By Ben Feltham
IT’S funny, but it seems that for the entirety of Rodgers reign Liverpool fans have been searching the Anfield pitch, or TV screens or wherever for an answer to this almost existential question – is this progress?
It’s an earnest question, and the objective truth is, we can’t yet say. We’ve sacked the club’s most revered living soul (and split the fan base in the process), recruited a ‘chancer’ or a visionary (depending on your point of view), had outgoings, incomings and non-stop chatter, but ironically LFC find themselves on the exact same number of points as this time last year (in fact the similarity between this year and last year across the board is pretty uncanny, as the below demonstrates). The point is this – our season has yet to be written, and without wanting to deal in hyperbole, this season will be defined by the last 11 matches and how much of that 33 point pie we can eat.
last season: –
Played – 27
Won – 10
Drawn – 9
Lost – 8
For – 30
Against – 26
Points – 39
Goal difference – +4
Played – 27
Won – 10
Drawn – 9
Lost – 8
For – 49
Against – 34
Points – 39
Goal Difference – +15
The progress question is an important one because it’s the path FSG have articulated/spun (certainly latterly) as the message to the faithful. The anti-sugar daddy approach that most fans can get behind. The promise wasn’t a quick fix return to years of domination, no, it’s been a message you could label in different ways, but a catchall term to my mind is progress. And it’s a promise that the high stakes move of Kenny to Brendan is intrinsically tied to – well on the nine month anniversary (pregnant pause) almost to the day into this epic dice throw… the jury’s out.
So often Liverpool’s managerial debut seasons emerge as something special, extraordinary even – Fagan and the treble; Kenny’s first full season in 86 brings us our first ever pure double (the first for any player manager in the history of the top flight); Benítez’s first campaign is synonymous with one word, Istanbul; Kenny’s second coming brought its own heady joy after the gloom of Hodgson and was, in its own way, quite remarkable – as, some would argue, was his (second) first full year in charge with two cup finals and a league cup.
Brendan nearly got the inkling of that against Zenit, 3-0 down on aggregate with 50 odd minutes to go, faux comparisons aside, it would have been something had we come back from that as we so nearly did. Instead though, progress is the clarion call of the faithful. Maybe that’s a good thing, progress is self-evidently something we can build on, we haven’t always been able to build on the remarkable, and it’s the build, above all, that is paramount.
Doubtless we each have our own opinion on how much progressLiverpoolfootball club are making under Rodgers, but objectively? Well it’s impossible to say. We sit on 39 points after 27 games, to a point the same position as last year; and we’re a walking dichotomy; on the one hand we have an underground movement putting up some persuasive arguments that say our run in compared to the three or four teams above us will see us rise up the table, some even hold onto the dream of a hugely unlikely CL spot; on the other hand you put that against a team that’s only been one thing all season- inconsistent, and you can easily see us lose as many of the remaining games as win and finish in a similar position to where we have in the last 3 years. And in this dichotomy, your viewpoint will either feel ‘we’ve only beaten one top ten team all season’, or conversely ‘we’ve been desperately unlucky with two draws against City, robbed against Everton away and Man United at home and picked up decent points at the Emirates and the Bridge’.
A plan of action
As well as defining our season, these last 11 games can, if we box clever, help us determine our summer needs. With our attacking options approaching minimum requirements, with the purchase of electric Sturridge and the frankly Brazilian Coutinho, many fans are putting a lot of scrutiny on our backline, and rightly so. The best Liverpool, or for that matter Arsenal, Milan, Man United and countless other great sides were built VIA a great backline.
There seems to be a feeling that a big dominant centre half would be a fillip for a team too often beaten up by brawn from opposition strikers. Scour the leagues of Europe and beyond, but possibly we have the prototype in the Liverpool ranks; yes I’m talking about Sebastian Coates. I want to talk about Seba for a second, as it seems everyone but his mum has written him off. I’d like to take issue with that – has he been exposed in the minuscule number of games he’s had of late, yes, but hang on….
Coates arrived here as a league title winning, starting CB for the South American champions (a team ranked third in the world at the time) in a tournament where he was crowned young player of the championship; all this by 21, so basically he’s the Uruguayan Wilshere, except he’s won things. Yes he looks underweight and looks like he wants way too much time on the ball (an issue Xabi Alonso fought to overcome), but these are all fixable issues. He’s 22, in a position where you’re often still improving into your thirties; is he good enough right now? Maybe not but let’s not write him off just yet. I would use these last 11 matches to loan him out to a top flight team that he’s going to get games every week – Wigan springs to mind, we could loan them Sterling too as a sweetener. We may need to go out and spend 20 million on a world class CB, but how gutting would it be if we later found out we’d been ‘Piqued’.
It’s time to come clean, I’ve pitched this progress poser as neutrally as I can, like a dispassionate pundit on the Sunday supplement, but the truth is I’m too bound into this movement to leave it there.
I’m a believer; I’m a believer in what we’re doing, I believe in the manager, the tactics, and have to reluctantly admit to being educated to a degree by the FSG buying policy as I note we’ve got the best under 23 squad in the premiership bar none to my mind; I believe in the football we’ve shown and the direction we’re going.
So is this progress? Well the head says we must wait and see, but the heart knows it is.
Can’t loan players to other PL sides can we? Only Football League sides.
Chelsea loaned Lukaku to WBA…
I believe that rule was changed, I think it’s an option now.
Adebayor loan in 2011 from City to Spurs…
That was during the transfer window. I believe once the window closes, you can no longer loan players within the Premm, you can only loan players out to the Football League.
Andy Carroll? Anyway i think you kind of missed the point of the article if that was the only thing you picked up on…
A lot of food for thought, and when seen in the context of saturday’s performance progress is clear for all to see.
Thoroughly enjoyed this. It’s balanced and has a little bit of hope sprinkled in. Hope is something a lot of the fanbase has lost post Hodgson and subsequent sacking of Kenny. We need it back, we need the optimism and the fun back in supporting the team.
1st 14 league games – 18 goals for – 16points
2nd 14 league games – 35 goals for- 26 points
Start of the season was always going to be a trial with Suarez isolated. Now with Sturridge and Coutinho we’re a different team. Henderson and Downing vastly improved as the season has progressed and decent younsters coming through.
Progress – definitely
we’ll see at the end of the season.
great result yesterday but need to tighten up defensively, a decent team would have scored those saves Pepe made. next game is big test, but we have the fire power to win.
as for progress: 11 games left… wait and see.
Enjoyed that, thank you. Although Coates has many fine attributes as a centre half he’s lacking the most crucial one that can’t be coached, speed. He’s to slow on the turn, in a straight line and from a standing start. Defences in South American football sit deeper a lot of the time. I think Spanish football suited Pique perhaps Coates will be the same.
Great read Ben, and I suppose this season also has alarming similarities in terms of deserved points. Both this season and last season, I saw us pull teams around for fun but left as equals or, as my receding hairline will attest, losers. After I’ve wrecked my head going through all the possibilities as to why this is happening so frequently, I come to the same conclusion; Perception.
Since the anti-Rafa bandwagon (of which there were many wagons) we have become a pin cushion for negative media coverage. This rubs off. Call Barcelona the bees bollox and suddenly the perception changes. I’ve seen us play some beautiful football in the last 2 seasons yet we are unable to shake off our current perception.
But I believe FSG are wise to this, ergo appointing Rodgers and this new ‘philosophy’. When I first heard this new found ‘philosophy’ I thought it was a cheeky kick in the plums to us fans who already have a philosophy ingrained. Pass and move! But now I’m beginning to understand the cleverness. This philosophy wasnt meant for the fans, it was meant for the media. Although we have always been a fast tempo team with clever passing the perception of a new ‘philosophy’ makes it easier for pundits to relate to. Rodgers’ character and affability assists this greatly.
Don’t get me wrong, we have been partly responsible for our own perception but I’m now starting to feel as though we are creating a new one. It’s easier to smile when the world smiles with you. In Rodgers I trust.
Sorry Mate,I’m struggling to understand a word of that.What are you talking about?
Pass and move was a philosphy of Shankly.We’ve had quite a few Managers since but they had their own ideas,
Rodgers talked about “pass and move” as some kind of media trick? I don’t get that.And I don’t see how it had any difference apart from the fact that the americans would have bought it as a NEW philosophy.Something they’d heard about and it sounded good but anybody coming in and talked about it would have appeared to know what they were talking about!
It just goes to show really that “You can fool all of the people some of the time………………….”
I had thought progress was not being made, but two statistics stand out : Goals for and against.
Last season +4, this season +19.
That’s significant because we are finally starting to put away our chances, the mistake of not signing Sturridge in the summer has been rectified, Coultinho is a real find, and Henderson and Downing are finally starting to show their worth.
The press still anti Suarez but some are starting to come around, not that I care about their opinion. Coates is obviously something of a gamble but he’s not going to get experience when he’s not even getting game time in the reserves.
Progress? I reluctantly say yes, but the sum of the parts is not yet ready to be calculated.
What I am trying to say Brian is..progress is there, as is some of the best football in Europe, but the perception of us remains the same. This is hindering anything we try and do. Until we change how we are perceived inconsistency and doubt will remain.
On your point about previous managers, most of them have labelled their football the ‘Liverpool way’ even though its played with their own ideas. I dont think that would have worked with Rodgers. He had to be perceived as an innovator rather than a traditionalist.
Hope thats dumbed down enough for you.
The dumber the better for me.
And one of the best teams in Europe?
Wow!I’ve missed something here.I must be like Rip Van Winkle!
All the best.
I think there has definitely been a lot of progress.
The main problem was our terrible start (points-wise, if not entirely performance-wise) in the first five games.
In the 23 games since, we have taken 40 points (just 1 shy of average 4th place form), and have the 4th best form in the division (ahead of Chelsea and Arsenal) for that period.
In short, we’ve been performing at the desired level for over half a season, and that wasn’t the case last season. Definite evidence of progress in my book.
I agree there is potential in Coates, he needs regular games. Look at the progress young Lloyd-Jones is making by regularly starting, Sama too is looking a reasonable prospect. Why blast 20 odd million if we have a home grown talent who could be ready in a season or two. Kelly and Wisdom are both better at centre back than at full back and they have not let us down overall when played out of preferred position.
Did you not look at the Against column…
Did you not pay attention to the actual games played…
This mornings result was coming…
Rodgers and Pascoe have rooted our defence…they haven’t a clue…
The last few games were only one because the opposition didn’t have anyone who could find the net…it was obvious from the number of chances (quality how did they not score chances at that) we were lucky to win those games…
Now we face someone who does have a clue…or aren’t suffering the worst luck ever…and we are stuffed…
And…15 mill. for Allen – what idiot decided that useless midget can play football…Rodgers once took Suso off in the first half for tactical reasons…Allen should have been pulled after 20!