Ok ok, before going all crazy over Luis Suarez (which will be done in a minute), here’s the part where we look at every other positive and negative aspect without the mention of Suarez in it.
First off, the negatives. The 5-1 win against Norwich masked the fact that the Canaries actually tried to take the game to Liverpool, and almost did that. The poor goal conceded late in the second-half, a wonderfully header planted into the top corner by Bradley Johnson would surely have concerned Brendan Rodgers once again. The fact that Daniel Agger was that easily outmuscled and was a step slower than Johnson would have been particularly worrying. There were a few times when Norwich went forward and the Liverpool defence looked exposed and wide open.
However, this is not to say Martin Skrtel and Agger should not start together again, instead they should be given a run in the side together to see how their partnership can resynchronise before the tough away fixtures later in December. The bright spark of the Reds’ defence yesterday was once again Jon Flanagan, who looked his usual committed self and was not afraid of getting stuck in, the hallmark of a good defender. He does not look out of place at left-back, and after three fantastic performances so far – keeping in mind the first was a tough Merseyside derby and the second a humbling loss to Hull – Flanagan certainly deserves to keep his place, at least until Jose Enrique returns to full fitness. Further, Rodgers can fully focus his January transfer window on another striker, or to a lesser extent a midfielder, instead of a left full-back. Martin Montoya can come next summer.
Next, the curious case of Joe Allen. His performance certainly improved, though there were still signs of rust and lack of form. Early in the first half, he lost a couple of challenges in the middle of the park that led to Norwich having a couple of decent opportunities. On the bright side, Allen did do his job well of moving the ball and battling in central midfield, and almost got a goal from a cracking shot outside of the box, but he will need to continue improving and play even better than last night to stand a chance of getting a run in Rodgers’ team.
Raheem Sterling did look busy again, and had a well-taken goal. Though it would seem he needs to strengthen up to deal with the heavy-handed defending methods of opposition full-backs, Sterling did improve his game last night. He constantly tried to dribble against or at the Norwich full-backs, but he needs to link better with Glen Johnson on the right-hand side, as Johnson can be a menacing outlet if he is picked out more often than not.
Steven Gerrard had a much better performance than at Hull, finding his 40-, 50-yard passes in the exactly crisp and precise manner we are so used to. From a deep position, he dominated the Norwich midfield, and so too when he went forward a couple of times. His audacious flick, with his back facing the goal, that hit the post, could have been one of the contenders for goal of the season, but Gerrard’s skill and performance was not rewarded on this occasion. Philipp Coutinho looked to have worked his way well back from injury, and now Liverpool will hope he can be fit for this tough month of fixtures.
A 40-yard volley belter. An off-balanced reactive strike. A half-volley after a flick over Leroy Fer. And (now his trademark) 30-yard top corner free-kick. Four stunning goals for Liverpool’s no. 7, which effectively killed off Norwich’s hopes and resolve to get back into this game, and single-handedly won the game for Liverpool.
Having been a constant menace against Norwich throughout his Premier League career so far, Suarez now has 11 goals in 3 games against the Canaries, which includes three hat-tricks, the first time any player has that many hat-tricks against the same opposition. He has two hat-tricks already this season, the other against West Brom with three high quality goals as well.
Also, having missed the first four games from a harsh ban after his bite last season, Suarez now has 13 goals in just 9 games. While the likes of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero (11 goals), Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (8), Loic Remy of Newcastle (8), Manchester United duo Wayne Rooney (8) have been available for all 14 fixtures this season, Suarez’s current goal tally makes it all the more impressive.
Suarez would surely have won the Golden Boot last season ahead of Robin van Persie, who only managed 3 goals more than Suarez but had 6 more games. Simply magnificent, Suarez needs to keep up his form this month, especially with Daniel Sturridge out till mid-January.
Dealing with Sam Allardyce’s West Ham
Old boys Stewart Downing and Joe Cole come to town this Saturday, but no favours for them, of course; Liverpool need to complete their bare minimal six out of nine points haul from this week’s games – minimum had been the full nine.
The area of strength for Allardyce’s side is definitely their midfield quartet of Ravel Morrison, Kevin Nolan, Mohamed Diame and Mark Noble. One would assume Diame and Noble would sit deep in midfield, with the former looking to utilise his strength and drive forward. Nolan will look to make late runs into the box and be an aerial threat from set-pieces and crosses. Morrison will be that wildcard, with bags of tricks up his sleeves and a United background. Gerrard and one of Lucas or Allen will have their work cut out, and Coutinho will need to keep West Ham’s double pivot busy, reducing Diame’s forays forward.
Also, whichever winger Rodgers pick, whether is it retaining Sterling, or bringing in Victor Moses or Luis Alberto in from the start, that player needs to keep either full-back busy in order to pull Noble over in the latter’s attempt to cover his backtracking full-back. Jordan Henderson, who will most likely keep his place, will need to help out in central midfield in keeping Morrison and Diame in check, thus allowing Coutinho the freedom he needs to combine with Suarez, which Anfield hopes will bring over his form from last night.
Only two wins out of two can be seen as the perfect response to the damning defeat at Hull last weekend, last night’s win against Norwich is just half of the Hull response.