"There were some great performances at home last season, but we always talked about making Anfield a fortress again and we feel we're getting there now," insisted Joe Allen when asked what the key to Liverpool's role as top four favourites as the season nears its final stretch. "Statistically, that's backed up, and the last two home games have been big markers for our progress.
"I'm sure any team, no matter how big they are, won't be looking forward to games at Anfield these days. I felt the Arsenal game here was a ruthless performance. The way we started didn't give them the chance to get a foothold in the game. At Anfield this season, nine times out of ten, I think it's been like that. That's been a highlight from a performance point of view."
For a supposed fortress, though, Anfield sure saw Liverpool concede a fair few weak goals against Swansea on Sunday. Yet despite that shaky defensive performance, the wins have certainly been there to justify Allen's assertions. And the goals have certainly been there when Liverpool play at home, where they have scored 42 of their 70 goals so far this season.
"You want success as a football team, but to do it while scoring goals is a great feeling," added Allen. "That's what all the supporters want to see and, as players, what you want to do. We're proud that we've been able to provide that. A lot has been said about our quality in attack, but the goals-for column speaks for itself."
Despite the defensive question marks against Swansea, goals against aren't usually a massive issue at home, either, where Liverpool have conceded 12 times in 14 games. While they stand tenth in goals against overall, at home they are a far more respectable seventh. However, all of that adds up to lingering question marks on the road ahead of a potentially season-defining away game.
Away from home, Liverpool have scored 28 times and conceded 23. Despite being far lower than their home total, goals isn't a concern—in fact it's the best in the league. Goals against on the road, though, is only good for a 15th place tie with relegation-threatened West Brom, and Southampton, seventh best scorers at home, will be looking to capitalise.
Anfield has become a fortress, just as Allen says, and Liverpool are poised for a return to the Champions League thanks to that. But the next two matches on the road—and particularly this Saturday's game against Southampton—could play a massive role in deciding whether they spend the final games of the season trying to hold on to the top four or going for the title.
Fortress Anfield was a first step towards putting Liverpool back where they belong amongst England and Europe's elite. Now it's time for Allen and the rest of the squad to show they can take the next one by boosting their form away from home.