Brendan Rodgers eyes consistency in Liverpool's quest for improvement
The Anfield club face fellow pace-setters Arsenal this weekend
The word is that this season's Premier League could be the most open for some time. Liverpool's manager, Brendan Rodgers, confirmed that his team believe they can be part of the conversation. If the first few games of any campaign are regarded as little more than idle chit-chat, the falling leaves, changing clocks and advent of November all signify that serious discussion can begin.
After this weekend's fixtures, teams will have played 10 games, and the most important of them brings together two of the top three in Arsenal and Liverpool, both of whom have benefited from a comparatively gentle introduction to the season.
Beating Manchester United 1-0 early on offered an indication of Liverpool's potential, which they have confirmed against lesser opposition, culminating in the most mature performance to date last Saturday, when Luis Suarez scored a hat-trick in the 4-1 evisceration of West Bromwich Albion.
"Saturday won't be the be-all and end-all in terms of whether we can make the top four or not," Rodgers said, "but I think what we have shown so far is that we are going to be in the conversation. It is a good benchmark for us. We have shown that we have quality in the team, that we've got a winning mentality, which is important, and that we can consistently bring that to the table."
The words "consistency" and "improvement" already feature strongly in the Liverpool manager's media briefings and will continue to do so, his belief being that one will inevitably lead to the other.
His team could hardly have been more consistent than winning their first three games 1-0 with Daniel Sturridge scoring every goal. They have drawn 2-2 in potentially tricky visits to Newcastle and Rodgers' former club Swansea, and seen off the bottom markers Sunderland and Crystal Palace by 3-1.
The one glitch was to lose at Anfield to improving Southampton, but fears that last season's spate of disappointing home results might recur were eased by the West Bromwich result.
"We're putting a marker down that we're going to be consistent," Rodgers added. "I think we can only get better and improve. We have a lot of young players who are developing and improving and that goes for the front two. Daniel is only 24. And Luis Suarez, everyone talks about his goals and his work rate but I've seen an improvement in his footballing ability and maturity this year. I believe we are in a good moment but we won't get carried away."
There would be a strong temptation to do so on Merseyside – 23 years without a title – and elsewhere if Liverpool, who have Philippe Coutinho available again, win at Arsenal and depose them as League leaders. "They are a very good team and the top team at the moment because they are there on points," Rodgers said. "Arsenal Football Club is very much Arsène Wenger, on and off the field. He's one I respect, who changed the landscape with his ideas and methods of work. He's been trying to win trophies and I'm sure he'll see this as a chance to do so."
Another chance went out of the Emirates window, however, with a home defeat in the Capital One Cup, and Rodgers appeared to side with those who believe that Chelsea and Manchester City have greater strength in depth: "Chelsea don't have an A and B team. They just have a big team from which they pick 11 players. If you look at that team [at Arsenal] the other night, that starting line-up would have a chance of winning the league as well. We have a long way to go to get to that position. Manchester City have a squad full of players as well. It's very competitive this year and we're fighting to be in the race."
Third place and a best start for five years suggests the 18-time champions should have a more authoritative say in the outcome than for some time.
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