The Day After – Liverpool vs Cardiff

Luis Suarez

Despite not playing a perfect match, it’s hard to find someone displeased with the current situation: Brendan Rodgers finding the right tactics, Luis Suarez signed for much longer and can’t stop scoring and Liverpool are back on top of the Premier League, which at Christmas provides a pretty good indicator to who wins the championship at the end of the season.

So it’s all set? If Arsenal fall in their London derby against Chelsea and it’s going to be OK for them? Not yet. They still have to play at Stamford Bridge and at Manchester City to give us a better picture of how good they really are, but the old saying suggests it’s more important to win against the “little” teams, which Liverpool have been doing quite consistently.

It’s always good to start with the bad: It’s worrying to see a team take its foot off the gas for almost an entire second half. The defending becomes deeper, the pressing up front by a fabulous front four Liverpool have, which includes Jordan Henderson looking so much better in a central, something of creative role, Philippe Coutinho who isn’t scoring but is giving defenses quite a lot of headaches with his dribbling and passing, Raheem Sterling becoming more and more efficient with his touches, and Luis Suarez, who has had pretty much every superlative in the book thrown at him.

Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling

The second half was about going backwards, and allowing Cardiff to find their footing in the match, including scoring a goal by Jordon Mutch, which did cause a few moments of anxiety for those watching the match, and probably the players to. Joe Allen and Henderson couldn’t do a good job of moving the ball forward, while the full back situation was exposed at its worst, especially after Martin Kelly came on and Glen Johnson moved left. We saw Martin Skrtel touching the ball a lot more than Coutinho and Suarez. Cardiff weren’t very close to overturning the 3-1 lead, but Liverpool weren’t really close, until the very last moments of the match, to expanding it.

Everyone is going to agree Liverpool’s squad is inferior to Manchester City’s, Chelsea and Arsenal. That’s just a simple, basic fact. However, they do have the best player in the league this season (and probably last one as well), and possibly have the best balance out of the three. No European matches to worry about catching up with their players is also an advantage. Still, we’ll know a lot more after Liverpool’s visits to their tough away matches. Not just about the players, but whether Brendan Rodgers has finally grown out of his tendency to play too defensive and cautious when going on a tough away match.

It’s no longer something crazy to mention Liverpool as a title contender. At this stage of the season, to be right in the thick of things, not to mention leading the league, means you’re probably in it for the long run, especially regarding the top 4. Liverpool didn’t plan on doing this well, but the right set of circumstances have made it possible. Not losing their heads might promise a very happy, unexpected ending to this season.

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