John Aldridge deserves respect from Liverpool fans around the world. The 56-year-old only played for Liverpool for two-and-a-half seasons between January 1987 and 1989. For a local lad and boyhood Liverpool fan, moving to the club was a dream for the Liverpudlian. Although his career was largely dictated by Ian Rush's impending departure to Juventus and subsequent return, Aldridge was a reliable goalscorer with a fantastic record of 63 goals in just over a hundred (104) appearances in all competitions. If one analyses Aldridge's career in terms of goals, he knew how to finish and scored goals before, during, and after his time at Liverpool.
In his weekly column for the Liverpool Echo, Aldridge was positive about what lay ahead for a side that has played and continues to play a big role in his life. He was quite strong about the impact of the last international break with the injuries suffered to the midfield and attacking areas, but Liverpool could and should have done more with the players available to Brendan Rodgers. There is no doubt that this international break allows Liverpool to have time to work extensively on the fitness of important players that are not far from making a full recovery.
The last international break killed our momentum but this one has come at the perfect time for Liverpool. This fortnight will allow us to get Daniel Sturridge, Joe Allen and Emre Can back fit and regroup after a really testing period. With two massive games on the horizon against Real Madrid we need to improve and I'm confident we will. The return of Sturridge will be a massive boost and give better balance to the side. It looks like Chelsea and Man City will fight it out for the title but it's not all doom and gloom. We're in that pack behind them vying for third and fourth with the likes of Arsenal and Manchester United. The performance against West Brom on Saturday wasn't great but it was all about the result. After a bad week we desperately needed those three points and in the end we did enough to get them.
Maybe with players adapting to the rigours of the league and the desired way of working at the club means that players such as Joe Allen and Daniel Sturridge possess an even greater importance to the club. Allen has worked the longest with Brendan Rodgers as a manager from their time together at Swansea City. He knows exactly what the manager wants and understands the culture around the club. This should not be underestimated and the Welshman's supposedly quiet influence is not so hard to notice after all. Daniel Sturridge is one of the best strikers in the league and his presence means movement, goals, and dancing. Liverpool are in desperate need of all three,.
Following on from the observations in the column on the two-tier structure to the top four in the Premier League, there is no doubt that this seems to be the case. Chelsea have started similarly to the way José Mourinho's teams started in his previous time at Stamford Bridge. When a side with such depth and quality starts so well with a decent gap as a buffer for recovery when points are unexpectedly dropped, it is hard to see past them. However, Manchester City can close the gap on the biggest threat to the champions retaining their league title. They still possess the best depth and variety in striking positions in the league. Furthermore, Frank Lampard's goals, Sergio Agüero's improved fitness, and Yaya Touré finding his best can help the champions close the five-point gap over the coming months.
Are Liverpool in a race with Arsenal and Manchester United for a place for the top four? At least one team will experience disappointment by the season's conclusion. It is extremely unlikely that see early runners Swansea and Southampton making a sustained challenge for the Champions League positions, while Everton and Tottenham Hotspur may be short in vital areas of the squad to navigate the dreaded Thursday-Sunday schedule that their involvement in the Europa League brings.
Manchester United remain enormously weak in central defensive areas, and the exalted attack may not be enough to mask such notable and easily identifiable deficiencies. Ángel Di María has been excellent and will continue to be a key attacking threat. Marcos Rojo has been somewhat disappointing for United thus far, and Louis van Gaal is believed to be unhappy that a 12,000 mile round trip will be undertaken by his two Argentine internationals for exhibition matches in a South-East Asian tour. Philippe Coutinho's Brazil will be one of Argentina's opponents and the Liverpool number ten may also appear against his country's other opponent, Japan.
Man United's injury list is long and Everton were the first Premier League side from last season's top eight to face van Gaal's side. Everton's strong showing in the second half combined with United's poor response in the final 25 minutes could indicate that further problems may lie ahead. Van Gaal is a clever manager so may use the time he has in the international break with the long list of injured players to instruct them on his tactical expectations as well as work more with the players on the training pitch over the coming month. An early exit in the League Cup and no European football may help, but quality players are more important. Man United have them in some areas but appear to be quite imbalanced. Impending games against West Bromwich Albion (away), Chelsea (home), and Manchester City (away) will be illuminative.
Arsenal, like Liverpool, have played some of the league's better teams. Arsenal were completely overrun at Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League but Arsenal should have won at least one of the two games drawn against Spurs and Man City at the Emirates. An opportunity missed? Arsenal could have been a little luckier in defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Wenger's side wasn't disgraced, and although this is not something worthy of praise, being competitive in away games will bring more confidence for a side that was summarily dismissed at the Etihad, Anfield, Stamford Bridge, and Goodison Park last season. Still, Wenger cannot best Mourinho. In the shoving and posturing, one must have wondered whether Mourinho was smiling in his head anyway safe in the knowledge that a man that cannot best him is making a show in front of fate's decree.
Only a point separates the three sides "Aldo" mentioned in the quest for the top four but with the three points Liverpool "desperately needed" and the weaknesses in rivals, should Liverpool fans worry? There are areas of improvement that Liverpool need to make, but a feeling persists in this London air that if Brendan Rodgers does what is necessary, the land of milk and honey will be reached once again.