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Monday 11 December 2017

Ronnie Whelan: Time for Liverpool to put Spurs in their box

Chance for Liverpool to make a big statement

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers praised the composure of his young players
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers praised the composure of his young players
Harry Kane was the star of the show for Tottenham once again.

LIVERPOOL have a chance to make a big statement this week. In my day, we used to slap Tottenham Hotspur down every so often to remind them of the pecking order and this would be the perfect moment to recreate that tradition.

There’s an awful lot at stake in this game. Spurs are the form team of the moment, winning against all comers and with the man of the moment Harry Kane.

What a good time it would be for Liverpool to give them a good hiding at Anfield and in the process, let everyone know that they are serious contenders for a Champions League qualification finish.

After Saturday’s derby game, we need something to give us a lift. The best that can be said from Liverpool’s point of view is that the three-man defence is still working well.

It was a poor game and started me thinking about the Merseyside derby and how relevant it is in the current Premier League picture.

Steven Gerrard was born and reared in an era when Liverpool won everything and he played in last derby after trying through three different decades to win one League title without any success.

In the good days, often as not, if Liverpool had a dip, Everton were there to pick up the slack and the city became a magnet for the best players from all over these islands.

Now, we hear all sorts of accents and languages on the pitch in a Merseyside derby and just as its significance in the wider scheme of things has diminished, I’m not sure it means as much to the players as it once did.

I could be wrong about that but I didn’t sense the same intensity I would usually associate with this fixture and the score line reflected that accurately.

Last season, Liverpool’s drive towards the title added spice to the derby but this time there was no edge. Everybody tried hard and Brendan Rodgers team shaded it for me but neither side has enough fire-power and that’s been the case all season. I must give Rodgers credit for what he has done. I’ve been slow to that up to now because he or somebody at Anfield dug the hole he was in and created a mess.

But it’s best to move on from that and concede that he has done a very good job to rescue the situation.

The derby game underlined the fact that while Daniel Sturridge has changed the dynamic of Rodgers’ team by simply being fit, he needs a couple more like him to help shoulder the load.

It also gave me a different perspective on Emre Can who is beginning to look like a good investment. He has stepped into the defensive role Rodgers picked for him and done it very well but ultimately, I think he is the one who could take over from Gerrard.

From what I hear he has settled in very quickly and bought into the Liverpool tradition which might explain why he was one man who looked like the game meant a great deal to him.

Looking at all the players Rodgers brought in, there has been an improvement and some signs that a lot of money wasn’t wasted but he’ll have to spend the same again if he wants to keep up and if that is difficult for Liverpool, is impossible for Everton.

When you look at the financial muscle both clubs in Manchester possess and the head start they have in terms of the strength of both squads, it is hard to imagine that either of the Merseyside outfits will ever catch up.

Spurs have been trying for most of their history, spent enormous amounts of money along the way and as luck would have it, one of their own, Harry Kane, is giving their fans reason to dream again. History tells us that they will shoot themselves in the foot at some point.

Everton will come under huge pressure to sell Séamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, James McCarthy and John Stones  and will eventually succumb, hard as that is to accept for Toffees’ fans.

Southampton’s run at the Top Four is freakish and based on home produced talent but I wouldn’t bet against more selling at St Mary’s this summer.

success

Liverpool are not quite yet swimming in that sea but the gap will only grow and success is the only way that Rodgers can break the cycle of endless striving with little reward.

That’s why I see this midweek clash with Spurs as a pivotal one in Rodgers’ season.

There is an almighty scrap now for the fourth and third place slots and Liverpool need to beat the clubs around them to really engage with that battle.

After that, there’s the Europa League which could yet produce a route to the Champions League and the FA Cup, the anointed method for giving Gerrard an appropriate send-off.

Beat Spurs and send a message to all the clubs around them. Beat Spurs and carry some real momentum into the final few months of the season.

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