Many things changed after Liverpool's loss to Hull. Firstly, the perception of Liverpool's aspirations took on a completely new complexion.
No longer were they considered possible title contenders; in fact, most of their dissenters did not even give them a chance for a top four finish. Blogs, podcasts, editorials, etc. began to return to their usual “here we go again” diatribes against the club, claiming that their early season form was a fluke but now the real Liverpool was emerging.
Liverpool were out of chances to be elite in the eyes of many. However, the other changes were of a positive nature. The attitude of the team changed, which has helped them tremendously in the three matches following the Hull defeat.
They had a point to prove: they needed to show that their league position was not luck, that they deserved to be there Perhaps the most important change stemming from this match was the change in line-up. Raheem Sterling was no longer a desperation pick, having earned the confidence of Brendan Rodgers.
His inclusion in the Norwich match proved inspired, as he ran rampant past the Canaries' defense. He has developed a deadly understanding with Suarez, which has led to a spike in the Uruguayan's goal production.
Sterling capped off a fine performance against Norwich with a goal, assisted by Suarez, and repeated the feat against Tottenham. A player that was rumoured to be on his way out on loan earlier this season, Sterling has given Rodgers a reason to not only keep him at Anfield but included him week in and week out in the starting XI.
His pace and guile on the wings add a dimension to the Reds' attack that has been missing. His play is much more confident and he no longer tries to do too much, as he did when first playing last season.
The experience of playing in the Premier League has helped him tremendously, and after appearing to hit a standstill, he is developing more rapidly than expected. After dazzling displays in the past three matches, particularly in the rout of Spurs, where he commanded the right hand side of the pitch, Sterling surely must be one of the first names on the team sheet for the Cardiff and Manchester City fixtures.
As much as Sterling's rise to prominence was pleasantly surprising to Liverpool fans, sp too is Joe Allen's recent form a relief. Allen had come under much criticism since the Manchester United game last season, and injury had held him back until only recently.
After his miss in the Merseyside derby, many were ready to offload him in the January transfer window, but he has taken that mistake and used it as fuel to step up and take command of the center of the field.
The importance of Allen's return was fully seen against Norwich. He was everywhere, marauding into attack, tracking back on defense, and controlling the flow of the game with smart passing. He continued this form into the West Ham game, and he rose to the occasion when given the chance to play in his more natural position as Steven Gerrard was taken off due to injury.
Allen was a key part of Liverpool's dismantling of Tottenham as well. He and Jordan Henderson bossed the midfield and worked off of each other brilliantly. They were able to play out of the back together frequently, which allowed for counter attacks that had more purpose and flow.
His 90% pass accuracy further proves his importance this past weekend and for the important upcoming fixtures, especially with Gerrard out. The “Welsh Xavi” is finally starting to live up to his name.
These past few weeks have been wonderful for Liverpool, particularly for these two players. The results and their rise in form go hand in hand, one could probably not have happened without the other, and if they can keep it up, the Reds' could find themselves even further up the table.
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