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11 games in, so far so good. Sitting second in the table is quite a feat for Brendan Rodgers’ invigorated Liverpool side, however, what’s more impressive is when you look at how well Liverpool have performed if you compare results with the corresponding fixtures of last season. It certainly highlights the improvement Rodgers’ side has made so far, going into the third international break of the season.
The only exception is the comparison of the home victory against Crystal Palace this season, and FF is going to compare it to the home victory over Queens Park Rangers last season, just because Palace was the third best/play-off winning side in the Championship last year, while QPR were the bottom team last BPL campaign. The Reds are 4 points better off compared to the corresponding fixtures of last season, managing 23 points compared to the 19 gained last year.
The three consecutive 1-0 victories at the start of the season already gave Rodgers’ current side a 5 point head-start. The home game against Stoke last year was one of those poor performances from Rodgers’ side, being bullied by then-Stoke boss Tony Pulis’ usual aggressive and direct strategy that unsettled Liverpool, which contributed to the Reds profligacy in front of goal that afternoon. This year though, Daniel Sturridge proved the match-winner with his fine left-footed strike from the edge of the penalty box, and a second-half defensive display coupled with Simon Mignolet’s late penalty save on his Anfield debut saw the Reds scrap through with two more points. This mirrored the home game against Manchester United, in which Liverpool lost last year to a late, controversial Robin van Persie penalty, as the Reds grabbed the early lead through Sturridge before grabbing another extra two points with a disciplined defensive display in the second-half. Sandwiched in between those two wins was another winner by Sturridge – this time a brilliant solo-effort – at Villa Park, where Liverpool also won by a one-goal margin last season.
Following the first international break was Liverpool’s away tie at Rodgers’ old club Swansea City. The Reds drew this game last season, and this year was no different with old boy Jonjo Shelvey having a hand in all four goals in a crazy 2-2 draw. Again, Liverpool defended for the majority of the second-half before seeing out a hard-fought draw. The Reds suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of high-flying Southampton at Anfield, which was in stark contrast to their domineering 1-0 victory last season. Dejan Lovren exposed Liverpool’s weakness from set-pieces, which was subsequently the main cause for the Reds’ concession of goals in their next few games. The Reds simply lacked any sort of creativity and drive in this game, none more emphasised with the deployment of four centre-backs.
The Reds finally regained some of their early season form with a gritty 3-1 victory at Sunderland, bettering last season’s 1-1 draw. It marked the return of Luis Suarez from suspension, and he made an immediate impact, scoring two goals and causing havoc alongside fellow goalscorer and joint top-scorer Sturridge, while at the same time both started to show some phenomenal understanding as a strike partnership. It marked the first time Rodgers switched to a 3-5-2 formation, and also marked the first time Liverpool scored in the second-half of a Premier League game. Another 3-1 victory followed, this time at Anfield against play-off winners Crystal Palace, seeing the Reds, as mentioned above, equal their victory over bottom-side QPR last year. Again, Sturridge and Suarez found the net, while Steven Gerrard netted a penalty, all in the first-half again, before Dwight Gayle further exposed Liverpool’s frailties at set-pieces when he nodded on a free-kick into the far corner of Mignolet’s net.
The end of the second international break saw…
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