Despite our unbeaten streak being ended in December, Liverpool still enjoyed a strong month heading into the January transfer window. We picked up wins over both Manchester clubs but suffered disappointing losses to both West Ham and Sunderland.
January could be an important month in the title race as we face league leaders, Arsenal, at the Emirates. We face reigning champions Leicester away from home and also have our first FA Cup tie away to Brighton. With the transfer restrictions now lifted, I will look to add some depth to our squad despite being given a small transfer budget.
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We are keeping the faith in the tactic that has propelled us to second in the table. Daniel Sturridge’s brace against Manchester City has now cemented his place as my first-choice striker ahead of Roberto Firmino. Having Sadio Mane and Adam Lallana back from injuries is a huge bonus. Also, going forward, I will be removing the screenshot of the line-ups and writing them as text instead.
2nd January – Arsenal (A)
Our first game of 2017 and it’s a big one. We travel to the Emirates chasing the home side in the league table. Arsene Wenger’s men have a six point lead on us at the moment which will be cut to three if we can secure the victory. The Gunners have blown everyone out of the water this season and will be a tough test for the boys. Loris Karius replaces Simon Mignolet; Jordan Henderson takes Georginio Wijnaldum’s place, and Lallana is fit enough to start.
Karius; Clyne, Matip, Gomez, Moreno; Emre Can, Lallana, Henderson; Mane, Coutinho, Sturridge
Result: Arsenal 0-2 Liverpool
A huge win and our result of the season so far. We dominated the early stages and deserved our opener; Mane scoring a terrific solo goal, running from his own half to score from distance. Arsenal posed little threat without Alexis Sanchez, and Lallana sealed the points with a sensational curling effort from the edge of the box. Everyone stepped up and performed when it really mattered. Now our attention switches to the FA Cup.
7th January – Brighton (A)
Our first FA Cup fixture is a tricky away tie against Brighton. The Seagulls are currently in the play-off places in the Championship and will be fired up to get a win against elite opposition. I have decided to ring the changes and give some fringe players a chance. It will also be an opportunity to field some youngsters and see what they can do.
Karius; Alexander-Arnold, Klavan, Sakho, Milner; Stewart, Grujic, Brannagan; Woodburn, Firmino, Ings
Result: Brighton 4-0 Liverpool
Oh dear. It’s fair to say that was not the plan. We were outclassed from start to finish and Brighton thoroughly deserve to progress to the next round. Our defence completely fell apart, Ragnar Klavan and Trent Alexander-Arnold were awful. James Milner struggled at left-back, and I won’t be playing him there again. I know that I fielded a weakened side, but I expected much more with the quality of Firmino and Danny Ings. There is nothing much more to say about this one; we just have to move on and focus on the league; which is the only piece of silverware we can win this season. Disappointing.
8th January – Transfer Update
Our first signing! Spanish midfielder, Marco Asensio, was unhappy with his playing time at Real Madrid and expressed his desire to leave the club. Considered a young player with high potential, I decided to spend the majority of my transfer budget to bring him to Anfield. He is capable of playing attacking or centre midfield and fits the role of advanced playmaker perfectly. Leaving the club will be Sheyi Ojo and Pedro Chirivella who will join Ipswich and Birmingham on loan.
14th January – Southampton (H)
We needed a response after our humbling in the cup and what better team to do it against than Southampton. The Saints destroyed us in August during our rough start, but we are a different side now. We owe them one after our last meeting, and I expect a result after our early cup exit. All the first team players have been recalled, and Asensio makes his debut. Firmino replaces Mane.
Karius; Clyne, Matip, Gomez, Moreno; Emre Can, Asensio, Henderson; Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge
Result: Liverpool 7-3 Southampton
What a match! This game had it all! I thought we had got off to the perfect start when Sturridge won a penalty in the sixth minute only for the debutant Asensio to fluff his lines. 20 minutes later, we find ourselves two goals down from their first two shots. Sturridge then bagged a pen and scored another just a moment later. Dusan Tadic had restored their lead before a Coutinho free-kick made the score at 3-3 during the interval. Our second half performance was phenomenal, Sturridge completed his hat-trick and grabbed his fourth as well as both Joe Gomez and Joel Matip getting on the scoresheet. A fantastic result but Asensio managed just a 5.5 rating and was substituted at half-time. Not ideal.
18th January – Leicester (A)
After a roller coaster of a game against Southampton, we travel to the King Power Stadium to face reigning champions Leicester, who are currently loitering above the relegation zone. It has been quite the fall from grace for the Foxes, who recently dismissed Claudio Ranieri and are without a manager for this fixture. Alberto Moreno and Joel Matip are suspended and are replaced by Klavan and Dejan Lovren. Asensio is on the bench following a dreadful debut.
Karius; Clyne, Lovren, Gomez, Klavan; Emre Can, Lallana, Henderson; Firmino, Coutinho, Sturridge
Result: Leicester 2-3 Liverpool
Another whirlwind of a game but three points is all the matters. Jamie Vardy had opened the scoring before Sturridge equalised shortly after. A mistake by Klavan gave Vardy his second of the game from the penalty spot. After some stern words in the dressing room, things went from bad to worse as Sturridge left the pitch due to injury. Luckily for Liverpool, they have an expert manager, who brought on Divock Origi and Wijnaldum, who both scored the goals that secured us the win.
21st January – Stoke (A)
Our last fixture in January is a trip to Stoke. The Potters currently occupy ninth in the league and are enjoying some good form. Joe Allen faces his former club while Sturridge misses this one due to the injury he suffered against Leicester. I have faith in Origi to do a job in his absence. A result here could be crucial in the title race.
Karius; Clyne, Lovren, Gomez, Klavan; Emre Can, Lallana, Henderson; Firmino, Coutinho, Origi
Result: Stoke 0-2 Liverpool
Who needs Sturridge? Our Belgian wonderkid put Mark Hughes’ side to the sword with a magnificent performance. It took just 12 minutes for Origi to open the scoring, using his pace to burst past the defence before slotting past Jack Butland. Some good work from Firmino gave him an easy tap-in for his brace in the second half. A brilliant away performance.
31st January – Transfer Window Closes
The transfer window has shut, and the addition of Asensio remains our only piece of business. I was hoping the board would provide some extra funds, but it wasn’t to be. Lovren spoke to me about moving to China, who could offer him substantial wages, and I decided to let him go when Quanjian came calling with a £18m offer. Kevin Stewart and Marko Grujic left on loan. I decided to save the money from Lovren’s transfer as there were no appealing options on deadline day.
Despite an early exit from the FA Cup, January was a strong month for us. Beating Arsenal was crucial to our title hopes, but we will be relying on other sides to do a similar job when they face the Gunners. We avenged our defeat to Southampton and picked up solid away victories at Leicester and Stoke. I would have liked to add more players to our squad, but I am happy with the signing of Asensio, but he needs to kick on following a poor debut. We have plenty of depth in defence, so Lovren will not be missed.
– West Brom (H)
– Tottenham (A)
– Swansea (H)
– Middlesbrough (A)
Will we be able to catch Arsenal and gain ground in the Premier League title race? Stay tuned for the next episode to find out…
Follow me on Twitter – @MarcusBanks7 – Visit my blog The Beautiful Game