Liverpool – The start no one bar reds fans expected?
Liverpool’s best start to a campaign since 1994 sees them sitting proudly on top of the Premiership table after 1-0 wins against Stoke at home, Aston Villa away and, most notably, Manchester United at Anfield last Sunday.
Which prompts a few interesting questions. How long can they stay top? All season? And following a hectic transfer window which has seen Spurs and Arsenal (eventually) as well as Liverpool strengthen their already decent squads, should we now be talking about a genuine six-horse race for the Premiership rather than just assuming that it will be between Man United, Man City and Chelsea?
Moves in the betting market suggest that yes, Liverpool should be taken seriously as Premiership contenders, not just challengers for the fourth Champions League spot – Coral clipped them from 18/1 to 10/1 after their victory at the weekend.
And yes, I believe this might well be a six-way fight. As champions United ease out to 4/1, Arsenal are now in to 11/1 after recovering from their opening-day home reverse, while I think it would be unwise to leave Spurs (22/1) out of calculations with all the quality they have brought in to compensate for the loss of Gareth Bale.
Liverpool had less of the possession against United, but by definition they did more damage with the ball when they had it. And boss Brendan Rogers was especially thrilled with the way his team battled and pressed throughout the game to protect their early lead.
They boast a solid spine – new signing Simon Mignolet in goal, the impressive Martin Skrtel in the centre of defence and Daniel Sturridge, the fans’ new hero, up front. Sturridge, who has scored the winner in all three Premiership games this season (and who is now 10/1 with Coral to win the ‘Golden Boot’), has been a revelation since moving to Anfield. He has always looked a good footballer, but is now leading the line and playing with his head up. And I don’t see the return of Luis Suarez as being a problem for him or the team, either. They will be a formidable strike-force.
Steven Gerrard has wondered aloud whether Liverpool would ever be good enough to win another title in his time, but he might now be daring to dream that it might happen – and that it might actually happen this season.
We will know more, of course, as we get into the guts of the season, but there is a more than reasonable chance that Liverpool will still be looking down on the rest at the end of October with their fixture schedule until then comprising home matches against Southampton, Crystal Palace and West Brom and away games against Swansea, Sunderland and Newcastle.
Written by Jon Freeman