Following this weekend’s somewhat crushing 3-0 defeat to West Brom, there was an all too familiar adage ringing out across the “Twittersphere”: “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Liverpool fans have been warned that the new system Rodgers is trying to build will take time, but this didn’t prevent a feeling of cautious optimism lingering amongst the faithful. This optimism was somewhat galvanised by the 3-0 destruction of FC Gomel, and 3-1 win over Bayern Leverkusen, which seemed to set the scene perfectly for a bright start to the teams Premier league campaign.
But alas it wasn’t to be, harsh reality struck as a combination of wasteful passing, recognisably poor finishing, and some rather clumsy defending left the door open to West Brom to punish the reds. Whilst the standard of the refereeing was debatable in places, the fact of the matter is that our possession in the first half should have been capitalised upon. Failure to do so piled pressure on the players, who subsequently buckled.
We must however, be careful. The opening day of the premier league is never much of a barometer as to how teams will perform over the remainder of the season. On the opening day of last season Bolton handed QPR a 4-0 drubbing, and yet, come the end of the season found themselves in the relegation zone. There is no denying the defeat was a painful one, but the season is young, and can throw up many surprises.
As previously mentioned finishing was highlighted by many, including Rodgers himself as an area in which we must improve. Luis Suarez has been mistakenly advertised to many as a striker, who we can expect 20 goals a season from. The fact is, he works best when creating mayhem for defences, collecting the ball out of the box and moving through the opposition to create chances. He is not the answer to our goal scoring dilemma. One man who may be is Fabio Borini. The 21-year old epitomises the Italian poacher, he has been compared by some to the likes of Totti and Inzaghi, a man who is lethal from 6 yards. The issue with Borini is that he requires time. He is not the finished article and thus cannot currently be relied upon to score those 20 goals a season. There have been murmurings that Rodgers is looking at more attacking options; interest in Dempsey seems to have momentarily cooled, however Walcott has also been sighted as a potential target. Rodger’s 3rd signing of the summer is undoubtedly the biggest unkown quantity. Morrocan wing man Oussama Assaidi could steal a place in the front 3 from Stuart Downing who still seems to be struggling with his confidence and end product. Assaidi’s low wages and price tag mean that he is very much a low risk signing, and provides some much needed attacking depth. Andy Carroll is the subject of much debate amongst fans, whilst he remains at the club, he has my full support, but I can’t help but feel he still doesn’t provide a short term solution to our poor finishing. In my humble opinion we still need a proven goal scorer to sign, and if that means moving Carroll onto another club, then that might be the best solution for all concerned, as it seems Andy’s game time may be limited under Rodgers. Elsewhere there is Joe Cole, who for me lacks the pace for the wing position he prefers. Taking into account his apparently huge salary at the club, I can’t help but feel he can’t be a part of Rodger’s long term plans. One boy who certainly is part of Liverpool’s future is Raheem Sterling. At only 17 years of age he is certainly one of English football’s most exciting prospects. He shows bravery to beat full backs and is virtually fearless. He has the capacity to use either foot, and has been prone to show impressive confidence in front of goal. Again he doesn’t provide an immediately solution to our problems, but is a player who should, and most likely will, be given the chance to flourish this season in Cup fixtures.
One area in which we are not short of options is midfield. At the heart of defensive midfield stands Lucas, a player who has gone from zero to hero on Merseyside. In his defence, he spent the early part of his career as understudy to Alonso and Mascherano, who I imagine cast a considerably intimidating shadow. He has however blossomed, originally signed as a centre attacking midfielder, he has adapted into a defensive role, doing the dirty work in front of the back four. He went largely unnoticed until last season’s injury, when it became clear to many that without his cover, Gerrard became confined to a more defensive position, thus relinquishing one of our major attacking threats. Next is the new signing Joe Allen. After an impressive season with Swansea and an equally inspiring Olympic performance, his long protracted transfer to Liverpool was completed. His role is to keep the ball moving, and maintain a quick fluid passage of play. This was somewhat lacking from Saturday’s match with West Brom when at times, the ball was being moved painfully slowly around the pitch. This is an area which is likely to improve over time. As each player becomes accustomed to their role, the fluidity and speed of play should increase, so this is certainly not something that warrants immediate concern. The 3rd man in the midfield trio requires no introduction. Talisman, local hero and inspiration to an entire generation of Liverpool fans Steven Gerrard will once again be vital to this season’s success. Hopefully, if Lucas can remain fit, he will be allowed to return to the attacking role which he relishes so dearly. To be brutally honest, in the few games he has played so far under Rodgers he has looked somewhat off the pace. He has misplaced too many passes and at times has faded in and out of games. This can be apportioned to a lack of fitness, which is understandable at this early stage and I have every faith that he can return to his usual form in no time. Whilst it can be assumed these 3 will be some of the first names on the team sheet, there are plenty waiting to pounce should they slip up. The most talented of these is Jonjo Shelvey, at 20 years of age Jonjo shows all the promise of becoming a top player at the club and has the ability to occupy a similar attacking role to Gerrard in the future. After an impressive pre-season Shelvey will be looking for first team chances and I imagine he will be a prominent feature amongst Cup fixtures in the coming season. Should Gerrard or Allen suffer knocks, he may well get a run in the first team, and will look to seize such opportunities if they come. Next up is a man who has received much criticism over the past year, some of which I feel has been undeserved. Jordan Henderson never asked to be burdened with such a hefty price tag and struggled much of last season, especially when deployed on the right of a 4-4-2 as was often the case. Statistically speaking his possession stats were good, he holds the ball up well and also possesses pace. What he did struggle with was his passing, something which I have no doubt Rodgers will look to help him improve on. Like Shelvey he is young. At 22 he is unlikely to reach his peak for another 4 years or so and therefore certainly should not be discarded by the fans. Charlie Adam is another player who has somewhat come under fire, some claiming he is too slow to operate within Rodgers fast moving style. I think overall he is not a bad player to have in reserve. He passes the ball well, and if he can improve his fitness he might even get a look in the first team. Someone who looks to be moving on is Jay Spearing. Many won’t be sad to see him go, as he has struggled to adapt to the high standards of the Premier League. A move is probably best for both parties. Elsewhere academy talent Suso is certainly a player I‘d like to see us hang on to, although he my get frustrated by the lack of first team opportunities. He reminds me of a certain small Spanish attacking midfielder on the blue side of Manchester, and if he even comes close to that standard he’s definitely worth keeping.
In defence, Liverpool are arguably solid. Agger and Skrtel may have shown the worse sides of their games against West Brom, but on the whole, they form a formidable partnership. Coates provides hope for the future, whilst Martin Kelly will probably move into a central role over time. As for the full backs, Johnson and Enrique are suitably attacking for a 4-3-3 however some cover may be needed for Enrique in order to prevent complacency which began to creep in to his play at the tail end of last season. Jack Robinson and John Flanagan showed promise under Dalglish and may have a part to play in the coming years
On the whole there is still cause for optimism. There is certainly a bright future ahead of the club with some promising youngsters and an ambitious manager to mould them to his style. In the mean time there still remains the nagging concern regarding the team’s confidence in front of goal. After all it is goals that win games. The manager has already said that the team is not yet the finished article, and come the 1st of September, we will have a much clearer view of what shape the squad will take. He will require time, and more significantly, loyalty. Liverpool fans are some of the best in the world, and we need to believe in the vision of Rodgers and the owners, in order to reap the long term benefits. We have to learn from defeats such as the one suffered at the Hawthorns, and acknowledge them as building blocks in our attempt to construct a title winning side.