AUGUST 20. Aye, here we are with problems after two games, two wins and two clean sheets. Six points and zero goals zipping past Simon Mignolet. Five more than Chelsea, shipping in five less than them. Did you predict that before the campaign kicked off? Sure you did.
Last season, the taste of consecutive league victories only touched Liverpool tongues on the afternoon of October 19. And it wasn’t until the turn of the new year — January 17 to be exact — when Liverpool were first fist-pumping over back-to-back clean sheets.
Things are different. No waiting months this time around. Straight in and straight with the Ws. It’s only the sixth time in Premier League history the Reds have managed triumphs in their first two games, and it’s the second occasion under Brendan Rodgers. See also 2013-14.
This start should be savoured, but it has been sneered at. Liverpool haven’t rolled out of bed yet and are rolling in maximum points, however some only view this through a series of buts…
But the side haven’t clicked yet. But Arsenal is the true test. But if it wasn’t for the worldy and the luck of the decisions. But, but, but.
Here’s my but — but the league table doesn’t have a column for comments.
Two out of two doesn’t mean it’s time to break out the bottles of Moët, and yes — Liverpool have to make it about points plus performances, but they’ve given themselves a base to build on. The list of things to improve on is lengthy, but while that process is in progress, wins are most welcome.
There’s been an introduction of eight new players to the squad, an extreme makeover to the coaching staff, an adaption of style and the adjustment to the Liverpool-less-Steven Gerrard equation. It’s all change. As James Milner put it: “Right now, we can’t ask for more than six points out of six.”
A positive start to the season was non-negotiable. Some had been playing Hangman all summer with BRE_D_N ROD_ E_S, waiting for the campaign to kick off so they could finish the letters, tighten the noose and smugly wave ta ra. Some are still crossing fingers for any and every slip. Sorry lads, as it stands, the goals against bracket is looking pretty good for a man who can’t organise a defence.
Solidity, he has said, is key. And he doesn’t say much these days, does Brendan. With all the changes, the winds have swept him too: a little less conversation, a little more action. His press conferences have been direct as opposed to descriptive, he is more authoritative, and he is uninterested in disruptions — at whatever cost. There is a renewed focus which smacks you in the face when you pass him at Melwood, and the vibe around the complex has shifted: the renovations to reception have been met with alterations in attitude — it’s all business in West Derby.
Last season, and the 6-1 mauling by Stoke in particular, changed Rodgers. “It allowed me to go away and define how I wanted to move the club forward again,” he admitted.
“I’m as driven now — if not more — as the first day I came in here.”
That much is evident. And necessary. Rodgers is operating from a position of power, having being fully backed by the owners, yet he is under more professional pressure than ever.
It’s all on him now. It’s his way. He has certainly modified his leadership style again.
“When I first came in, I was very autocratic, very hard-line; ‘This is my philosophy, this is how I work.’ I then became more democratic in my second phase here, more educational,” he explained to me in an interview last April.
“I had the players I want and they started understanding, so it was about furthering that. I’m now at a stage where I’m multi-functional and multi-dimensional.”
With another mass introduction of signings, as well as integrating three new members to the coaching staff, and having a squad where 22 players are 25 and under, perhaps Rodgers has popped back into his autocratic stance until everyone and everything settles?
There are criticisms the manager has betrayed his beliefs in the first two games, with Liverpool looking to go long to Christian Benteke instead of constructing from the back. During the club’s title tilt, Rodgers was also accused of straying from his philosophy, and had explained that “nothing has changed, except with time and the constant exposure to the ideas, the players have adapted.”
Liverpool will still look to dominate the ball and strangle opponents with intensity, but they’ve also got the option to switch it up with Benteke. While the striker is learning how to get the best out of his teammates and vice versa, fight will have to eclipse fluidity.
“When the players are confident and have belief, when it all does click they are rewarded for it and achieve through it,” said Rodgers last year. “Then comes the acclaim for their dynamics, the style, the beauty of the football. But you have to go through all the barriers and hurdles first before you can get there.”
Liverpool have gone through two barriers, with six points and two clean sheets to show for it. The rest will come.
Pepijn Lijnders sat in the director’s box for a while on Monday night, and could be heard in the press box praising every quick interchange with ‘Yes! That’s the game.’
There have been changes, lots of them — as was needed, but Liverpool know their game. We just have to wait for it to click, and if the Reds continue picking up points until then, I’d rather smile than sulk about it.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo
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Excellent article. It’s true that LFC have hardly been inspired in their first two games, but has everybody already forgotten the 2013/14 season, in which we nearly won the title? We started that campaign with three dull, somewhat lucky 1-0 wins.
Is Suarez coming back?
Nice article, it’s early days yet, plenty of ups and downs to come (hopefully more ups, than downs). If we can eek out a narrow 1-0 win against Arsenal, then everything is going to look and feel as though we’re putting something good together.
Shame on you for quoting ‘Premier League history’ though – shocking! ;)
Melissa, this is a brilliant piece yet again. You and all the lads at TAW have the same view of the game and the club as myself. We don’t all nessecessarily have the same view on how each game goes or what perhaps is the best team for a given game and all that trivial stuff but we all want the club to do well and see that the club are moving forward.
Football is fun but it’s a results business. The performances will improve (but I’m not arsed if they don’t) but for now let’s just be made up that were grinding out positive results.
The negativity that is bread amongst some of our support at present is best described as empty-headed.
Arsenal 0-1 Liverpool.
Exactly right, it’s all about “managing” the season and Rodgers is managing correctly to get the points at this stage of the season. Attractive performances will come later through his coaching – it’s why Fergie was so good, because he knew how to manage.
So hopefully Rodgers is showing he’s developing into a good manager, to go alongside him being a good coach.
not so much death by football more death by boredom
Points make prizes and generate confidence with performances getting better over time. There were phases on Monday that were only marginally away from ripping open Bournemouth and at no time were we defending maniacally, it was all controlled and the inter play will only get better.
Sadly there are no prizes for your hangman skills as you’ve already used N and R
I agree with a lot in this article, But take issue with TAW calling half of our fans knobs because they don’t like the manager.
Most of TAW were saying he’s got to go after Stoke, but after a summer of reflexion they came to the conclusion like most of us that we should stick with him.
Not all fans can forgive so easily.
The idea is not to alienate your audience, in this case your paying audience.
When I have to take off my earphones in disgust and be subjected instead to the moronic banter of nearby teenagers pretending to work out or the awful music blaring from the speakers at the gym because I cannot bear to listen to a person going on and on, complete with infuriating management- and PR-speak, about ‘the Club’ and ‘Brendan’ wanting to instill a ‘culture of excellence’, blah blah blah, and being dismissive and condescending of any supporter (no matter how serious, how in fact much more serious and dedicated in actually watching and analyzing matches than the person talking), I know there is a problem.
Dismissing any and all criticism and worry regarding Brendan Rodgers as the product of a pre-existing, and hardened, animus and ‘hate’ towards him is as moronic as dismissing any and all praise and satisfaction with Rodgers’ and LFC’s performances and results so far as the product of a pre-existing, and hardened, ‘love’ and positive bias towards him.
Just looking at the win, draw, loss column, the for and against column and the points column is not what folks who subscribe to TAW player and who read TAW do. If they did, neither would actually exist.
Its quite difficult to see how the team will shape up once the season progresses. There is certainly plenty to be positive about, not sure there are many negatives so far. Maybe just Lallana not contributing much to the game. Gomez, Clyne look brilliant additions and Benteke looks like he’s going to be off to Real for £60 mil in three years (a positive). Milner is the tenacious midfielder we have been missing and our squad has plenty of quality.
Any negativity at this stage after 2 wins is a joke. Why is it always about the manager? LFC the team you support has had a brilliant start to the season, get over it, enjoy it.
Could be an unpredictable season!
Very impressed with Clyne. I won’t go as far as referencing Rob Jones’ start with the club but… I already have. Didn’t mean to. Anyhow, he looks like a proper right back. Benteke looks like a proper forward. We’re already +2 on last season. What can go wrong?!
I think it’s risky to mock people who say he can’t organise a defence. He made himself look daft doing that last season. He’s organised a defence in the past while playing defensively. Villa away in 2013/14, and the run of a few wins last season, for example. It’s when he tries to play attacking his defences fall apart. There’s never been a good balance. We concede about 45/50 goals every season. That’s far too many.
2 wins out 2 is all we can ask for, though.
Spot on. Balance is key this season. Get that right (and he hasn’t in previous seasons) and everyone’s happy (except those that will never be). Clyne and Gomez are real upgrades, the latter could be a superstar, our vary own Raphael Varane. The best teams build from the back, establish a solid spine and go on to win things. The spine’s looking promising this season, the football will follow.
I always enjoy Melissa’s articles. My favourite line in this one is “Sorry lads, as it stands, the goals against bracket is looking pretty good for a man who can’t organise a defence.”
A few hours ago I listened to a video clip of Brendan from when he first arrived at Liverpool, before any games had been played under his management. In it he said “The objective is to win, and hopefully we can entertain along the way.”
Of course every fan wants to be entertained at every game — to feel that we received something in return for our hard-earned money. But winning — however we manage to do it — is the primary objective. Chelsea killed our dream in 2014 because they parked the bus and we had no strategy to break through or defend against it. Our offensive pressing style — which brought so much ecstatic entertainment that season — was rendered worthless. We were sitting ducks, and we can’t allow ourselves to be victims of that again.
But he can’t orgainise a defence without playing defensively. Conceding 45/50 goals every season shows that.
Last season we went on a run of games where results went our way and we didn’t concede. Good times. Would you like to know when it ended? at almost the exact moment when some people start to display quite a bit of arrogance. That “defensive coach” comment, well, that was a great idea wasn’t it. One week, two weeks after, it all went to shit. Be cautious with comments like that. Particularly with a very good attacking side coming our way in a few days.
BRE_D_N ROD_ E_S doesn’t work in Hangman, you’d have to fill all the Rs and Ns in.
Take heed of Sean Rogers’ advise (premised on his own experience as a manager):
You cannot work backwards from the result to a proper analysis of what worked and did not work properly in his your tactics, in your organization.
Sometimes you “did not organize your defense properly” and you achieve a clean-sheet; other times, you organized it perfectly and you still conceded one or two.
Pay attention to details. Focus on one player at a time, then on small groups of players and see how well they defend individually and as a small group. Do that and you’ll come to very different conclusions as to how well and how effectively LFC have defended so far this season. (Hint: Lovren does not come out looking great).