NOTHING is irredeemable yet. There is plenty to worry about – that goes without saying – but some of those concerns could be easily remedied with some subtle alterations.
It’s time for Brendan Rodgers to turn his ethos of building a team from front to back to the more traditional Liverpool way of building from back to front. Everything he has done so far as Liverpool manager has more or less been designed to be inside out. It was a refreshing concept last season that sat well within its 2013/14 surroundings, but it’s proving unsustainable without its two most potent ingredients from last season, and we’re not talking about Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge here.
Momentum and confidence are infinitely more damaging absences so far this season, and while it’s fair to say Suarez and Sturridge contributed massively towards our quotas of momentum and confidence last season, it doesn’t mean they are commodities solely embedded within those two players. We haven’t been anywhere near as clever as we could have been mentally, in the transfer market, or in dealing with the cards we started this season with.
Back to basics is where we need to go. Do the basics and do them well, adhere to the laws of common-sense. Simplicity has therapeutic properties that lead to footballing gravity being found. A Liverpool FC on the straight and narrow will finish at least half a dozen places higher than our current 12th position.
Footballing fortunes and misfortunes can be fleeting. What looks beautiful one minute can wither away to a dried out husk very, very quickly. Conversely, what appears to be footballing offal can be transformed to Michelin-starred fayre just as swiftly. Newcastle United could have sacked Alan Pardew only a few short weeks ago. Given the cost of sacking a manager and his backroom staff, hiring a new one and offering the incentive of a decent amount of transfer funds in January, the Newcastle board shied away from the projected expenditure. They now enjoy the warm glow that managerial stability can offer a football club, albeit by anything other than nerve-holding design. Newcastle got lucky on this count.
In an era of rolling sports news television channels, with reporters and cameramen posted outside football grounds and training complexes on a daily basis, dedicated sports radio stations, endless phone-ins, ever-increasing sensationalised and desperate print newspaper headlines, social media outlets where everyone is an expert, the great unwashed like me that are given the platform to air our opinions over and over again and the growing weapon of fan power through anger and protest, there is no room for error anymore. I occasionally frequent a forum known as ‘The Rattle’ that almost becomes the killing fields after adverse Liverpool results. My other half usually enquires “has The Rattle gone boom?” on days like Sunday. Invariably it has indeed ‘gone boom’.
I’ve said it before but this football club, both internally and externally is an unforgiving beast when it comes to a near miss in a title race. Players visibly shatter, mentally and physically, managers soon lose the plot under the unremitting microscope and the supporters come down on lapses in quality like an unstoppable avalanche. We attain momentum once more, but a different sort of momentum that ultimately sweeps the manager out of the club, a negative momentum that I see rising once again, just as it did with Roy Evans, just as it did with Gerard Houllier, just as it did with Rafa Benitez and just as it appears to be doing with Brendan Rodgers.
The bigger picture becomes blurred and the here and now ends up being all that matters. We’ve been in difficult positions many times, even in our heyday when the clouds always eventually blew over to reveal a silver-lining. Bill Shankly went seven years without a major trophy. Under Bob Paisley we sat 12th on Boxing Day 1981, but we were champions by May 15th 1982. Now I’m not saying we’ll be champions this coming May, but I am saying we’ll be sat in a much more comfortable position. For that to happen stability is key. Not just amongst the supporters, but with the manager, his coaching staff and the players under their charge too.
Back to basics is where we need to go. Do the basics and do them well once again. Return the artistry and aesthetic nuances at a later date. Abide by common-sense and opposing sides will have to earn goals and points, instead of being able to sit off us and wait for the mistakes to take place. Under Brendan Rodgers we’ve always seemed susceptible to being pick-pocketed, but we’ve assisted our assailants by often handing over the keys to our door and pointing the way.
If we are struggling in defence and midfield then change the formation to one that increases the number of red shirts in our most vulnerable positions of the pitch when we don’t have possession of the ball. We lack the attacking verve of a few months ago? Well maybe build a more solid base and spring forth from deeper, and perhaps stop playing pretty triangles in our back third quite so often. Mario Balotelli isn’t suited to playing the lone role up front? Then stop deploying him as so. Assess what isn’t working, and then maybe stop doing those things.
Time to get boring perhaps, Houllier-esque even, with conservative solidity in our own half, and pace based sorties going forward, at least until the basics are mastered once more. 2013/14 Liverpool could offset the questionable goalkeeping and defending with an almost ninja-like brigade of skilled footballing lemmings, which swept forward as if answering the call of Mother Nature herself. 2014/15 Liverpool are more Sloth-like going forward and can’t recreate that. All is far from lost, yet something on the pitch undeniably has to give and balance must be found. Brendan Rodgers is the man who can control that. We’ve got to let him do it and for his part of the bargain he’s got to succeed.
Pics: David Rawcliffe