If January’s busy schedule taught us anything, it’s that Liverpool FC can go toe-to-toe with any other team in England. Unfortunately, that insight cuts both ways, as any team — when on its game — can square up to the Reds.
Monday’s scoreless draw with Tottenham confirmed the known knowns about the Reds: Seventh-placed Liverpool remains a work in progress. It also did little to show just how far off the Reds are from the top teams in the league.
They controlled large parts of the game against the Premier League’s third-place team. That’s similar to league meetings earlier this season against Manchester United and Manchester City. On Monday, a point in the standings was a just result for the hard-fought game.
LFC should feel no shame about its performance against Spurs. It was composed in defense, neat in possession and crisp in passing for much of the contest. As he has done before, manger Kenny Dalglish praised his team’s performance, and rued the missing luck that denied them the full complement of points. The level of Monday’s performance was about average (maybe slightly above) for the 2011-12 Reds.
But Liverpool is trying to climb the standings and gain ground on its rivals over the next four months. To do so, it must raise that average level of its performances from where it is now.
Spurs fielded a weakened team at Anfield. The visitors were without Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart — two keys to its speedy attack — and rarely posed a threat to Liverpool’s goal. It was content to grind out a draw at the toughest of venues, and its ability to do just that bear the hallmarks of a top team.
Liverpool was close to its best. Steve Gerrard returned to the starting lineup, joining an in-form Craig Bellamy. Dirk Kuyt and Andy Carroll have also shown renewed vigor in recent weeks. Luis Suarez made his long-awaited return from suspension and Anfield was filled with good vibes.
The conditions were in place for Liverpool to continue its good run of form, and establish itself as a force to be reckoned with. But that didn’t quite happen. The on-field pieces fit together nicely, and largely bossed the game. But they did not produce the spark that was needed to top high-flying Tottenham (or another top team) and push the Reds up the standings.
We can expect some sort of jolt (improvement), as confidence and on-field cohesiveness grows. Gerrard and Suarez have only started three games together in 2011-12. The pair will spearhead the attack, and Bellamy, Carroll and others will join them to form a fluid unit. Nobody is worried about LFC’s ability to defend. It has the second best defensive record in the league.
LFC has 14 league games left to play, and is among the favorites in two domestic cup campaigns. All questions about its top-four chances and extent of that “progress” will be answered in May when the schedule is complete.
But those looking to Monday’s game as a definitive look as to where this LFC team stands in relation to the top teams at the moment, where left with little in the way of fresh insight. It actually created two more questions: Who’s cat is that (pictured)? And who let it onto the field?
Review all the action from Monday’s game in our Liverpool Live Blog.
Photo via LiverpoolFC.tv
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