DEFYING THE ODDS

Dan Wilcox gives a few points about why Liverpool can compete this year, despite the scramble to suggest otherwise.

There are areas that need addressing, but the people behind the scenes are attempting to do what’s required.

Liverpool must have left Anfield on Sunday with a healthy air of confidence as they dispatched a weakened Dortmund side who really struggled to show anything like the impressive football and performances Europe have become used to. Despite the circumstances of the game, however, the old adage is correct: you can only beat what’s put in front of you. And it’s fair to say the Reds did that with apparent ease. It’s unlikely this game reflects on how successful Liverpool will be this season, and it’s easy to get slightly taken away by the win, but the team played some delightfully tantalising football at times, and it’s that which bodes well for the season ahead.

If you look at the 2014/15 Premier League odds, Liverpool can’t be found at any better price than 10/1. Now we all know odds are often wrong, and on unthinkable amounts of occasions markets have defied their odds, but why such a high price for the Reds to go one step further this season than they did last?

One argument is of course that Suarez has left, and it’s a point well raised. He contributed huge amounts to our attack on the title last year and won’t be around to do that again this season. The fact he’s now left, though, has opened doors for others to shine, doors that I think a few players will gladly stroll through. Sterling, Sturridge and Coutinho are just three who are capable of taking the creativity/goalscoring mantle upon themselves and continuing where the Reds left off last year. They’re players who are still learning and most importantly, continually getting better. This team can score goals and that’s something I certainly wouldn’t bet against. Over the last 10 years (excluding last year), title winning teams have scored an average of 81 goals to win the league, with the lowest over that period being 68. We have the fire power to do what is required in front of goal to challenge again, and if not, to be comfortably within the top four.

Another worry this season is of course the defence. Liverpool conceded 50 goals last season, a tally that no other club has managed whilst winning the league. In fact, Premier League winning clubs (over the last 10 years, again excluding last season) have only conceded 28 goals, on average. That’s just over half in comparison to our efforts last year! Rodgers and the people behind the scenes have made a conscious effort to address that though, this summer. We’ve bought Lovren, who looked a real leader vs. Dortmund. He was commanding the box, bellowing instructions at fellow players and even keeping his teammates geed up after the team came under pressure at the back. If you add to that the fact he scored on debut, you can see why the club were so keen on the Croatian and why he may just help improve our defensive capabilities this season. Manquillo is another who has been acquired in a ‘problem’ area and another who impressed against Dortmund, again on debut. He got up and down his flank repeatedly, was deceptively quick and looked solid defensively. It’s wise to not over hype the young player so early, but the signs are most definitely promising. The club, by all accounts, continue to work on a deal for Alberto Moreno too. He would again add some much needed quality and depth to the side. I think we can improve in this area markedly on last season, the new arrivals being a big part of that.

The final thing which people pipe up with when we’re mentioned as title contenders, or even a shoe in for the top 4, is the fact ‘we’re doing a Spurs’ – we’re not. What we’ve done is improve the squad as a whole. What we’ve done has been planned and didn’t all occur in what seemed like a mad rush for Spurs. What we’ve done is use the Suarez money far cleverer than Spurs used their influx of cash. It’s worth pointing out too that the apparently tragic season Spurs had last year after selling Bale and spending his value on others only saw them finish 3 points worse off than the previous season where he won all his accolades (POTY and so forth). In theory, therefore, we’d finish on 81 points – enough for top 4 usually. (More about the history of ‘doing a Spurs’ here)

I want to make it clear I’m not actively saying we’re going to win the league. It will be a very tough season with our added games and our vastly different squad. I acknowledge that top 4 will be a challenge with clubs eager to get back into the Champions League given the further deluge of money heading participants’ way over the next couple of years. What I am saying though, is that we are addressing issues, we are always improving and we’ve got a manager who can take what we did last year, build on it, and make us even better.

We can win any competition we enter this season, even if the the odds do disagree.

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