's place is not assured
The 23-year-old has slotted in everywhere from just in front of the defence to out wide in attack, starting all 24 league encounters and missing just 21 of the total minutes on offer. Rodgers appears to have at last settled on the 4-3-3 as his formation of choice, placing Jordan Henderson in central midfield of late. But when Lucas Leiva returns, where does this leave the Englishman? One of the current trio will have to be sacrificed, and despite his constant service, the 23-year-old may be the odd man out.
Champions League battle will be tight
For all their ability to overcome obstacles this term, Liverpool still have a real battle on their hands to finish in the top four. Everton and Tottenham don’t look like going away any time soon and every point will be of vital importance down to the final day. A victory against Arsenal next time out would mean the world for the side’s confidence – not to mention the boost in the standings that would come with – so expect a hotly-contested affair as the gravity of each moment only ramps up further for the Reds.
image: © nathan17