How punditry can change within the space of... A month?
December was a pretty shoddy month for Liverpool, heads were hanging, confidence was low, we'd been knocked out the Champions League, beaten by Portsmouth and beaten by Arsenal. With things beginning to hit a new low it was Arsenal who were on form winning 5 out of their 6 Premier League fixtures that month.
Now were into February though it appears the tides have turned.
Arsenal are now showing the poor results including a draw with Everton (pah!), loss to Stoke and they have failed to beat either of their big rivals in Chelsea and Manchester United.
Even looking at our own season we can still say we have beaten United, beaten Stoke and also got a draw. Not to mention our double over the bluenoses, yet it's Arsenal who's decline continued to be ignored, pundits remained confident that they would still find themselves in a title race despite all the warning signs.
Warning signs such as their inability to defend pacey counter attacks, even though Arsenal boast one of the best goals for totals in the league, it is clear their other weaknesses were becoming more apparent.
Liverpool are incapable of going on an unbeaten run they said, Spurs or Manchester City are the most likely to take that fourth spot they said, Arsenal could mount a serious challenge they said, Wenger they praised, Arshavin they applauded...
And now where are they?
3rd in the table, 7 points off United, 9 points off Chelsea and the mighty Reds next up on their fixture list.
So lets look at this properly, it was Liverpool who were questioned when the fixture lists for January and February were examined, would they be able to beat 4th spot challengers Spurs? Could they do they double over an Everton side in good form?
Arsenal on the other hand...
Oh of course Arsenal can give Manchester United and Chelsea a run for their money in both those fixtures, what with all that fire power despite having no real striker at the moment, yes, they'll fend fine against attacks, a draw is highly feasible etc etc.
As much as it pains me to say it though United humiliated them, and this followed by Chelsea doing pretty much the same. Letting in 5 goals from the two matches and their only sense of fight being shown in the consolation goal against United, confidence in Wenger's team has only now began to filter out.
And why is this? Because quietly in the background Liverpool had been grinding out the points, game after game after game, whilst the likes of Villa, City, Spurs and Arsenal all began to falter, our boys had been showing the stamina. So much so that on Wednesday night, if we can beat a poor looking Arsenal side of recent, they will no longer be looking up, they will be looking directly behind them.
Liverpool would find themselves 1 point behind the Gunners providing they could walk away from The Emirates with all 3.
With Man City next up in the league, a win over them and we could find ourselves challenging successfully for 3rd! Never mind that coveted 4th spot.
It amazes me how "all of a sudden" the support for Liverpool has come back, the faith and belief from pundits has instantly come flooding back for a dribble of backing and praise after the Everton game. Well, we don't want it...
A good analyst of football would have noted beforehand to not rule out a Liverpool push and run, but Andy Gray and Jamie Redknapp are more concerned in following a Sky media bandwagon, "Oooo the propaganda of highlighting a none existent Liverpool crisis is of utmost importance, never mind Arsenal's almost imminent fall from grace."
The fact is, they all knew it was possible, and now that it has actually happened, it has come back and quite simply bit them on the arse.
They aren't going to hold their hands up and say i thought Liverpool had no chance, just as they aren't going to be left out of the hype knowing that Liverpool could now find themselves leap frogging Arsenal.
So for this and several other reasons, more obviously the extent of the rewards, i sincerely hope we can come away with 3 points.
Liverpool are still without star men; Fernando Torres, Glen Johnson and Yossi Benayoun. Arsenal are without the likes of Eduardo, Van Persie, Gibbs, Vela, Merida and Djourou.
Liverpool will also be without the massive impact of Kyrgiakos, this could prove to be a problem but the defence as a unit of late has been very good, still scrappy, but nevertheless they have continued to get the job done, conceding only 1 goal in the last 5 games.
In terms of team fielded, I'm not quite sure what Rafa will go for, as many people noted after the Everton clash, it was clear he opted for Masch and Lucas in midfield perhaps due to the physical nature of the game, goals were not going to be scored by skill or flair, that was a fact. However this time out, i feel Aquilani could possibly be of better use.
As for the wing, again, i think against a team like Arsenal we may see Riera started and then Rodriguez used as the late sub.
Back four i should imagine will be Carragher, Skrtel, Agger and Insua. Kuyt will almost certainly start along with Gerrard, whether Kuyt will be on the right, behind the striker, or even take the roll of lone striker, i don't know, it's all left to guess work.
Should be a very good match, especially due to all this build up, knowing what a win could do, i unfortunately am working Wolves v Spurs, so just like the first Merseyside derby this season, i have literally got to "dash" home in order to try and catch at least some of the first half, should definitely be back for second half though so all hope is not lost. Fully charged phone i feel will need to be required for constant scoreline updates until i manage to get in front of the TV.