Nothing to be Downhearted About

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Some Liverpool supporters care nothing about how we are perceived beyond our own fan base, and I envy that. Whether it’s in a paper, online, or pundits talking on TV, if it’s Liverpool related I can’t help but pay attention. Which is why, despite my usual grief when Liverpool lose, I was at least happy that we snatched a consolation goal yesterday against Man City. 3-0 would have been a lot more of an emphatic score line than 3-1, and I don’t think I could have dealt with a week of listening to clueless onlookers write us off after one bad result.

The gulf between the teams wasn’t all that big for the most part, but the better team did win, and when we went down to 10 men because of Johnson’s injury, I did worry that we may be in for 4 or 5-1 defeat that would cause an explosion of overreaction among other supporters. But we were dealing with injuries, new signings still settling in, early season wariness, and an away match against the reigning champions.

For most of the first half, we actually played relatively well. Neither side was creating much in front of goal, but as the away team we were keeping the ball well and could afford to be patient.

Unfortunately, a mistake from debutant Alberto Moreno allowed Stevan Jovetic to score, and after that the game changed. It was a shame for the Spaniard, who aside from that mistake actually enjoyed a very good debut and was a breath of fresh air for us on that left hand side. Hopefully the injury he picked up towards the end of the game isn’t serious, and he can go straight back in the team with no dwelling on his error.

Lazar Markovic also showed glimpses of what he is capable of when he came on. His quick, direct running put Man City on the back foot a couple of times. He’s exactly the sort of dynamic player you want on the bench to throw on against tired legs, whereas last year we were looking to the likes of Victor Moses or Iago Aspas.

It was Philippe Coutinho who made way for the Serbian, after another quiet game by his standards. His majestic performance against Dortmund had a lot of people looking to him to step up another level this season, but he’s had a couple of lacklustre appearances so far. However, with Markovic only just back, and Adam Lallana and Mario Balotelli still to come into the team, our options in attack have been limited and Coutinho has found himself playing out wide. When Brendan Rodgers gets his full squad available for selection, we could see the Brazilian move back into the middle and hopefully kick on from there.

You’re never going to get a great abundance of chances when you go away to Man City, but both Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge only had odd moments of showing what they are capable of, so we really struggled in attack to produce anything akin to a clear cut chance.

The midfield of Joe Allen and Jordan Henderson were more preoccupied with covering Steven Gerrard behind them to support any attacks, but in the system we play they were only doing what was necessary. On the whole I don’t think we were too bad in midfield, and Joe Allen at least reminded us that he’s still very much part of this squad, and very much capable of a good performance.

Whether we have business still to be done in the transfer market remains to be seen, but there are certainly two or three areas where we could realistically strengthen. Glen Johnson and Lucas Leiva (against Southampton) look a long way off their best, but I can’t see us buying new players in their position unless we can move them on first. Keeping them both wouldn’t be the end of the world, but we’d need to see drastic improvement in them, or hope that injuries elsewhere mean we aren’t relying too heavily on them.

Overall, I don’t see any reason to be too disheartened. We were exposed in areas we knew were weak, or vulnerable for whatever reason. But we were exposed by world class players, who were playing on their own soil, and were readily gelled as a group. As the last couple of seasons have shown, we’re a team who take a while to settle into a season, and in that sense maybe this game came a bit too early for us. We can’t use that as an excuse though; the Etihad is a tough place to go whenever you make the visit, and last season a much better performance still resulted in us being beaten.

We’ll get better as we go on, no doubt. Yesterday wasn’t our day at all, and in truth Man City could have made it even worse on us. At 3-1, we can just take it as a bad day at the office, and laugh off anyone implying it was a thrashing that will have shattered our confidence. On paper it was the toughest fixture we’ll play all season long. We’ll be in better shape come Sunday when we play Tottenham, and keep improving week on week after that.

By James Nelson (@_James_Nelson_)