| 1.3°C Dublin

no panic Two games without a win for Liverpool may look like a dip... but they're still my title favourites

Close

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks on from the sidelines during the match at St James' Park with Newcastle.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks on from the sidelines during the match at St James' Park with Newcastle.

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah looks on from the sidelines during the match at St James' Park with Newcastle.

By the time Liverpool play again in the Premier League, they'll have had five days since their last match.

That break is badly needed. As a footballer, this time of the season is tough, mentally and physically with so many games. You need a breather, you need a break from each other.

When you play so many games in that space of time, as Liverpool have done, the players won't have had a day off, they'll have spent more time with their team-mates than their own wives and families so I think the Liverpool squad will have been looking forward to a few days' rest, recharge the batteries for a bit and then go again on Monday, against Southampton.

It's hard for players to spend that amount of time together, even harder when results don't go your way.

You have dropped points in a game you were expected to win - in Liverpool's case, West Brom at home and Newcastle away - and then you have to go back in the next day, see the same faces, with that result hanging over you like a cloud. Stress and tension builds up, that's only natural. I'm sure that Liverpool squad are close to each other... but you also need time apart.

If you are a footballer you don't choose the people you work with, you're not put together by choice, you are all brought to the club and while you are team-mates, you don't necessarily get on with everyone, a football club is like any workplace.

So you need to get away and spend time with your own family and friends, if you can do that, let the tension dissolve for a few days and then go back to work feeling fresh and relaxed, you will be better for it.

Two games without a win and - unusually for them - no goals scored against Newcastle on Wednesday night would be seen as a bad run for Liverpool, given how consistent they have been, but I'm not concerned about them and they are still favourites to win the league.

The last two games saw them produce performances that were, for them, below par but the main thing is they didn't lose the matches.

The goals will flow for them soon, they're just not taking their chances, every team has a dip across a given season and maybe this is Liverpool's dip.

But the important thing is to avoid defeats when you are in that dip, once you pick up draws you will come out of it at the other end and Liverpool's front three are simply so good they can't be held back for too long and they are still capable of beating Manchester United in a few weeks.

The race is an open one. A month ago I said that Tottenham and Chelsea had to be realistic challengers while there was no sign of Manchester United putting together a consistent run. And since then Spurs and Chelsea have fallen down the league, you have United three points off the top, Everton in the top four, Aston Villa not far behind.

So this is the season - with Covid, games being called off, Liverpool missing so many players - where a club thinks: we could be the lucky ones, we could sneak in there, just keep winning games. But they need to retain the belief they can do that.

Close

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates with his players

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates with his players

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer celebrates with his players

If you are club with ambitions, real ambitions, this has to be the year to make a proper push for the title, it's only Liverpool who have strung together that consistent form and are where you expected them to be and the likes of Leicester, Manchester United and even Everton should see this season as an opportunity for them, though they'd probably have to go all-out in the transfer window to get that one player who can push them over the line.

So maybe Everton can try and push Liverpool for the title but I doubt they can and to break into the top six would be a really good season for Everton, they're still a few players short of challenging.

I'd expected Manchester City to come strong, and they are the biggest challengers to Liverpool, but these fixture cancellations will make it more difficult for them, City already have two games in hand on Liverpool but it could be very hard to fit all these fixtures in. City can get better in the New Year, but the fixture list will be a real test.

I can't work out Manchester United. Every time I think they have reached a certain point and are just going backwards, they go and string a few results together.

The question mark I have over United is that they don't put together a string of performances, they get a run of results. Yes, they can get results and they have some very good players in their squad but they don't perform for 90 minutes every week and that's not enough to win you a league.

They will be close this season, maybe closer to Liverpool than they were last season, but nowhere close enough to win the league.

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices

Online Editors


Privacy