It seems odd now to be watching a team that you know can score at any point in a game, from any situation. If we’re dominating a match, time and time again we’ve seen Luis Suarez conjure up a piece of magic to unlock a stubborn defence. If we’re on the back foot, we know that in the blink of an eye we can have Steven Gerrard pinging a pinpoint ball forward for Raheem Sterling or Daniel Sturridge to race onto. Left, right, centre. Long range, tap ins. Headers, Volleys. You name it; we are a team capable of scoring every sort of goal imaginable.
But I’m finding it hard to adjust to. The natural pessimist inside me told me that at 2-1 down to Fulham at Craven Cottage recently, we were down and out, and had blown a great opportunity. The points were lost, and it would go down as a bad day. The players didn’t share this view though. There were still minutes left on the clock, and we would have looked at Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and thought ‘No, we’ve got goals in us. This isn’t over.’ Rather than either of the SAS duo though, it was Philippe Coutinho and the captain who stepped up to the plate and provided the goals.
I still hadn’t learned though. The weekends match against Swansea was once again full of goals, but having being 2-0 up only to be pegged back to 2-2, I was still thinking it would be ‘typical Liverpool’ if we went and lost the game after that. When of course, it would have been anything but typical Liverpool this season. What we did see, was in fact a better example of that. Even after letting another lead slip and finding ourselves at 3-3, we kept on attacking. Our heads never dropped. And when all eyes were probably on Suarez or Sturridge to get the winner, it was Jordan Henderson who popped up with the vital goal.
It’s always great to have numerous players who can chip in with goals. It would be too easy for the players behind the strikers to shirk the responsibility and know that they would take no blame for the team not scoring. For Henderson personally it was fantastic to see him take the burden off the forwards, as someone who last season was criticised for going missing in games too often. His determination on Sunday came from the mentality in the team now that we always have one more goal in us.
Having the two top scorers in the league is certainly helping our cause, but our shaky defence means that we are constantly of the mindset that one goal won’t be enough. It’s not quite to the extent of ‘we’ll score one more than you,’ but being able to bang in goal after goal in any given fixture, is certainly helping us as we look for solutions to shore up the defence.
It also means that conceding a goal doesn’t fill the team and fans with the gloom and doom that it often has done over the last few years. My pessimism in the Fulham and Swansea games stemmed from the countless games over recent seasons where a perfectly good performance has gone out of the window as soon as we let one goal in, and the players visibly didn’t have the belief that we had what it took to get back in the game.
Now we have a team brimming with confidence going forwards, and even when time is running out, we know we are clinical enough to only need one opportunity. This luxury was absent in other years, where we would see chance after chance get wasted and being a single goal behind could seem like a huge mountain to climb.
The abundance of goals is no excuse for poor defending, and I’m sure Brendan Rodgers and the coaching staff are working hard to amend our frailties at the back. Individual and team errors have cost us goals, but with an unsettled defence due to injuries and Steven Gerrard adapting to his new defensive role, perhaps this was partly to be expected. It’s certainly not the case that we are so out-and-out attacking that we are ignoring our defensive duties, as one of the most notable features of our game this season is how hard our attacking players work to close down and track back. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho in particular have developed a very impressive work rate and tactical understanding off the ball.
If the progress we have made so far in Brendan Rodgers’ time at Liverpool is anything to go by, we can expect our defence to become sturdier sooner rather than later. In the meantime though, our attack is instilling the entire team with masses of confidence, and that is a major benefit for us going into the final 11 games of the season.
By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)