Out of six games so far this season, we’ve had one result that was simply unacceptable (West Ham), one that was very disappointing (Manchester United), and arguably four that we’d accept – including last night’s draw with Bordeaux. That may be a push for some people, but for an away European game where we rested key players, I think a draw is a decent point for us. However, out of these six games, there’s not been a single emphatic performance which has reassured us that the club is heading in the right direction, and for me that is the most worrying thing.
Tactically we have been a shambles, the selected personnel seems to have been random and erratic, mentally we have shown no fight whatsoever, ambition has gone out of the window, philosophies abandoned, excuses made. I could go on. The club is in disarray, and with four home games on the spin coming up, it’s going to take an enormous improvement for us to claim what should be a relatively straight-forward run of wins.
The reason that a game like Norwich at home is now looked at as a potential banana skin is that so far we’ve shown no sign at all as to how we want to approach games. Good teams know they can outplay us, and poorer teams have realised they can simply sit off us and watch while we shoot ourselves in the foot. We can’t play possession football as our players aren’t comfortable enough on the ball, therefore we panic under the slightest pressure and make a mistake to let the opponent in. So our best option of attack is to get the ball forward as quickly as possible, in which case our forward players find themselves isolated and outnumbered, and we’re relying on someone like Coutinho to provide a flash of magic. More often than not though, we quickly find the ball coming straight back at us, bypassing our midfield which has no real anchorage, and straight towards our defence who are remarkably poor at clearing their lines.
The handful of decent results we’ve had this season have come more through luck than anything else. And it’s because of this that I get the impression that Brendan Rodgers is just completely devoid of ideas, and simply going into each game crossing his fingers and hoping we catch the opposition on a bad day. This is his team and his players, and yet with each passing game he still seems to be working out exactly what he wants to do with them. That’s not good enough coming into his fourth season here. A lot has been said about how we have lost our identity, but it’s not hard to see why when a new signing has come straight into the team and immediately been made vice-captain. For all the mocking Rodgers has received for his use of the word ‘character’, his team is incredibly lacking in it. We can count on one hand the number of players we’ve got who are genuinely top drawer, and arguably you might even be left with two or three fingers spare. Depending on who you include, Rodgers has signed roughly 30 players for Liverpool, so to have so few star performers is a shocking return.
One such player, Mamadou Sakho, must be wondering what on earth he has to do if he isn’t in the starting 11 on Sunday. Rodgers baffled everyone by selecting Dejan Lovren over him for the first five games, forcing us to once again endure the sort of defensive displays that make you cover your face with your hands and peek at daringly through your fingers. So for Sakho to come in to the team yesterday and look as assured, calming, and dominant as we’ve come to expect, is only another dent against Rodgers’ name. How he thought he was going to justify dropping one of our best players of last season for probably our worst is anyone’s guess.
Jordan Rossiter had a decent enough game last night, but his energetic, all-action performance is akin to what we see from the likes of Jordan Henderson and James Milner. So as well as he did, it was his eventual partner in centre midfield, Pedro Chirivella, who impressed me more. I love a player who can pass between the lines, and the young Spaniard did that to great effect on one or two occasions, as well as generally looking cool and composed in possession. We don’t have another player like that on our books, as much as we’ve been screaming out for one, so on that basis I’d love to see Chirivella eased in a bit more and given some minutes against Norwich.
Adam Lallana scored a decent goal, but still has a long way to go to win me around. For me, he’s one of the players who epitomises what we’ve now become. A fair, decent player, glamoured up to be far greater than he is. I’ve heard people claim we should build our team around him, and that he could be a key player for us. Really, he should be a handy squad option at best. It’s this attitude towards players like him, Martin Skrtel, Simon Mignolet, Jordan Henderson (to an extent) and a handful of others, that mean we go out with a line-up of players whose flaws we’ve become so accustomed to that we barely notice any more, and we’ve just accepted that they’re now a part of us as a team.
Instead of being all about the best of the best, Liverpool now seems to be about settling for less and just praying that we find a diamond in the rough. Often spending the sort of money that creates the illusion of us buying upmarket, but in reality we’re just overpaying for mid-table calibre players. This goes for FSG’s management of us as well, even going back to their appointment of Rodgers. I doubt they even know who he was a year previous to their hiring of him, but they abruptly decided that he’d do, got him in, and hoped for the best. The rumours that they may be looking to sell LFC do not surprise me in the slightest. They’ve bit off more than they can chew, and if they were really in it for the long term they’d have been more decisive this summer, instead of simply hoping things blow over.
I get the feeling that four wins before the Merseyside derby may still not be enough to win the fans back around. What may earn Brendan Rodgers a few of his followers back though, is if we see a solid system and style implemented that provides as effective football as our players allow, and a demonstration that we have a more positive attitude and mentality that won’t crumble at the first hit. This is your team, Brendan. After three years in the making, let’s see what you’ve been building towards.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)