Liverpool played to a thrilling draw against Arsenal on Saturday, in a game, as one of the commentators said, was 3-3 disguised as 1-1. It was up-and-down, open and free-flowing football with plenty of chances for either side. However, it ultimately came down to a crisp finish from Reds veteran James Milner and a beautiful and composed strike from Gunners striker Alexander Lacazette.
But a strong argument can be made that Liverpool should have come away with the victory. They hit the post twice and had a goal wrongfully disallowed. Former Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg chimed in on the debate.
Tony, I disagree. 1st phase:Mane was in an offside position from the first ball in but does not impact on a defenders ability to play ball as Firmino is onside. Play on. Then Firmino pulls the ball back to Mane who is standing behind the ball and cannot be deemed offside. Goal!
— Mark Clattenburg (@clattenburg1975) November 4, 2018
This now ends a tough 11-game stretch that started all the way back on September 15. Since then, Liverpool has played 11 total games, with seven of them coming in the Premier League. Seven of the 11 games have come against Tottenham, Chelsea (twice), Manchester City, Arsenal, Napoli, and Paris Saint-German.
And they have collected a solid nine points from those seven matches. In the Premier League, they went on the road to Tottenham, Chelsea, and Arsenal, while hosting Man City at Anfield, and went without a loss, collecting six points. Included in this stretch was a visit to Huddersfield, who now sit in last place. However, over the past handful of seasons, Liverpool have struggled against the bottom-three sides in the league, especially on the road, so this was no easy feat for them, shown by their 1-0 victory.
In all: six wins, five draws, and a loss. 23 points in 11 games from a tough stretch are nothing to be ashamed of. The Reds survived and kept pace in their race for a Premier League title. They sit in third with 27 points, tied with Chelsea who is second in goal difference, and behind Manchester City by two points.
They are in a healthy position, with a relatively favorable schedule to close out the year and help them sustain a legitimate title challenge in the Premier League while setting themselves up for a successful Champions League run.
Let’s start with the Champions League. Liverpool sits pretty in first place in their respective group by a point and has the best goal differential. Their next game is on Tuesday against Red Star Belgrade; a team they demolished 4-0 at home two weeks ago. Winning this contest would set them up in an excellent position to advance, with a home game against Napoli and a fierce battle away vs. PSG.
The Reds will want to go for all nine points, but a win against a weak Red Star Belgrade team and draws in the other two matches, would most likely be enough to advance and even win the group.
In the Premier League, they have nine games remaining before the calendar changes to 2019. And at least six of them will be matches the Reds will be favored in and should win. But, as you know in the past, the games Liverpool should win, usually aren’t the ones where they come through.
It starts this Sunday against a 19th-placed Fulham squad. Then a trip to Watford, who are surprisingly in the top-ten after finishing 14th last year. Then comes the Merseyside Derby at home against Everton. That is always a heated contest where a draw is the most likely outcome.
Then trips to Burnley and Bournemouth. Burnley is 15th in the league while Bournemouth is 6th. Afterward, Liverpool hosts their longtime rivals Manchester City before a trip to Wolverhampton, and two home games against Newcastle United and Arsenal.
This is a relatively favorable schedule that is going to tell us a lot about this Liverpool team and how legitimate of title contenders they are this year. The Reds need to collect least 20 points from these nine games. Yes, the Premier League is a grind, but, Fulham, Watford, Burnley, Bournemouth, Wolverhampton, and Newcastle are games they need to win.
These are matches you must win if you want to win the title. They are contests that a Manchester City would more-than-likely take care of. These are the games that determine whether you will be a title contender or not because your season is usually determined by how you fare against 70% of the league and not the rest of the Big 6 (Man United, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham).
That’s not to say that draws in the other three games are fine. 27 points would be ideal, but not entirely realistic. However, realistically as well, Liverpool must win at least one of the games against Everton, Manchester United, and Arsenal, while drawing the other two (at worst) if they want to keep pace with Manchester City and Chelsea.
So, the schedule opens up for the Anfield side, but it’s still a test for a team that has to prove their championship mettle. What better than a favorable opportunity that has haunted them in the past?