Sky Sports pundit says Liverpool don’t deserve top four

Sky Sports pundit, Paul Merson has come out with another interesting take, this time he’s taken aim at Liverpool.

The well-known pundit wrote in his column for the Daily Star that Leicester City and Chelsea deserve a top-four place ahead of Liverpool. The Reds have, of course, under-performed this season. However, there are a number of holes in the former Arsenal and Aston Villa players’ argument.

Injuries

Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool is tackled by Jordan Pickford of Everton which led to Virgil van Dijk being substituted for an injury during the Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on October 17, 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

This one is fairly obvious, but the number of injuries Liverpool have struggled with is incredible. Outside their centre-backs, Jordan Henderson, Diogo Jota, and Alisson are just some of the key players the Reds have been without.

Take players of that calibre out of any team and watch how they struggle. Then, of course, there’s losing Virgil van Dijk. For Merson to not even address this as a factor is strange.

Outside of the circumstances surrounding his injury, the blow to Liverpool’s playing style has been enormous. The big Dutchman’s pace and aerial ability are vital in covering for the Reds’ rampaging full-backs. That along with his incredible passing range make him utterly invaluable to Klopp’s side. Without him, they are a different team.

Leicester have of course had injuries, with Harvey Barnes and Ricardo Pereira among those who’ve had issues. Chelsea too have had absentees, however, neither team has had close to the level of disruption the Reds have, in terms of impact on one position. If getting into the top four with the injuries Liverpool have suffered isn’t deserved, I’m not sure what is.

The table doesn’t lie

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 12: Mohamed Salah of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his team’s fourth goal during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Leeds United at Anfield on September 12, 2020 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

The reality is, Merson can talk about who deserved what, but the table doesn’t lie. Thirty-eight games is more often than not, more than enough to give a true indicator of the best teams in the league. Of course, there are mitigating circumstances, but all three teams have had major runs of poor form.

Leicester for example, have only won two of their last eight Premier League matches. At this stage of the season, that’s not even close to good enough to finish in the top four. Chelsea too had a poor start to the season under Frank Lampard, and have also had damaging losses to Arsenal and West Brom. They have been nowhere near perfect either.

Liverpool of course had a horrible time in the middle part of the season. However, a strong finish and a solid start to the season, have put Liverpool in an excellent position to make the top four. Of course, they still have to beat Crystal Palace to make it official.

There will be twists and turns

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 18: Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace scores a penalty for his team’s first goal during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Brighton & Hove Albion at Selhurst Park on October 18, 2020 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

This is where the Sky pundit is absolutely right. All three games have the potential for upsets, with Merson saying he doesn’t expect all three teams to win. Chelsea going to Villa Park which will have fans and a fresh Jack Grealish will be nervous. The Villains have already caused problems for Chelsea this season, securing a 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool on the other hand will face a Crystal Palace side with a point to prove. They will no doubt be out for revenge after losing 7-0 to the Reds earlier this season. There’s also the question of Roy Hodgson. The Englishman has announced his departure from Premier League football, and may well not return to management. His team will certainly be hoping to give him a good send-off.

Finally, Leicester are set to play Tottenham Hotspur. This in theory should be fairly straightforward. Spurs have been inconsistent all season, with their most recent match against Aston Villa a shocking performance. However, they still have the likes of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min in their ranks.

Underestimate them at your peril.

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