“Liverpool’s worst start in over 100 years” I’ll admit, it doesn’t sound good. Nor does our beloved club’s name congregating with the likes of Queen’s Park Rangers and Reading in the relegation zone. I’m not happy about it, no fan worth his salt would be, but what should our reaction be to the aforementioned poor start?
Well, we certainly can’t jump to conclusions, not this early into the season.
Let’s take a look at some recent examples or the most recent case in point – Champions League qualification favourites last year – Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. An Arsenal side who were left licking their wounds following a humiliating 8-2 thrashing by Manchester United early last season. An Arsenal side who many wrote off, following somewhat weak activity in the transfer window – selling many of their outgoing players and failing to bring in make-weight replacements. An Arsenal side that failed to win any of their opening league matches. But most importantly; an Arsenal side that, in the end, qualified for the Champions League.
Spurs also found themselves in a similar position, a terrible beginning to the season and again on the wrong side of a poor result at the hands of United.
Fast-forward to the last game of the season and what has changed? Both sides with all to play for – with a coveted spot in the Champions League still hanging in the balance.
Now, I’m not saying that I expect us to be completely competitive in the top four this season. While I’m very much the optimist in Brendan Rodgers’ abilities as a coach as well as a firm believer in his approach to football, the man simply does not have the tools at his disposal in this case.
I understand the concern coming from 2 points out of a possible 15. But all of the signs are there.
So what am I getting at here? What is our aim this season? I believe it should simply be to compete.
We’ll start by looking at the hard facts. We have still yet to play our ideal starting XI, nor have we discovered what shape this side will take. Plagued by injuries to the likes of Jose Enrique, Lucas Leiva and some of our newer signings still lacking true match fitness in the form of Assaidi and Sahin. We have been victims to circumstance in this instance and nothing more.
The next fact that we can look at, after team selection, is what we have made of what has been available; somewhat polarizing… I don’t think any fan can objectively agree that our performances have been consistent. It would be fair to say that we have had 2 poor performances however; at home and away to Arsenal and West Brom respectively. In neither of these games did we look a threat, not helped in one case by some controversial refereeing decisions.
Which brings us to the positives and what an abundance of them that there have been. Not the least of which has been the emergence of Raheem Sterling in the first team. While I prefer to avoid hyperbole this early into a player’s career there’s no doubt that the 17-year-old has brought something into our wide-play that we have been sorely lacking in recent seasons. Confidence, technique and a first touch to die for. Not to mention the tenacity and desire to beat his man no matter who the opposition; he made Kolo Toure and Patrice Evra look well past their sell-by-date and tired at best.
Going into the beginning of the season, if there were to be two key games where we needed to put in a real convincing performance, that we needed to compete in, it would have been against the two Manchester sides; the two “title contenders”. What can we take from these performances?
Manchester City, while still being early doors, certainly opened our eyes. A simple mistake, consequent of the new method of play that we have adopted very much cost us the 3 points. We should have won, no question. What we should take from this, however is an awakening to the fact that there was never going to be any instant guarantees of success. These things take time.
So the other “title contender”, Manchester United, what can we take from this match? Well, not to abuse the superlatives here, but Liverpool were outstanding. Be it down to the occasion or a sheer desire to win, we played United off the pitch, but once again, as the story goes; the end result eluded us.
Now let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we can’t expect these kind of performances week-in week-out, especially with the cluttered schedule that we must cater to. But there are so many signs of what was promised by Brendan Rodgers when he came in. Young players blooded into the first team in the form of Suso Fernandez, Jonjo Shelvey and Raheem Sterling, competing at the highest level while playing a style of football that is pleasing to the eye but also offensive.
Tactically, we are solid. Performance levels are on the rise. Our next 3 fixtures are matches that we should very much expect to collect 9 points from.
All the signs are there and the United performance was an prime example of that. While it breaks my heart to see the end result slip through our fingers (albeit somewhat, out of our own hands…) we are going to be just fine this season. All of the pieces are there, we just need to make them fit and in my opinion, our season starts here – things can only get better.
We’ve shown that we can compete at the highest level. Why can’t we be contenders in the near future? Onwards and upwards, as they say; keep the faith.
But what do you think to our poor start to the season? Perhaps I’m being foolishly optimistic? What would you do differently if so?
Let me know in the comments section below.
I’d also love to discuss or talk about it on twitter, you can find me at @Robbdigs
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