‘If you’re designing a team to beat Liverpool, WBA would be it’

Date published: Thursday 13th April 2017 10:06

Our latest Red Letter blog focuses on Liverpool’s impressive goal tally and and suggests if there is a team designed to beat the Reds then West Brom are that team.

Back in September, I wrote in Red Letter that Liverpool must use their deadliest weapon to secure a place in the Champions League again. In short, banging in lots of goals.

“Let’s be honest, this Liverpool team isn’t going to make a name for itself by keeping clean sheets and grinding out 1-0 wins all season,” I stated. Hardly the most ground-breaking claim but one which, nevertheless, has played out.

I also went through the last 20 years of Premier League records and noted that every team which had scored 74 or more goals during that campaign had finished in the top four.

With six games to play, this current Liverpool side have fired in a league-high 68. Six more and we’ve reached our target.

So, is it that simple? Or is this the season when 20 years of history is ripped up?

Like most LFC fans, I was nervous when scouring over our run-in and those fears looked set to be realised at Stoke last weekend.

I was travelling back from London that Saturday, following the game on Twitter. After raising both eyebrows at our starting line-up and trying to see the positives, the game unfolded rather predictably and I had a resigned feeling even though it remained 0-0 approaching half-time.

When bloody Jon Walters scored his umpteenth goal against us to send Stoke 1-0 up at the break it was enough for an official slumped-in-a-seat sulk. Phone went off and I decided to look wistfully out of the window. Three points gone and that stat about us never having won a Premier League game without Sadio Mane went around my head.

Fast forward to 4.40pm when I decided to have the inevitable confirmed, only to see that we were leading 2-1! ‘Goal Coutinho’, ‘Goal Firmino’ said the live commentary timeline with no other entry posted between the two strikes. Get in!

Did Klopp get lucky?

Having shipped a late equaliser to Bournemouth in midweek, I wasn’t counting any chickens yet and the live blog did say “stunning save by Mignolet” to add to the stress and mental image of Stoke piling everything at us.

But we held firm. No points to three points in the blink of two swished Brazilian boots. What a totally joyous and unexpected turnaround.

So, did Jurgen Klopp get lucky? Debate raged but my take was this: Had we been 1-0 down with Coutinho and Firmino starting, Stoke would have looked to our bench and thought there was no danger.

As it was, our Samba stars cut menacing figures, sitting there like coiled panthers ready to be unleashed in the second half.

The feeling of being the cavalry that would change our fortunes kicked in perfectly and the pair pulled off their rescue act in style.

I’m not saying we should ever try that again but imagine in a season’s time if we had a deeper squad and Coutinho and Firmino were coming on in place of two other top-class players rather than a couple of kids still learning.

Anyway, it all ended in smiles and I’m now loving the narrative that this could be the key result in our season.

Sport is all about these big turning points and anyone who watched the Masters golf on Sunday was reminded of that. Sergio Garcia looked down and out when driving into a bush on hole 13 in the final round but instead of dropping four shots back, he scrambled a par, Justin Rose missed a short birdie putt and the Spaniard seized upon this change of momentum to go on and win his first major.

Mentally, it might be much better for us that we won the Stoke game when all seemed lost rather than winning it 2-1 after going 2-0 up and hanging on grimly.

LFC left Stoke with the feelgood factor graph hitting another peak. These final six games can be approached with renewed confidence.

Baggies test

The first test could be the hardest though.

If you were designing a team to beat Liverpool, West Brom would probably be it. They’re well-organised, don’t allow you space to play through the middle, battle all day and are the Premier League’s best team at set-pieces.

We’ve not won there in the league since 2011 when Luis Suarez won the penalty for the first and set up the second.

Under Tony Pulis, they’ve won more home games this season than Man City so banking all three points will be a big ask.

The Stoke result gives us a tiny bit of breathing space though. A draw is no disaster on Sunday even though, in theory, Man Utd would then have it their hands to finish in the top four if they won their eight remaining games.

However, United still have Europa League distractions and do we honestly think they’ll suddenly turn from a drawing machine into a winning machine? Jose Mourinho’s men have only won 50% (15 of 30) Premier League games this season and their run-in includes Sunday’s home game with Chelsea and away trips to Man City, Arsenal and Spurs.

As for the punch-drunk Gunners, if we don’t finish above them, I’ll be staring out of train windows until the start of next season.

Sakho second chance

One final point this week, should we wipe the slate clean and allow Mamadou Sakho to return this summer?

Seeing him perform mightily for Crystal Palace week in, week out (four clean sheets in six games) and it’s hard not to wonder what he might have done to our back line. I mean, Ragnar Klavan does his best but Sakho is a defensive beast.

Will Klopp offer him a way back (I doubt it)? Or should we just be glad that he’s playing well and thus likely to command a much higher transfer fee than had he been rotting in our reserves?

Dave Tindall

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