**Can Arsenal win the league? Coming soon
By Fortune Achonna
It may seem a tad silly writing this article, but before today's battering by Hull, out there somewhere were Liverpool fans silently expecting a Liverpool title challenge, if not going all the way to win the darn title that has alluded them for 20 odd years (the picture above is the last time they celebrate league success). If yesterday's quite frankly embarrassing defeat did not change their minds, the next few paragraphs will.
The main reason Liverpool lost was due to their lack of squad depth, and it is precisely that will keep them from claiming their 20th Premier League title, or being around the title race. Against Hull, Liverpool had Sturridge out and Coutinho was only available for a small period. In my weekly predictions, I had this to say about Liverpool's replacements for the two:
"So far in his loan spell with Liverpool, Moses has shown himself to be very wasteful. His only noteworthy contribution came against Swansea when he scored on the break. Hull will not have much of the ball therefore the onus is on Liverpool to breakdown Hull via slick passing ball, or through set-pieces."
"Sterling is equally as wasteful as Moses and has been in terrible form, hence his spell in the reserves. Meanwhile, although Henderson is capable of creating a few chances, he is better travelling from deep than being in the thick of the action."
Henderson has been much applauded for his defensive efforts and general work-rate, covering the energy-less duo of Lucas and Gerrard; but against Hull, Liverpool needed to see his endeavors in an attacking sense and he failed to deliver. Yes Liverpool conceded three goals, but they were born from an inability to make the most of their 62% possession (screenshot two) - the nine shots easily representing their worst attacking showing of the season since their game against Aston Villa.
This derailment goes further than just fielding weak players, when Liverpool lose a key player it forces them to completely change formation to overcome the key skill they are missing. Liverpool have had Coutinho, Suarez and now Sturridge unavailable for different periods of the season. These injuries have forced Liverpool to play different systems and formations, namely 4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 3-4-1-2 and against Hull 4-3-3 which has seriously affected their rhythm this season. As Coutinho and Sturridge were unable to start against Hull, the squad bared a striking resemblance to the team that could not score to save their lives at the beginning of last season. Rodgers consequentially packed the middle in hope they would have majority possession, limiting the chances Hull had, hoping Liverpool could score from the limited chances they would have. This is something I touched on when predicting the Hull vs Liverpool game:
"When you compare how many shots they need to score a goal (Luis Suarez averaging 5.7 a game, Sturridge 3.4), it is clear Sturridge is the more accurate of the two. This is something Liverpool fans found out for themselves when their fortunes improved after Sturridge joined in January."
"What Suarez does have under his sleeve is the number of avenues he can grab a goal from. He is an excellent free-kick taker and can manufacture more chances for himself and his team mates - something you can spot by his key passes (2.9 per game), dribbling (3.1 per game) and the amount of average passes he has in comparison with Sturridge."
"The problem is due to Suarez's skill-set, he relies more on his team mates being on his wavelength than Sturridge does. Earlier on in the season, Sturridge bailed Liverpool out on several occasions; they did not play well, but due to him being more of an outright striker than Suarez, he was able to get the goals Liverpool needed."
"As Suarez is more of a false nine, he will need others to of service, but who does he have?"
*All statistics that have a screenshot are courtesy of WhoScored
*Click for: Can Chelsea win the league? Can Manchester City win the league? Can Manchester United win the league?
**Can Arsenal win the league? Coming soon