If Liverpool win the next eight, they’ll get top four. This is a massive ask, but I honestly feel there are enough slip-ups from the clubs above us to ensure that nine wins on the bounce, including Monday’s excellent victory over Leeds United, will be enough for the Champions League spots.
Manchester United will probably qualify, meaning we need Newcastle United to drop nine points, or lose three matches of the next eight, assuming they win the other five. Tottenham shouldn’t be in the discussion; they’re dreadful and inconsistent. Aston Villa are on a fine run, but we’ll be on the same points as them by winning our game in hand and have a much better goal difference – largely due to our freakish 9-0, 7-0 and 6-1 wins this season.
Obviously, the large caveat to this is the fact that Liverpool haven’t looked anywhere near capable of putting together a run of wins this season. We’ve been abysmal away from home and outrageously, the six goals we scored at Elland road were our first against a side in the bottom half of the table, on the road, all term.
But with 24 points available, and a Newcastle side who just lost 3-0 to Villa as the rival, it’s on. It’s a massive long-shot, and any more dropped points definitely make it impossible. But right now, there’s a glimmer of hope.
So what is there to be positive about, given this monstrosity of a season?
Well, Jurgen Klopp has seen how ludicrously open we were upon losing possession, and changed it – in turn, releasing the creative genius of arguably our most talented player: Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Here’s how the new shape works…
When the opposition have the ball for a spell, Trent sits at right-back, in line with the rest of the back-four, just like you see on the Sky Sports infographic.
But as soon we gain possession, the 24-year-old moves into midfield as part of a two-man double-pivot. So far, he’s done so alongside mostly Fabinho but also Thiago from the bench, with the other two midfielders (Jordan Henderson and Curtis Jones) further up the field. When we have the ball, the formation is effectively 3-2-2-3.
When we lose the ball, which happens often, Klopp obviously wants an immediate counter-press to regain it, but when this fails and opponents counter-attack, Trent has been relieved of his defensive responsibilities on our right flank. Ibou Konate heads to the right, with Virgil van Dijk in the centre and Andy Robertson defending our left-flank. Trent and the other midfielder then head back to defend the half-spaces.
For most of our defensive nightmares this season, we’ve left only two players back: van Dijk and Konate. The fullbacks (Trent and Robertson) have been well up field and out of position, with Fabinho and Henderson’s lack of pace lessening their ability to track back. That’s why so often there’s been an innocuous losing of the ball in midfield and suddenly our opponents are in, with one fast ball to the flank exposing the space left by Trent, who was up-field on the right. That space still remains, but Konate is closer to it, and his pace and physicality enables him to defend it better than Trent was. So far, so good. Ignoring his mistake versus Leeds for the goal, Konate was exceptional at fulfilling this new instruction.
Robertson is no longer staying up field, but holding a position in the backline more regularly, with Trent allowed the space at the base of midfield from which he can create. Against Leeds, he was genuinely sublime. He ran the game like Andrea Pirlo in his prime. He got two assists. He mad TWENTY passes into the final third and TWELVE accurate long passes. If you’re not familiar with match-stats, these numbers are practically unheard of.
Obviously, it massively helped that our forwards took their chances. Annoyingly, we’ve scored our goals this term in gluts, when games have already been won. We battered Rangers 7-0 in the Champions League too to go with the three Premier League wallopings. In those four games, we’ve scored 29 goals. All season, we’ve only got 56 domestically.
But remember, the 7-0 win against United felt like a new dawn in itself. Then we lost to Bournemouth a week later. So, this might be blindly hopeful, and I might change my mind after we lose to Nottingham Forest on Saturday, but you need something to fight for in April and this is all we’ve got!
Eight wins out of eight gets it. I stand by that. Trent being a world-class playmaker in midfield and Mo Salah scoring every week (he’s got 26 this season, by the way) will help, too.
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