Liverpool look like a top four team

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Liverpool have achieved their best start to a league campaign in 19 years - three wins, three clean sheets and three goals saw the men from Merseyside top the table. In some corners of Anfield there was even talk of a possible title challenge.

But all that was quickly forgotten after a draw against Swansea City, defeat against Southampton and a League Cup defeat at the hands of their arch rivals Manchester United left Liverpool rather flat after their flying start and fans and pundits started to question Rodgers' tactics and squad.

But victories against Sunderland and Crystal Palace saw Liverpool propel themselves back into the top two and having fans all over the world wonder whether Liverpool can sustain this form for the rest of the season.

With the current international break under way, Rodgers will be hoping all of his first team players come back injury free and he'll be looking for Liverpool to kick start again where they left off. Liverpool's next three fixtures are Newcastle United away (they have a good record at St. James' Park), at home West Bromwich Albion and what could be a table-topping clash against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium.

Liverpool's current form would suggest that they can beat Newcastle and West Brom, but the Anfield club are still prone to the odd poor performance when they are expected to win comfortably, such as the home defeat to Southampton this season and last season's home defeats to West Brom and Aston Villa, which left fans wondering what went wrong.

By the time Arsenal comes around, Liverpool will have welcomed back Joe Allen to bolster midfield options and also Philippe Coutinho and Glen Johnson who are expected back later in October.

A full strength squad is what will be needed if Liverpool are to defeat a very impressive Arsenal side who have enjoyed a spectacular start to the new start after their a opening fixture defeat to Aston Villa.

With Liverpool the only team in the so called big six not too feature in Europe nor the Capital One Cup, Liverpool can solely focus on their Premier League fixtures while, their counterparts, Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal will be playing mid-week games and this forces the squads to be stretched and fatigue related injuries become a real concern.

It's a blessing in disguise that Liverpool are not featuring in Europe and their early exit in the Capital One Cup will help their cause to push for a Champions League spot or, even better, a title challenge - especially with the title race being so wide open this year.

But Liverpool lack the squad depth compared to the other five clubs vying for a place at UEFA's top table.

Liverpool's absence in the Capital One Cup and Europe will benefit their push for Champions League football, although some would say, a club like Liverpool should be pushing for all trophies, but their number one target would be a Champions League spot. After all that's where the financial success lies.

Just look at Arsenal, eight seasons without a trophy but consistently finishing in the top four has seen them buy one of the best midfielders in world football and still run a profitable football club. After all modern football is business on grass and trophies are seen as a bonus rather than a clubs main objective for the season.

But Liverpool have to improve their second half performances drastically if they are to challenge for a top four finish. In their seven games Liverpool have manage only one second half goal, against Sunderland, and have been outplayed in second halves, often dropping back and allowing teams too dominate possession.

Rodgers has also changed their style of play; around this time last season there was great emphasis put on distributing the ball from the back which often led to teams pressuring the defence (Martin Skrtel back pass to Reina which allowed Tevez to score) and Liverpool giving the ball away in their own half.

This season, however, with the pace of Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Victor Moses, the defender can often play it long to launch counter attacks or still play it out from the back and move it into midfield.

There has been a lot said about Liverpool's lightweight midfield, especially when Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard don't dominate the midfield, the passes become stray, tempo slows down and the passes are to lateral.

This is where Coutinho has become such an important asset in midfield, dribbling at defenders and cutting defences open with his through balls or one-two plays with the strikers, which is what Liverpool have lacked in second halves this season.

Liverpool's style of play does not allow them to dominate for a full 90 minutes It's high tempo, passing and pressing, often reverting to lying deep, to save energy and then play on the counter.

Both are effective, but Liverpool seem to over-rely on their defence at times and with poor marking at set pieces and not closing down opposition midfielders or strikers they have looked  lacklustre at times this season, but credit must be given to the opponents' attacks.

If Liverpool are to get in among the Champions League places they will have to add depth to their midfield as they did in defence. Kolo Toure has been magnificant, a title winner with both Arsenal and Manchester City, the 32-year-old Ivorian boasts more than a decade of top flight experience.

And it has been evident in Liverpool's opening three fixtures when he partnered Daniel Agger, where they have kept three cleans sheets in a row. With Agger, Martin Skrtel. Thiago Illori and Mamadou Sakho, Rodgers is spoiled for options.

In Simon Mignolet Liverpool have one of the safest pair of hands in the Premier League and a amazing shot stopper, although question marks have been raised about his ability to distribute with the ball at his feet.

In midfield, Liverpool have the ever present Gerrard in his new role, sitting deep next to Lucas, while his pin point accurate boot helps switch play and keeps defences on their toe.s Lucas breaks down opposition attacks and keeps the midfield ticking over with his short simple passes.

They compliment each other well, with Gerrard often allowed to push forward if the situation allows for it. But that's where they lack options; Jordan Henderson can replace Lucas and has been fantastic all season, his work rate and versatility has been really important for Rodgers as he can play behind the strikers, in front of the back four or as a wing back in the 3-5-2 formation.

Rodgers will need someone extra in midfield, Will Huges from Derby has been linked with a move to Anfield, as well as Koke from Atletico Madrid. They also have Joe Allen but the £15million pound man from Swansea has struggled to make an impact as yet at Anfield and has been critcised for passing the ball to lateral and backwards at times, and lacks defence splitting passes.

Liverpool's best bet for a top four finish will come from Suarez and Sturridge; this partnership can take Liverpool to new heights this season and fire them into the Champions League if Sturridge stays fit and Suarez out of trouble.

Sturridge has scored 19 goals in 25 games for Liverpool since his move from Chelsea in January and he has been a revelation for Rodgers, with eight goals in nine appearances this season so far.

With Suarez already bagging three goals in his two league games, this partnership will set Liverpool in the right direction come January, when possible title contenders and Champions League contenders are better known.

But, just like Kolo Toure said: “The Premier League is a tough competition and we can't look too far ahead. We'll take it game by game and be really focused because we know
there are really hard games in this league."

For Liverpool there is clear room for improvement, and if you take into consideration the fact that Liverpool have made a habit of winning games without being at their best, it is a positive sign for the months ahead for the men from Merseyside.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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