Sports

GLORY OR SORRY, REDS? Here's what Pool need to rectify

Liverpool's haphazard 4-3 victory over Swansea highlighted the best and worst of their schizophrenia.

Brendan Rodgers remains adamant that his formations retain the cool-headed calculations of Dr Jekyll.

But the end product echoes the mischievousness of Mr Hyde.

Two sides of the same coin, the Reds' erratic performances hint at both triumph and terror. Which will it be when May comes around?

Here's the case for Liverpool's title challenge:

1 Anfield empire strikes back

From Keegan and Toshack to Rush and Dalglish, Liverpool's dynasties were built on devastating goal machines; petrifying pistons who rotated endlessly to produce goals.

The current attacking quartet tops the lot.

Slightly off form at the moment, Luis Suarez still makes a case for being the most complete striker to ever glide so effortlessly across the Anfield turf.

At times, he has guided them home alone, but Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho are no longer sidemen.

This is not Gerry and the Pacemakers, with one lone Liverpudlian warbling about never walking alone.

This is the Beatles. As they proved against Swansea, this classical quartet should be singing a song from Liverpool's other Fab Four... We can work it out.

If further proof were needed, Sterling's flicked banana pass from the halfway line to Sturridge caused a double take; first, to admire the beauty; second, to check the architect's identity.

Hollywood passes are not the sole property of Steven Gerrard anymore.

2 Sturridge no 
longer stutters

Eighteen Premier League goals in as many starts.

The first English player, and only the second player after Ruud van Nistelrooy, to score in eight consecutive EPL games.

These are impressive stats that serve, but do not complete, the narrative.

At Manchester City and Chelsea, Sturridge was a warm-up act.

At Anfield, he shares top billing with Suarez.

Rodgers has offered the Englishman the freedom of Liverpool and he has gobbled up the vacant space like a grubby landlord.

For the first time, there are no limits imposed on his creativity. He roams freely.

But the freedom comes with greater responsibility.

He rotates more. He passes more. He shoots on sight.

He finds teammates instinctively.

He's a walking contradiction of the perfect kind; a probing, relentless, greedy goal-scorer who always works in service of the team.

His transformation is Rodgers' greatest success.

3 The rise of 
Jordan Henderson

From the butt of bar-room jokes to Liverpool's lynchpin, Henderson's quiet metamorphosis is again testament to Rodgers' abilities.

If the front four are dancing fountains, then Henderson is the man with his hand on the tap. His attacking momentum drives the Reds right now and his double against Swansea offered a timely get-out-of-jail card.

Rodgers has shaped his formation around the front four and Henderson and it is paying dividends.

1The retreat of 
Steven Gerrard

Like Liverpool generally, the skipper's ongoing evolution is both an overwhelming positive and a worrying negative.

Sitting Gerrard in front of the back four is another managerial masterstroke - when it works.

Gerrard babysits the defence, breaks up opposing attacks, knits his side's patchwork passing together and has more time to find the rampaging Coutinho and Sturridge.

The captain's new position strengthens his side's defensive shield and should prolong his career.

Right now, however, he's a fireman tasked with putting out two blazes at once.

Against Swansea, Henderson neglected his defensive duties, leaving gaping spaces that sides with superior firepower will exploit.

And then, of course, Gerrard, has to reinforce that indefensible defence.

2 Rodgers' way wrong, Chelsea way right

The Liverpool manager has good reason to be smug when it comes to his attacking philosophy.

The Reds' 70-goal tally surpasses even that of Manchester City and he insists that the club's free-scoring culture will not be inhibited by a defensive mindset.

He doesn't share Jose Mourinho's style.

That's admirable, but he doesn't have Nemanja Matic or Ramires in midfield either.

His adventurous line-up leaves Liverpool awfully exposed, amplifying their defensive shortcomings and limited personnel.

At various times, he's shifted from three at the back to four and even five, but he's rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic.

Chelsea's methodical approach can peel paint, but their defence boasts legitimate title credentials.

3 Skrtel and Co are 
ticking timebombs

Martin Skrtel's past misdemeanours caught up with him against Swansea. He has been guilty of more cynical shirt-tugs than the one penalised against Wilfried Bony, but the referee had seen enough.

The free-kick he needlessly gave away led to Swansea's opener, he deflected in the second and gifted Swansea a third.

And he's been one of Liverpool's more consistent defenders.

He wasn't helped by a tentative Daniel Agger tiptoeing his way around Bony until he was eventually substituted by Kolo Toure (left).

Gerrard is forced to drop deeper to help. The skipper remains Liverpool's Roy of the Rovers; a comic book hero made in Anfield. But even Roy of the Rovers couldn't win the title at centre back.