WINNING has always been the most important thing in football. Winning games, winning trophies, winning leagues — just winning. Liverpool have played two football games this season and won both of them. This should be seen as a great positive — a platform to build on, something that can help kick start a successful season. Has it been viewed like that? You tell me. Think about the people around you in the ground last night. The people you have seen on social media sites or fan forums. The people on radio phone ins….
Fella on BBC Radio Merseyside: "There's no doubt about it after tonight, Rodgers has got to go".
Liverpool won mate, cheer the fuck up.
— Sachin Nakrani (@SachinNakrani) August 17, 2015
Starts to league campaigns have become strange things, for a whole host of reasons. Firstly pre-seasons are mad. There is always some international tournament or five going on which extends the previous season, seemingly by longer and longer times. Next summer there is the European Championships, The Olympic Games, The Centennial Copa America and The Caribbean Cup. After which an international player arrives at a new club after holiday only to find his team on the other side of the world playing a Bengal XI. So you get situations like the Firmino one, with him meeting his team-mates a week before the start of the season despite him signing in June.
Football clubs are also seemingly buying more players than every before, possibly as a result of a greater managerial turnover and a general increase in impatience. Minor tweaks are out, and squad overhauls are in. Liverpool gave home debuts to five new players last night, and had three other players who are yet to play for Liverpool on the bench. In fact the highest number of league appearances on the bench was Kolo Toure with 32. You sometimes get the impression names on the back of shirts were brought in so the players themselves could find out who each other is.
On top of this we have the transfer window. The failings of which we discussed with Rory Smith on TAW Player this week. The first Premier League game this season was over four weeks before the transfer window SLAMS SHUT. Most clubs will add before the end of the month. Several will add more than one. Squads are changing all the time. Never mind names on the back of shirts, it might be an idea to introduce name badges on the front during the first few weeks of the season. How many first 11s in the league will be radically different first week in September than first week in August, never mind the last week in May?
August has become a month of upheaval — getting to know each other and managers trying to figure out the best way to get the best out of what they have, in terms of talent and varying levels of fitness. But the juggernaut that is the Premier League waits for no man, and there are points to be won. Four games before an international break and the madness of Transfer Deadline Day. Even Liverpool, who did their business notably early, will better know where they are at by September. Firmino sharper. Other news players more settled. The possibility (whisper it) of the best striker in the league raring to go.
Four games. You’d have always took nine points. Maybe now you’d fancy 10? And 12 is not actually out of the question. Already at least six. August. A month to get through with as much as you can at the end. Liverpool obviously need to improve. They need to become a more cohesive attacking force, they need to sort out the midfield balance a touch and they need to get bodies nearer Benteke.
But they also need to keep picking up points. Picking up points while others, who have their own issues to sort we often forget, are dropping theirs. Picking up points while Chelsea are 16th.
Interestingly, it’s become a skill we value in others but devalue in ourselves. I’ve already heard Liverpool fans describe Manchester United’s start as ‘ominous’. Grinding out wins while not playing well. Winning ugly before they add more attacking talent.
So why can’t we see the same in ourselves? Why are Manchester United going to improve, yet we are going to get ‘found out’?
The season feels strange this year. Four games before a gap and then the season starts ‘proper’. But this is not a dress rehearsal. This is the gig. These points count for the same as the ones in February. It’s as real as it gets. Half built squads and new partnerships sent out to get the best they can. And Liverpool so far have got the best they can. Only three other teams in the league can say the same.
Do Liverpool need to improve? Absolutely. But the Reds under Rodgers have always found a way to play effectively. This time they are winning games and not giving away chances in the mean time. It’s plenty to be positive about while we wait for it all to click.
Pics: David Rawcliffe-Propaganda Photo