If Tom Hanks and his lovely mother in the epic movie ‘Forest Gump’ were to ever support an English football team, I’m sure it would be Liverpool. After all, like Liverpool, she did say ‘‘Life (or Liverpool) is like a box of chocolates, you just never know what you’re going to get next.’’
Firstly I’ll get the past 12 months out-of-the-way to gain context; they’ve been very been confusing. There were highs we hadn’t experienced in years, while we were faced with lows I’d have never imagined possible not so long ago. Despite 3 visits to Wembley, 2 finals and one trophy, the memories of 2012 will be marred for many Liverpool supporters. Between a second half of the season which equated to relegation form and the racism scandal, it has been a year to forget in many respects.
When FSG hired Rodgers I was apprehensively confident. My irrational anger following Dalglish’s sacking had faded and I researched Brendan’s 20 year coaching career. Despite the lack of experience I thought the hiring wasn’t without merits, his coaching style is obviously appealing, as is his age and personable character, especially with the media which had been lacking under previous managers. Although the ‘yes man’ aspect certainly left me with some worries, I thought we could do a lot worse if a ‘year zero’ approach was being taken.
So now we’re 32 competitive games into the season, on the beginning of a new year, and I’m try to assess where we’re at, but with great difficulty. On the face it 3 words suffice; could do better. Liverpool, as you all know, should never accept a 9th place finish, where we currently lie alongside Swansea. But alas, there’s more to it than that. We need to take into account the context of the previous management regime.
Last season we came 8th, finishing with a lowly 52 points. Dalglish’s final 19 League games racked up just 18 points – with a startling 11 defeats. It would only be fair to mention Dalglish’s first 19 were considerably better, amassing 34 points from 19 games. Most likely the dip in form at least somewhat resulted from the Suarez ban and the general media storm which ensued. When making comparisons with this first half of this season we first need to again consider context.
Firstly, the club is in a relatively healthier state, with no major media storms surrounding the club (barring the occurrences –or lack of- on August 31st). Nevertheless last season we had richer resources at our disposal. Then we had experience in attack, with Carroll, Bellamy, Kuyt, Maxi and Suarez (oh, and Downing..). Clearly there was a wealth of experience there with players who have for the most part spent their careers getting a decent amount of goals.
This seasons it’s the polar opposite, Suarez aside, Sterling and Suso have one senior goal between them, while the relatively young Fabio Borini has 17 career senior goals (6 coming from the Championship) with only one Liverpool goal AND has been sidelined with a broken foot for over 2 months. Other than that we’ve relied on Downing who although has improved under Rodgers, has 1 league goal for Liverpool in 1 and a half seasons.
With the lack of resources available to Rodgers, 28 points from 20 games doesn’t sound as hopeless as it first may seem. While Liverpool haven’t won 3 premier league games on the bounce yet, encouraging signs lie elsewhere, where we can see Liverpool lie 5th in the form table. Although our recent opponents have been of lesser quality (Fulham, QPR etc) , it is certainly a step in the right direction. One of our major problems this season, as ever, is getting a consistent string of results together. Without the necessary firepower at our disposal, we’ve found it extremely difficult to win games if Suarez isn’t on form. Not only that, but our midfield still leaves a lot to be desired, allowing way more pressure than necessary on Reina who I’m still unsure of.
Where my confidence lies is partly arbitrary, and partly down to basics. Daniel Sturridge is nailed on to arrive, and despite what many believe, there’s a much better chance he will add in with goals than any of our wide men available. Then Ince will surely arrive to relive some of the pressure on Sterling who has lucked lackluster for well over a month.
Regardless of whoever else of note arrives, surely with time, a group of mostly good players who seemingly believe in the manager, will only get better. While Swansea done well to gain promotion in 2011, when they arrived into the Premier League they looked a completely different outfit. All aspects of their play had improved (despite scoring, but Danny Graham was never going to be that prolific). Swansea were able to and play teams like Arsenal or indeed Liverpool and give them a lesson on the merits of possession football in ways surely they wouldn’t have been able to a year previous.
Given time I believe we can only improve if the nucleolus of the squad stay together (especially Suarez). It isn’t all rosy, our transfer policy leaves a lot to be desired and the midfield doesn’t function as well as I had expected it to by now. Come May I think we’ll be able to gain some proper analysis on how Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool has performed in his first season. Whether we can make a realistic challenge for 4th remains somewhat unlikely, though surely one can dream.