They’ve been able to fly under the radar up until now, but Liverpool can’t avoid the favorite label anymore. Steven Gerrard can almost taste the championship, and Brendan Rodgers is taking his team, no matter how this season ends, further than they were actually supposed to be. But the difference between a happy ending and a historic one will be keeping things simple, and not over-thinking about the big picture.
Because no matter how this season ends and what Liverpool’s place in the table will be, the 2013-14 campaign is a success. Liverpool were touted to finish in the 5-to-8 spots, along with Tottenham, Everton and maybe even Swansea or Newcastle. The top 4 should have been Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea, while Spurs make an effort to finish among those heading into the Champions League.
He needs just this title to accomplish everything possible in club football. Steven Gerrard has won two FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League trophy, one in the UEFA League, and a few more Super Cups and Community/Charity Shields. The title, as it usually does with some players, seems to be the difference between a legend among Liverpool fans only to someone whose greatness overall in English football is undeniable, even though he shouldn’t need that extra trophy to assert his incredible legacy.
Liverpool have been playing the slight underdog in the race pretty well so far. Rodgers isn’t Jose Mourinho, who knows that one of the advantages his team has is him himself and what he says in the media. Constantly talking about being the little horse in the race and the underdogs might make him seem foolish or degrading at times, but up until the couple of losses to Aston Villa and now Crystal Palace, it was hard to argue about his tactics through the media – it worked.
Rodgers sometimes complains about referees, but other than that is saying the right things. He isn’t talking down to any manager, or makes Liverpool seem like something they’re not. Right now Manchester City have the slight edge, but Liverpool can win the title if they win all six remaining matches, which happen to include Chelsea and Manchester City; two teams they’ve lost to this season back in the Christmas schedule, and both matches being at Anfield.
Rodgers and Gerrard need to stay away from the championship talk and mentioning how the end of the season will look like. Sometimes words are just that, but many times it changes a state of mind within the club, and from being a team that focuses only the next match, they turn into slightly complacent, maybe even entitled and arrogant.
After 24 seasons of waiting, Liverpool can’t afford to enter that mode. Rodgers has set them on the right path, which began with finding the right tactics, and followed by turning Luis Suarez into the best player in the Premier League. It might be mostly talent, but Rodgers had something to do with that, and with improving the supporting cast and tactics than enable him to shine but also for the team to succeed when he doesn’t score.
This can be a special season that ends with the return of a club that used to be quite natural with winning championships, but has almost forgotten what it feels like. Trying to focus too hard on that feeling instead of on away matches to West Ham and Crystal Palace might end that dream before they get to taste it.