Liverpool‘s September Form Guide: L-D-D-D-W
September proved a mixed bag for Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool, and with the manager clinging onto his position at Anfield he will be pleased to see his side address their poor form towards the end of the month.
Kicking off with a 3-1 loss away to Manchester United, the Reds returned from international break to register three successive 1-1 draws, against Bordeaux in the Europa League, Norwich City in the Premier League and Carlisle United in the League Cup—with the latter eventually defeated in a penalty shootout.
After a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa, Rodgers will be hoping to see the Reds maintain a higher standard of form in October and beyond.
But which players can he depend on to do so?
Here are the three best and three worst players from Liverpool‘s September.
Good – Danny Ings
Given his first start of the season in an uncomfortable wing-back role in the loss to United, Ings produced an understated performance of sheer endeavour, and was one of Liverpool‘s best players.
Deployed in a more familiar attacking role against Norwich, Carlisle and Villa, Ings has quickly become a cult hero at Anfield, thanks to his work rate and quality in the attacking sector.
With two goals in three games as a centre-forward, Ings is proving his top-level credentials.
Ings has been so impressive that it is difficult to imagine Christian Benteke taking up a starting role alongside Daniel Sturridge on his return from injury.
Bad – Simon Mignolet
Despite Adam Bogdan’s penalty-shootout heroics against Carlisle United, Mignolet has found himself under zero pressure in his role as Rodgers’ No. 1, and the Belgian’s nosediving form should be cause for concern at this stage.
After keeping three clean sheets out of four in August, Mignolet conceded in every game throughout September—letting in eight goals in four appearances.
His rollout into Juan Mata’s path against United and his fumbled punch to Russell Martin against Norwich are just two examples of Mignolet’s drop-off in quality over the last month.
With Victor Valdes dubiously linked with a move to Merseyside in January, Mignolet may find his position under threat if his form does not improve.
Good – Daniel Sturridge
Despite only making two appearances for Liverpool in September, after recovering from a long-term hip injury, Sturridge is a prime candidate for the Reds’ player of the month—though the impressive Lucas Leiva may feel aggrieved.
Rodgers can be criticised for rushing the 26-year-old back into a starting role against Norwich, but the manager’s move was justified.
Sturridge adds immeasurable class in the final third, and Liverpool were desperate for his intervention in September—his pace, movement and finisher’s instinct are invaluable.
Aiding Ings’ fine performance against the Canaries, Sturridge adopted a more focal role in Liverpool‘s 3-2 win over Villa, scoring two and testing Brad Guzan throughout with a series of accomplished efforts on goal.
It may be premature, but Sturridge’s return could save Liverpool‘s season.
Bad – Emre Can
Emre Can spent three of his five appearances throughout September in an unnatural centre-back role, and the German has suffered for form as a result.
With Rodgers switching to a three-man defensive line at Bordeaux, Can has been tasked with the role he performed so valiantly during 2014/15—but having targeted a regular midfield role this season, the 21-year-old just doesn’t look interested in playing at centre-back, and perhaps rightly so.
Against Villa, Can was particularly culpable: regularly out of position and lacking intensity in the defensive sector.
Can’s best performance of September came in the loss to United, with his surging runs from midfield providing an isolated Christian Benteke with much-needed support.
Rodgers would be wise to take note of this, and move Can into a midfield role in the 3-4-1-2.
Good – Alberto Moreno
“I couldn’t feel more settled, I’m really happy—not just myself, but my family. We love the club and the city,” Alberto Moreno said at the end of September, gleefully assessing his return to Rodgers’ starting lineup.
That the 23-year-old is so enamoured with life on Merseyside should be a major positive to both club and supporters, as after being given his first start of the season against Bordeaux, Moreno has been in exceptional form.
Freed of the defensive responsibility of an orthodox left-back role, Moreno has been given the license to attack—and this has provided Liverpool another dimension in the final third.
The quality of Moreno’s delivery and his intelligent movement down the left flank highlights a supreme confidence and determination to hold down his starting spot.
Bad – James Milner
Can a player who produced a goal-and-assist performance in the win over Villa be considered one of Liverpool‘s worst players of September?
Heading into the final clash of the month against his former club, Milner was in worryingly poor form as Rodgers’ stand-in captain, with a lack of chemistry in midfield in the absence of Jordan Henderson hampering the Reds in the buildup.
Guilty of losing the ball too easily, and lacking any quality in his creative play, Milner was a dead weight in midfield alongside the more incisive Lucas.
Having picked up his form with a second-minute strike against Tim Sherwood’s side at Anfield, Milner will be hoping to see an improved run in the Liverpool midfield.
The 29-year-old was signed to add a winner’s mentality within the Reds’ squad—and Milner must start showing this more regularly.