It was great to see Liverpool back to normal last Saturday after a rocky week in which they drew two games. Unfortunately Manchester City have rather rediscovered themselves too. After a surprise defeat against Newcastle (which seems to have been forgotten because Liverpool drew twice) they made remarkably easy work of what looked on paper like a tough three games in eight days. The six-nil demolition of Chelsea showed they very much mean business – pun absolutely intended – as we enter the business end of the season.
Spurs have had a great week too. A Harry Kane and Dele Alli-less team thumped Bundesliga-toppers Borussia Dortmund, showing not just their quality but the current strength of the Premier League. We might even end up with a repeat of 2008, when there were a trio of English teams in the semi final and two in the final.
Whatever happens, this Premier League is going to take some winning this season, with none of the top three sides looking willing to fade away. Luckily, Liverpool are still in the best position, having played one game fewer than Manchester City. But I still think these five things need to happen if Liverpool are to win the league in May.
1) Get the solid defence back
Liverpool’s success this season was built on the most miserly defence in the country. However, having conceded just 10 goals in the first 22 games of the season, we then conceded five in the next three, all to mid-table opposition. Although we were poor against Leicester and West Ham, we still went 1-0 up in both of the games and would have seen at least one of them out earlier on the season.
Injuries have led to changes and uncertainty and midfielders having to drop back. Trent Alexander Arnold’s return against Bournemouth was very welcome, but more important is a regular stable partner for Virgil Van Djik. It didn’t go unnoticed that VVD has been liking Joe Gomez highlights videos on Twitter recently. He misses him as much as the rest of us.
2) Keep the front three fit
Liverpool still don’t quite have the strength in depth Manchester City have, and this is most apparent up front, where outside their usual starting eleven, City can call on Gabriel Jesus, Riyad Mahrez or push up one of their countless attacking midfielders who all seem to be called Silva.
For Liverpool Xherdan Shaqiri has looked more comfortable in midfield and Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi, although talented, look out of place now in this team as starters. Throwbacks to past days and playing styles. With Sadio Mane in a rich run of form, Roberto Firmino being vital to how we play and Mo Salah being Mo Salah, its vital we can get them on the pitch as much as possible.
3) More from the summer signings
Alisson has been a revelation in goal and Shaqiri has quickly become popular for his style, attitude and goals against Manchester United. However the two that arguably most was expected of, Fabinho and Naby Keita, have probably produced the least, so far.
This has been frustrating as everyone, from manager to fans, seemed to agree in the summer that midfield was the area in most need of work. However, the players brought in to solve that have taken their time to settle. Both have shown glimpses of their qualities and were outstanding last week against Bournemouth. Plenty more performances like that will be most welcome indeed.
4) Returning cavalry
Liverpool are currently in Spain taking advantage of being out of the FA Cup and enjoying some warm-weather training. Of the pictures that have come out of it, the most pleasing are the sights of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rhian Brewster training with the first team.
Could they have a say on where the title goes this year? What a fit Oxlade-Chamberlain brings to this team is in no doubt, but Brewster could have an impact too. Despite his serious injury, every top club in Germany tried to sign him in the summer, seeing his potential as the next Jadon Sancho. Liverpool were delighted the forward agreed to stay instead and he could be a secret weapon in the games ahead. Title run ins often throw up an unlikely hero. Federico Macheda still haunts my dreams.
5) More from the crowd
If you want to know how long it has been since Liverpool last won the league, just ask someone from Manchester. The longer it goes the more desperate we become and this translates to nerves and edginess when things aren’t going our way. Anfield can be an impossible place for the opposition when the crowd are with the team, but also a difficult place for Liverpool to play football when the players know every misplaced pass will lead to 50,000 people having a collective breakdown.
Everyone seemed to decide enough was enough before Bournemouth, the rallying cries on social media went up, and the atmosphere was loud and supportive from minute one. And funnily enough the players were excellent. As the season goes on the stakes get even higher. We need to get even louder.