“Each team I see (that is successful) has to be comfortable playing with three systems. They need to adapt to each game, depending on the circumstances. It is not about not being loyal to your identity. No, no, no. It is about knowing your strengths and showing your players what you need to do each game to prepare in the right way.
“In Liverpool, we had a plan for each team. Every game is totally different. Let me give you an example. This season we have played with three defenders, sometimes four, sometimes five. You need to be able to manage at least three or four systems. It has nothing to do with betraying your principles.” — Xabi Alonso.
EVEN in victory, it seems Brendan Rodgers simply cannot win with some fans.
With two out of two and a big fat zero in the goals against column, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Liverpool manager might get a day or two off from getting slaughtered online.
As. Fucking. If.
The forever drifting nomadic goalposts of judgement have shifted yet again, with Rodgers now taking pelters for a perceived substance over style approach, a turnaround that would make Fabian Delph blush given previous criticisms from the Twitter hive.
Having supposedly consigned tiki-taka to the sea, Rodgers is now committing the cardinal sin of betraying the principles and power point presentations that convinced John Henry and co to appoint the Northern Irishman in the first place.
For some, clearly, whatever Rodgers does will never be good enough and that he seemingly has more than one string to his bow is being spun as a negative trait.
Now the facts: five new players, two new coaches, two positive results and, despite a couple of nervy moments, two clean sheets. A good start then, especially in the context of having to exorcise the demon that was Stoke.
That Rodgers is still the Liverpool manager rankles with some, and the lingering anger and ugly bitterness that he evokes in his detractors does not take much provoking to be brought to the surface. At least, on the bright side, it makes a refreshing change from snide comments about his private life.
Of course performances matter, but since the dawn of time results have always trumped percentages and opening fixtures are always tricky affairs (aren’t they Jose, Arsene?). Teams don’t tend to go from getting smashed to bits 6-1 by Stoke and being absolutely on the floor to playing like Brazil 1970 in the space of three fixtures, it just doesn’t work like that, especially when some of the squad have barely had time to find out their new team-mates names.
Good performances are borne out of the confidence of good results; that and making the most out of what you have.
Christian Benteke isn’t a Luis Suarez or a Daniel Sturridge, nor is he just a blunt instrument up front. But while the rest of the squad are getting used to him (and vice versa) pragmatism shouldn’t be sneered at. And, until Sturridge is back to form a potentially devastating partnership, nor should it be a dirty word.
What Brendan has done in the last two fixtures is prepared a team that gave Liverpool a good chance of getting a positive result — and it’s worked.
Does anyone really believe that in an ideal world the manager wouldn’t want us to turn in the type of performances that saw us rip teams to bits as we’ve done in the past during his time in charge? Which leads to a interesting parallel — the 13-14 team that smashed all before it.
Only, it didn’t — not initially anyway.
Liverpool didn’t wake up one morning, have their Ready brek and a sly line and magically transform into a hybrid of Liverpool 87-88 and the Harlem Globetrotters.
Instead, the season started with three consecutive, hard fought, ground out 1-0 victories.
Over the course of those three games we survived some scares and missteps — a Mignolet penalty save sparing us from a home draw against Stoke, and a rearguard action just about keeping Villa at bay after a bit of Sturridge magic away from home.
The much-missed Sturridge repeated the trick a week later to secure victory over a David Moyes-led (remember him?) Manchester United at Anfield.
Three games, small margins — nine points. Last season it probably would have been three at best. Such is life, such is football.
The truth is that it took until mid-December, 12 games, and a 5-0 demolition of Spurs for Liverpool to really get into beast mode — a game in which Jon Flanagan scored the greatest goal ever.
Having dispatched Spurs with such devastating aplomb, Liverpool were, for the most part of the rest of that season, absolutely breathtaking, but they launched their assault from a platform built on steady planning — a few aberrations aside (HULL AWAY, COUGH). Yet memories are often moulded to suit.
I always think back to the sage words of Mr Michael Nevin, of this parish, going into the business end of the season when he said Liverpool were ‘handily placed’ to click. And click they did.
With a raft of new signings to bed in this season — and little margin for error being offered from the wider world and even factions of Liverpool’s support — it’s a tall order to replicate the results of that campaign.
But if Liverpool can negotiate a more-than-tricky first few months and emerge in December among the pack, no-one will give two fucks about how we got our first six points. Just that we did.
That’s most of us anyway. Because if being proved right and scoring points on social media outweighs your club putting them on the table, you may as well pack in. Football…it’s supposed to be a laugh.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo