As Luis Suarez scored his second of the game and his side’s third goal against Cardiff City - thus effectively putting Liverpool on the top of the Premier league - the fans in the famous Kop end could be forgiven for pinching themselves just to try and see if this is real.
The Reds sat proudly atop the Premier League table at Christmas, and even after the Boxing Day defeat against Manchester City they can dare to dream.
The team at the top of the Premier League at Christmas normally goes on to win the league, and has certainly been the case for the last four seasons.
A season that started off as one of continuing the development plan put into place by manager Brendan Rodgers seems to be starting to bear more promise than originally envisaged.
The Reds are scoring for fun, turning Anfield into the famous fortress that it once was, and in Suarez they have the form player in the league, if not in Europe. His (latest) hat-trick against Norwich City was possibly the best of the Premier league era, as all four of his goals were worthy to be a match winner.
Suarez has re-written the record books for goals scored in a calendar month; his 10 strikes putting him ahead of Mark Viduka who scored eight just over a decade ago. According to the player performance ratings, he has easily been the best player in the league so far, and at his current rate of scoring, he will eclipse the record goal tally set by Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo of 31 league goals.
His strike partner, the injured Daniel Sturridge must surely come in for praise for holding the fort during the early part of the campaign, when the Uruguayan was suspended and his future was looking in doubt at Anfield.
The form table for the Premier League shows that Liverpool are second behind Manchester City, with 13 points garnered from the six games prior to Boxing Day. For all this though, Rodgers has quietly taken the plaudits, merely brushing off his team’s title aspirations by stating that the title is City’s to lose.
Given that Rodgers has not even mentioned Arsenal or Chelsea in the equation and with Manchester City yet to taste top spot so far, the Liverpool mentor will be kidding no one as the club’s immense desire for a first title since 1990 is well known.
Rodgers has seemingly gotten the whole to produce, despite the sum of its parts looking to be greater. Deprived of at least half of his strike partnership at the beginning and the recent point of the campaign so far, Rodgers seems to have finally begun to instill his values into the squad.
While at Swansea the insistence was on keeping possession, even if it meant passing it more in their own half and in the middle, the Northern Irishman has tweaked his formula slightly with a mantra well known in these parts – pass and move.
Liverpool do like to retain possession much more than under Rodgers’ predecessors, but he has inculcated the ‘move’ element to get the best out of highly mobile players like Philippe Coutinho, Suarez and Sturridge.
Another player to have warmed to this is the vastly improved Jordan Henderson, who came in for a lot of stick following his move from Sunderland.
Ironically, one of the players to suffer a loss of form due to these tactical changes has been Rodgers’ former stalwart at Swansea Joe Allen. The Irishman, possibly brought in to stamp the manager’s identity on the squad now finds himself unable to command a regular starting place, providing an example of football’s penchant for the unpredictable.
The Reds’ next league fixture will perhaps give a clearer picture of just how far the Kop can dream as the Reds visit Jose Mourinho’s inconsistent yet sturdy Chelsea. Given Rodgers’ relatively unspectacular record against teams in the top six, these are games not to be missed.
A trio of fixtures featuring Hull, Stoke and Aston Villa should ensure further hope of maintaining their title challenge before they welcome their neighbours from across Stanley Park, Everton at the end of January.
With Roberto Martinez beginning to forge a reputation of note across town, and also restoring another Liverpool-based club’s forgotten mantra (read “The School of Science”), exciting times lie ahead for this football-mad city.
But for the cool and ever serious-looking Rodgers, the only issue has to be the small matter of eclipsing the Citizens as the form team in the league, which needless to say, may further up the temperature of expectation at the Kop end, and raise the spectre of ending 23 years of hurt.
The sign at the entrance to the pitch “This Is Anfield” is beginning to look more ominous now.
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