Following Liverpool’s lesson in winning ugly from Aston Villa on Saturday, what can we take from it without completely overreacting to what was, after all, a bitter pill to swallow. In light of the wave of optimism Liverpool fans are riding, somewhat perilously right now, what have we learned?
Most of this week’s five lessons are a tad on the harsh side, but then as wisdom has it, the best ones in life usually are.
1. Brendan Rodgers had the wrong focus – Yes, the team is now in the Champions League and, yes, we all want to do well in the competition. However, having cleared that up, what is the club’s priority? A certain somebody who managed LFC said once: “Never mind Europe. It’s been a great thing for Liverpool, a great thing for the country, but this is our bread and butter, this is the one we want”. I couldn’t agree more.
2. The team will struggle without Daniel Sturridge and Sterling – I know it’s early doors in the season but this is already clear. Liverpool, following their exploits of last season, will be one of the teams to beat this year. Aston Villa are the first of many, many teams that will come to Anfield, try to knick a goal and then sit the game out almost literally, in their own half. The Reds seemed to have very few ideas and those they did have seemed very predictable. They missed the guile and invention of both those guys.
3. The squad is already at it’s limit – We saw that even despite the summer transfers in, the squad is currently close to it’s limits. For all the moaning about the flat performance, Rodgers did start the game without three of his best players. Notwithstanding Sterling being left out strategically, they also missed Joe Allan’s energy in addition to the attacking threat of Sturridge. I’d even go so far as to add Emre Can too.
4. The defence is much better than last season – Despite giving a soft goal away, the main contributor to the end result was the side’s lack of invention in the final third. The defence I thought actually played quite well. Mamadou Sakho can be a tad ropey under pressure, but he needs a good run of games in the side to cement an understanding with his defensive colleagues. For this reason, I don’t think Martin Skrtel was particularly missed on Saturday. The only downside was the goal and the way in which it was conceded.
5. It’s not the end of the world… IF – Rodgers can get his priorities right. What I’ve admired about him is that he learns quickly when he’s made a mistake, and I think he will have to reevaluate things going forward. It is, indeed early days and there’s one hell of a lot of football to be played this season for us to get too downhearted. I appreciate the need to protect Raheem Sterling but I genuinely believe the lad could have made the weekend’s game and sat out Tuesday’s match instead.
All things considered, I’m still optimistic for Liverpool. A top four place is a MUST for Liverpool and Rodgers needs to place this above European concerns. It’s no use putting the team in the position of having to win it to stay in it next season like they did in 2005. Needless to say, he needs Allen, Can and Sturridge back as soon as possible and if this can be achieved over the next month, with Lallana and Balotelli finding their feet in the team, then there’s no reason why a good run of results can’t be achieved.
Follow Ben on Twitter: @Mrbengreen