Lee Coates calls for patience and belief in Brendan Rodgers’ new-look Liverpool after a second defeat of the season to Aston Villa on Saturday.
Only Chelsea had made us play this way since we last faced Aston Villa at Anfield eight months ago. Bereft of penetration, creativity, cohesion and fluidity. In both of those games we tinkered with a variation of the 4-3-3 formation. One up top. One man up top. That one man has got a lot to do. He has to be special.
Last season we made a decision. We made a decision to put everything we had on our special player, Luis Suarez. One game at a time. Just win one game at a time. To do this we had to play to his strengths. Give him whatever he needed. Give him Sterling to play behind. Give him Sturridge to work alongside. Give him whatever he needs to give us three points.
That’s all fine. We won a lot of games – in the short term. In the long term, we risked a lot. It must have been known that Suarez could leave. There was always the possibility. We went for broke while we had him. We lived for the present with no regard for the future. We just wanted to win games immediately. What would happen to a system that is built around Suarez if he no longer becomes a part of it? It falls down. It simply cannot function.
We gave ourselves no time to prepare for a football team without Suarez. A football team that needs to play in a variety of ways to compete at all levels of the game.
We knew the diamond formation brought us goals. We knew it unleashed Sterling, Suarez and Sturridge in one torrent of footballing attack. Now we need to expand. We need to excel in all formations. Players need to take on more roles. They need to be flexible. They need to each own a key ring and know which one to use.
The players we have are capable, despite only evidencing a glimpse. We know they are capable because they have to be. We can’t think otherwise.
Mario Balotelli isn’t the same player as Luis Suarez. The differences between them are endless and it’s vulgar to submit them to comparisons, however they do share one common trait. A switch. They each have a switch. Rodgers found Suarez’s.
He flicked it and focussed all that was Luis Suarez into a lethal striker. Balotelli will need more work and he’ll be a different type of striker to what Suarez was. At the moment he’s faltering and not sure of his function but if Rodgers finds his switch, Balotelli will be a big player for this football team.
We bought enough players to float around in a number of different 4-3-3 variants. The positions are sorted. The players are not. They’re new and strange. They’re a bunch of mates who’s been asked to put on a show.
They can piss about in rehearsal but when it comes to it, there’s no completion. No conclusion to the sum of their parts.
Rodgers has solved this problem for us before. We had been submitted to these lacklustre games on a regular basis in the early days of his Liverpool management. The only difference now is that the groundwork is his own.
It won’t take as much work. The players are his players. He’s not working with opposing forces or ingredients that don’t belong any more. He knows where he’s going. He’s just not there yet.