Liverpool fans have had their fair share of false dawns over the last few seasons. They must have signed the final piece of the jigsaw a dozen times in as many transfer windows, but have still found that title to be elusive, and this weekend’s victory over a lacklustre West Ham side low on both quality and confidence must not be seen as anything other than a routine performance.
Yes, in the first half they showed glimpses of brilliance, and that creative edge so often absent whenever captain and inspiration Steven Gerrard is not selected was seemingly abundant. But without a doubt, West Ham were poor and a better side wouldn’t have made the elementary mistakes which allowed Liverpool to have the game in the bag by half time.
The real test will come next week when they play at White Hart Lane against a Tottenham side re-energised by their superb comeback against rivals Arsenal last time out. If Liverpool truly harbour ambitions of getting back into the Champions League at the first time of asking, then these are the kind of games that must be used as a yardstick to measure progress. Too often last season under Rafa Benitez, they would gift points to their rivals and this is one habit they must break soon. As it stands, they won’t be anyone’s Premier League tips.
Liverpool don’t travel well, with just two away Premier League wins in 2010, against Bolton a few weeks ago and Burnley back in April. They need to start winning away from home if they are to genuinely challenge Spurs and Man City for the fourth spot, the two clubs that are currently favourites in the football odds.
Coincidently, in their closest title bid two seasons ago, it was their home form that proved to be their achilles heel. Away from home they had the perfect mix of personnel to employ a ruthlessly efficient counter-attacking system, but this season they have proved too easy to overpower on the road.
Reinforcements will be on their way in January, but if they are not to be cast too far adrift to get back into contention by that point, then three points will be needed on Sunday.