A new year has arrived for us all. Liverpool look a bit better so far this month by continuing an unbeaten run with players set to return from a variety of absences to improve the depth as well as quality in the squad. The draw with Leicester City should not be forgotten, but it appears the passage of time has been kind on Liverpool's supposed prospects for the top four.
Manchester City blew a two-goal lead, Tottenham Hotspur joined Liverpool in succumbing to Crystal Palace after going a goal up, Chelsea were the victims of another BT Sport televised big game humbling by conceding five goals at White Hart Lane, the future plans of Steven Gerrard should enable Brendan Rodgers to manage with more freedom, Liverpool's strikers appear to be given a chance, Dejan Lovren has been given time to find his leadership and competence, Lucas Leiva will not be leaving before the end of the season, new contracts are set to be signed by increasingly influential players, the stadium expansion will purportedly equal Chelsea's match-day revenue with an extra £25 million per season, Brendan Rodgers appears to have come through a rough patch, Liverpool halved Manchester United's ten point advantage in the space of three games, Southampton's midfield has recently lost two key cogs for at least a month, Arsenal could experience another league defeat in a young 2015 by Sunday evening, West Ham United are without a league win this year and travel to Anfield to close out January's league programme, and Liverpool have witnessed the growing influence of two young summer signings.
All is well it would seem, or at least, a lot better. There is much to be done, and Liverpool enter a game that will test whether the players have the ability to at least come somewhat close to achieving the task required to cast this season in a forgiving light. Liverpool may have shamefully been outplayed by Leicester City at Anfield, barely deserving a draw, but have the opportunity to continue to provide evidence of progress. One can only be frustrated when Manchester United draw and Arsenal lose on the same weekend when Liverpool throw away a generous lead bestowed by a couple of penalties. Capitalising when other teams drop points is one thing, consolidating progress the following match-day is another. Tottenham, Manchester United, and West Ham dropped points last weekend after Liverpool's away victory in the early kick-off last weekend. However, will Liverpool do what is the minimum requirement at this stage of the season? Put together successive wins against a side that is playing terribly and has scored only eleven league goals all season.
In life, sometimes people show you when they're not serious about a relationship or a pressing project. They're there for a little bit, but will not meet the minimum requirements under simple pressures. No disrespect is aimed at Paul Lambert's Aston Villa, because to point out the awfulness of a side that has won only two league games since beating Liverpool at Anfield in September. Paul Lambert has been a predictably reliable problem for Brendan Rodgers at Anfield, yet fails to provide a similar stubbornness in front of his own fans at Villa Park. Liverpool have a tendency to do something that makes you smile before swiftly erasing any semblance of positivity from your being within a few blinks. Liverpool dropping points this weekend is something that would be characteristic of this side. Even with victory, would Liverpool be able to start building genuine momentum by adding another victory when Sam Allardyce's considerable figure visits Merseyside?
Forget the cup ties for a moment. That didn't save a king, and it certainly won't save a talented apprentice. A job may not be on the line, but status is just as important. Brendan Rodgers mostly built a belief that he was a talented manager throughout 2014, but it would be typical of all things Liverpool in his tenure to fail in consolidating that. Wins against Chelsea and Bolton will possess little merit if they are sandwiched by results that all but exterminate Liverpool's hopes for a credible top four challenge in the final four months of the season. Be warned, Liverpool cannot go into February with Everton, Tottenham, Southampton, and possibly the remaining hope for entry to the land of milk and honey on the back of a cup final and a victory against lower league opposition in the FA Cup.
Be warned dear reader, do not be fooled by the taste of inconsequential victory. The heart will flutter at victory over José Mourinho's Chelsea, and youngsters will reveal talent in FA Cup cameos. However, next month can be the slingshot into a final three months of the season where Liverpool will have firm targets and much to play for. Beating Chelsea has its own rewards in any competition, yet Aston Villa and West Ham should not allow such victories to feel hollow. Liverpool's top four prospects are already unhealthier than they should be and remain more perilous than the most hopeful among us would like to believe. Any head would surely realise that, and it is hoped that those who can shape the destiny of the club this season will understand that more than anyone.
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