At the time of writing this GW22 has just finished and after 22 games (21 for Liverpool) we currently have a 14 point lead over Manchester City and a 16 point lead over Leicester with obviously a game in hand on both. Mathematically that means that if City or Leicester were to win their remaining 16 games they would finish on 95 and 93 points respectively. I think there is a very slim chance of this happening given that both sides have lost 5 games already. With this in mind Liverpool would need 35 points from their remaining 17 games. This would mean that to guarantee Liverpool the title they would need 12 wins from the 17 games. Doable? Yes, but is the title done and dusted? Absolutely not!
Like all the other Liverpool fans out there I am never going to admit that we have finally wrapped up the league and the long awaited Premier League Champions title is just a formality. However, with every passing game the excitement is growing and growing. The reason the fan base is reluctant to start the early celebrations is down to the mentality we have developed over the years. We always believe the impossible is possible. We have proved it in the past several times. Most notably the victories over Milan in Istanbul in 2005 and more recently at Anfield against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final last season. Both times (although under different circumstances) we had to make up a 3 goal deficit and against all odds we did. If we believe we can do it then why can’t it happen to us?
People talk about us ‘bottling’ the title in recent years. Under Rodgers in 2014 with the memorable (or forgettable) slip from Steven Gerrard against Chelsea that apparently cost us the title or the 7-point lead we had over City at Christmas last season. In each of these seasons I didn’t believe we were going to win the league. On neither occasion did I feel the same optimism I have now heading into the 2nd half of the season this year.
We are now talking about a different Liverpool FC. Jurgen Klopp has built a squad that reminds me very much of the great teams of the 80s in respect of whenever we play I expect nothing less than a win, or at the very worst, not to be defeated. In my opinion this in principal is all down to the boys winning the Champions league last season. Klopp has always believed, the fans have always dared to believe but I think undoubtedly winning the Champions League last season and recently being crowned ‘World Champions’ has now made the players ‘truly’ believe.
I remember when I attended the FIRST ‘Planet FPL Live show’ at the end of last season and James asked me whether next season was going to be the season. My response was that if we won the Champions League Final against Tottenham then this would be huge in terms of the mentality of the players giving them belief. Thankfully we did because if we’d have lost I don’t think we would be seeing the same Liverpool we are this season. It has definitely been the catalyst to enable us to kick on again this season.
With the current squad over recent weeks, especially since Qatar, there has been a swagger and confidence we haven’t seen for a long long time which is running through the veins of all the players – even the reserves, just ask Everton! This is very reminiscent of the 80s Liverpool or the great United sides under Fergie. Winning is contagious and I believe this current squad is infected.
With all that being said as much as I don’t want to publicly say ‘THIS YEAR IS OUR YEAR’ with the possibility of ending up with egg on my face in May I just can’t see us not eventually becoming champions. I think the only thing that would cast doubt in my mind would be, God forbid it, Virgil Van Dijk picking up an injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season. I wouldn’t be surprised if City won their remaining matches but I would be surprised if we lost 5 of our remaining 17.
In terms of FPL and Liverpool assets there has been a great deal of chatter in the ‘Twitterverse’ over the past week or so about what is the best triple up combination heading into double gameweek 24. Obviously we can’t predict what is going to happen but I am strongly in favour of doubling up on the defence on TAA, either Robertson/Van Dijk and maybe Gomez (if you are short of funds) along with one of Mane/Salah or even Bobby if you are looking for a cheeky differential.
As I mentioned earlier, Liverpool have a swagger, belief and confidence about them that makes them extremely efficient. As shown in the previous half a dozen matches or so they are not blowing teams away but more ‘getting the job done’. Leicester an obvious exception to this but on the whole 1-0 or 2-0 victories have seen us take all 3 points in 4 of the last 5 matches. I expect this trend to continue for the remainder of the season. I believe the game plan going forward will be to try and control the matches from start to finish with extra emphasis on the central midfielders being even more defensively disciplined than they usually are. Not going for the jugular, which could make them vulnerable at the back. Of course I may be wrong but in recent matches this has been a more notable aspect to their tactics.
Ok, if we are settled on two defenders then who do we choose between Mane and Salah now they will cost you roughly the same? I have always been a bigger fan of Salah than Mane in terms of FPL. His greediness and desire to score almost every time he gets the ball makes him frustrating to watch at times but exactly the type of player you want in your FPL team. That being said I sold Salah for Mane in GW 8 and haven’t looked back. This decision was predominantly based on form with the niggling injury Salah was carrying also a contributing factor. However, of late I have been debating making the switch back but this seems like a wasted transfer as I have always believed pick one and stick with them but if I was to play my Wildcard I’d opt for the Egyptian.
Why not Bobby? My affection for our Brazilian beauty cannot be understated but he is too unreliable in my opinion to choose ahead of his African teammates. Yes, he is considerably cheaper and if he scores he generally takes all 3-bonus points but he can’t be relied upon like the other two. If we look at the stats, Bobby has failed to provide an attacking return on 12 occasions. Compare this to Salah and Mane who have failed to produce an attacking return in only 7 games they have featured in. If I owned Bobby I wouldn’t be confident in giving him the captains armband like I would with the other two.
I have said on many occasions that when it comes to Liverpool assets there is no need for complication. Pick 3 of the above-mentioned players and ignore the rest. Which 3 is your choice but don’t try and take a punt on the likes of Ox, Naby or Alisson. Choose the tried and trusted!
Good luck for the rest of the season.