We needed that didn’t we? We desperately needed that.
Just over 360 minutes of football without a win (counting Middlesbrough as a draw after normal time) is just not what Brendan Rodgers’ Reds are about. We can do one, maybe two, but four consecutive winless games is out of our comfort zone. Especially as each of those disappointing results have been born from horribly limp performances.
Everything was better on Saturday; more assured, more cohesion and vitally, more energy. And I’m convinced our improvement was caused by a subtle change of system. A change I haven’t been alone in pleading for recently. On the Internet. Looks like Brendan finally swallowed his pride and had a scan of Twitter. We know you’re out there, Brend.
The switch to a 4-3-3 seemed to spur us back into action. We suit it, particularly in midfield. Steven Gerrard looked happier flanked, slightly further forward, by Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson. The shape gives them freedom to do what they do best – buzz about.
For all those who look down their nose at any utterance of tactics, have this. Had we lined up with the eleven players that played yesterday, but in the 4-2-3-1 we’ve oddly dabbled in recently (rather than the 4-3-3 we did play), we wouldn’t have won the game. I’m sure of that.
Replace Rickie Lambert – who continues to look like a lucky fan who’s won a competition to play a few games for his beloved club – with a lethal Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge, and we run out 5-1 winners. Fine margins. In fact, thinking back to that Lambert analogy, he kind of is that isn’t he?
Of course, not everything was perfect. The centre-backs continued to breed anxiety around Anfield. Although, that can be only be expected when those two players are Martin Skrtel and Dejan Lovren. Our poor form of late also inevitably heightens the nerves.
Glen Johnson was reintroduced for the closing stages after injury, and his presence was strangely reassuring. Maybe it’s an illustration of that old adage of becoming a better player when you’re out of the side. Who knows. But one thing is for sure: If the 2010 Glen Johnson would like to return, I’d be extremely pleased.
If Glen Johnson’s reasonably lively cameo made me wonder if I’d inadvertently hopped in a time machine back to 2010, Brendan Rodgers did his best to raise my suspicions further. Lucas was brought on with 15 to go to sit next to Jordan Henderson, meaning Steven Gerrard was shifted further forward. Gerrard in the 10! Bring Fernando Torres back!!! No, don’t bring Fernando Torres back. Please don’t. But yeah, seeing Stevie up there was all lovely and nostalgic I must admit. He seemed to love it too. He was everywhere, linking up nicely a few times with Mario.
It should definitely be an option. Particularly late on in games when things open up. There’s no player I’d like more for a chance to fall to in the dying minutes of a game.
I haven’t mentioned the goals. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of discussing goals. Talk about your general play, scrutinise your general play, and the goals will come. Television pundits (ex-players) wouldn’t agree with what I’ve just said. That’s why television football pundits are woeful. Radio ones too, in fact.
I will mention the goals though, predominantly because of the celebrations which succeeded them. The opener was incredibly Suarez-esque from Adam Lallana. Quick feet, a clever combination with Jordan Henderson and a confident finish. Lallana’s Suarez impression continued when the ball hit the back of the net. He ran and ran. And roared. A proper roar.
Hendo though, isn’t a man that likes to be outdone in the celebration stakes. He simply wasn’t going to let it happen. His opportunity came as he calmly slotted away Raheem Sterling’s intelligent pull-back late on. He was off, funny run and mouth agape. I thought he was heading for Brendan, who must have been terrified.
But no, just a knee-slide. A furious knee-slide. Breathe easy Brendan, we’ve got our three points at last.
No more Reds for a long 15 days. Dear international break, please be kinder to us this time.