Skip to content

Look ahead, Premier League: Another chance for a Liverpool breakthrough

Feb 1, 2013, 3:47 PM EDT

Swansea City v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Getty Images

Somewhere over the course of the winter it’s become acceptable to see the Brendan Rodgers Project in a new light. Though the first-year boss ambitiously (if perhaps slightly disingenuously) said his team could finish second this season, most onlookers saw this as another year of transition for the Reds. Disappointments like last Sunday’s at Oldham Athletic still dot Liverpool’s record, but the quality of their play has been encouraging. At their best, Liverpool looks like a Champions League contender, even if that status is still at least a season away. But with that quality apparent now, fans have been left yearning for the type of win that will validate suspicions the team can be as good as they  look.

That win almost came mid-week, but conceding a two-goal lead in London means fans are still wait for Brendan Rodgers’ big breakthrough. After an hour at the Emirates, it looked set to arrive, but goals from Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott salvaged a point for Arsenal. Against the Premier League’s top six, Liverpool is now 0-4-4 this season.

For all the beautiful soccer Rodgers has instilled at Anfield, it’s fair to ask when it means if they aren’t beating top competition. The former Swansea boss was brought in to build something better than Kenny Dalglish had last season. If that requires a transition year, fans seem ready to be patient, but when the results start to hint at a roadblock that defies their talent — the type of block that hints at something mental rather than physical — curiosity’s natural. And at some point, that curiosity becomes a concern.

Rodgers isn’t quite there, yet. Even after capitulating mid-week, he’s still focuing on the positives.

“Normally you would be bitterly disappointed not to have won but I can only be proud of the players,,” Rodgers silver—linings it after the match. “I thought they were absolutely magnificent.”

Those players get their next chance for a breakthrough Sunday at Eastlands. There they’ll face a Manchester City side whose last two performances should engender hope. Their 1-0 win on the 26th at Stoke City came only after Pablo Zabeleta’s late right place, right time goal. Three days later, the Citizens were drawn at Loftus Road, the title aspirants dropping points against the Premier League’s worst team.

The problem’s up front. It’s been 328 minutes since Edin Dzeko scored at Arsenal on Jan. 13, the last time a City forward got on the scoresheet. The last time one of the team’s strikers scored against 11 men in league  was Jan. 1 (Dzeko against Stoke City). Sergio Aguero’s “struggling”, down to 8 goals in 20 games after scoring 23 times in his first Premier League season. Carlos Tévez hasn’t scored in league since Dec. 1, and Mario Balotelli’s no longer on the books.

But if his strike corps is a problem, manager Roberto Mancini’s not admitting it.

“Now we have three strikers,” Mancini said when asked if City tried to acquire another forward. “We have only Premier League and FA Cup, I think that could be enough.”

On Sunday, it just might. In Liverpool’s eight games against the top six, they’ve given up multiple goals seven times, including their Aug. 26 meeting with City. Their 30  goals allowed puts them a respectable eighth in the Premiership, but having conceded half those in  eight games against the league’s best, their defensive record only feeds into the theme: The next step for The Brendan Rodgers project is a breakthrough against one of the league’s top teams.

Elsewhere in England

Saturday

Queens Park Rangers (20th) vs. Norwich City (14th) – Must wins don’t exist in February, but how can QPR be confident they’ll stay up if they can’t beat Norwich City at home? The Canaries last league win was Dec. 12.

Arsenal (6th) vs. Stoke City (10th) - Now four points and two places out of a Champions League spot, the Gunners can’t afford to drop points in these types of games. The last time Stoke took points at Arsenal was 1981 (eight matches).

Everton (5th) vs. Aston Villa (19th) - Not so long ago, this was a battle for non-Big Four supremacy (when there was a Big Four). Now Everton’s competing for Champions League while Villa looks to have reached new lows. In the drop with the worst goal difference in the league, Aston Villa’s no longer one of Everton’s peers.

Newcastle United (15th) vs. Chelsea (3rd) - Who knows what to expect from Chelsea? Would anybody be surprised if they lost this one? Newcastle’s been reinforced by Moussa Sissoko, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Yoann Gouffran and Mathieu Debuchy in the winter window, giving the Magpies the talent to take advantage of the Blues, particularly if a newly healthy Yoann Cabaye can tilt the battle in the middle. But this is stills not a match Chelsea should be losing. While Newcastle’s intriguing, they aren’t on Chelsea’s level.

Reading (17th) vs. Sunderland (11th) - How has this happened? Reading hasn’t been much different after their rough start, yet they’re getting better results. Seven points in their last three and have allowed them to claw out of the drop. The pack has come back to them, something you can also say about Sunderland. They also have seven in their last three, they’ve climbed to 11th, and while they’re now finding more goals (and turning draws into wins), it’s difficult to say things have truly turned around. Both these teams are  taking advantage of a weak bottom half.

West Ham United (13th) vs. Swansea City (8th) – The Hammers have hit a wall. After a strong start to the season, they closed January with three loses in four, conceding 12 times. Swansea ran out 3-0 winners in the teams’ August meeting. Undefeated in league since Dec. 16, this could be another convincing result for Swans.

Wigan Athletic (18th) vs. Southampton (16th) - Two weeks ago this would have been one of the more obscurely attractive matches in the schedule, but with Nigel Adkins asked to give way for Mauricio Pochettino, we’re no longer guaranteed two styles that augur a beautiful game.

Fulham (12th) vs. Manchester United (1st) - I refuse to say anything predictive about #FlawedButFabulous. Fulham, on the other hand, are another illustration of England’s weak bottom half. As much as they’ve struggled this season, they’re still 12th.

Sunday

West Bromwich Albion (9th) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (4th) - Lewis Holtby’s arrival will probably mean an even greater playing time struggle for Clint Dempsey, but the German playmaker is exactly when Spurs need. This Sunday’s match may provide a perfect example. On the road against a team whose tactics could have previously exposed Spurs’ occasional lack of creativity, Holtby may provide a dimension that forces opposing managers to reconsider laying of Spurs and daring them to craft a killer ball.

Latest Posts
  1. WATCH: Premier League live on NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 35

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:39 AM EDT

    NBC Sports Live Extra

    Find out how to watch every single PL game live online of via the app:

  2. Messi to Manchester City rumors return

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:33 AM EDT

    Is Leo Messi really set to leave Barcelona? AP

    Rumors persist that Leo Messi is unhappy at Barcelona. Will Manchester City swoop in, stealing away one of the world’s best players?

  3. Watch Live: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:03 AM EDT

    FulhamSpurs Getty Images

    A victory at White Hart Lane could secure safety for the Whites, but with Tottenham still hoping for Champions League, is there any chance?

  4. Three former players at center of Austrian match-fixing investigation

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT

    Kuljic Reuters

    A trio of players have been charged in a match-fixing ring involving 17 first-division matches in the Austrian Bundesliga since 2004.

  5. Americans Abroad Preview: Howard looks for bounceback vs Manchester United

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Howard Getty Images

    Everton takes on Manchester United this weekend as the American shot-stopper hopes to save their Champions League dreams.

  6. Felix Magath’s blueprint to save Fulham revolves around the fans

    Apr 18, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT

    Magath Getty Images

    The German manager says when he was brought in the players were afraid of his reputation, but that fear has long since dissipated.

  7. Premier League Preview: Cardiff City vs. Stoke City

    Apr 18, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT

    Hughes Getty Images

    Stoke City are on a tear, but they have yet to truly figure things out away from the Britannia. Can Cardiff City capitalize on the Potters’ shaky away form for a second straight surprising result?

  8. Report: 10-year-old daughter of former FIFA official received over $3 million

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT

    Teixeira Getty Images

    Whether this new corruption allegation implicates Ricardo Teixeira with regards to the Qatar World Cup bid or his ties to Barcelona, it’s more bad news for the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation.

  9. US Soccer names roster for U-21 Olympic prep camp

    Apr 18, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT

    Ramos AP

    With the World Cup still over two years away, Tab Ramos is beginning preparation with North American-based players.

  10. Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs Sunderland

    Apr 18, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT

    Mourinho

    Jose Mourinho has guided Chelsea to an astonishing nine straight clean sheets at Stamford Bridge. Can the bottom-dwelling Black Cats pull off an unforseeable upset?

  11. Yaya Toure believes his African heritage hurts his world perception

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT

    Toure AP

    Following in the footsteps of Samir Nasri’s comments last month, Manchester City’s Ivorian believes being from Africa is preventing him from reaching the game’s individual pinnacles.

  12. Homegrown star Shipp hoping to guide Chicago to first win of 2014

    Apr 18, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Source: USA Today Source: USA Today

    With Chicago the draw specialists early on, can they beat New England on Saturday? Watch live on NBCSN, 4 p.m. ET:

  13. Valencia police issue Bale a “speeding ticket” for Copa Del Rey final goal

    Apr 18, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT

    Bale AP

    With the game played in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, the local law enforcement decided to have some fun…at Marc Bartra’s expense.

  14. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 35

    Apr 18, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT

    nbcsports_new

    Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 35:

  15. Jurgen Klinsmann on Jozy Altidore’s situation, USMNT squad and more

    Apr 18, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    Italy US Soccer AP

    U.S. national team head coach speaks out on Altidore, USMNT squad, American Outlaws and more:

  16. Premier League Preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham

    Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:

  17. Wayne Rooney hands Manchester United boost, will return vs. old club Everton

    Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT

    Two goals from Wayne Rooney in the first half helped United to a 4-1 win over Aston Villa. AP

    Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title