Brendan Rodgers believes that bettering last season’s eighth place finish would represent a “fantastic” outcome for Liverpool this season. Whilst many supporters may expect better at Anfield, judging by their current league position Rodgers’ assertion is a correct one.
Liverpool currently sit down in13th place in the Premier League, turning just two of their 11 league games into victory. It is a far cry from what Liverpool fans are used to. Dominant for large proportions of the mid to late nineties, and still achieving regular Champions League football throughout the noughties, now the club are struggling even for Europa League qualification.
Liverpool are entering their third successive season without Champions League football, and this absence shows little sign of ending in the immediate future. Due to a mixture of factors, expectations at Anfield need to be drastically scaled down and Rodgers has it pretty much spot on in that a top eight finish would represent a satisfactory campaign under the circumstances. There are a number of issues that need addressing from Rodgers in order to see an improvement at Liverpool. Firstly, numerous draws that could easily have been transformed into victories has impeded any chance of progress.
Liverpool are actually playing better than their lowly league status indicates. The club are currently enjoying a six game unbeaten run, but the fact that four of those games have ended in draws puts this run of form into perspective. Sunday’s draw at Chelsea may have been seen as a welcome result, but like in many games preceding it, Liverpool had the chances to win it, especially late on.
The fact that Liverpool have obtained so few victories is, in a large way, down to the lack of attacking options Rodgers has at his disposal. Much has been made of the loan departure of Andy Carroll to West Ham coupled with the frustration of not signing Clint Dempsey on transfer deadline day, and this double blow seems even more lamentable now that Fabio Borini is facing a lengthy lay off. All this has left Luis Suarez as Liverpool’s solitary recognised striker.
Now, whilst there is no doubting the natural ability Suarez has, he simply can’t do it all alone, and Liverpool have been heavily, if not overly, reliant on him this season. It would be a daunting prospect were he to pick up an injury or suspension between now and January.
The Uruguayan has scored eight of Liverpool’s fourteen Premier League goals thus far, a percentage that is only bettered in the Premier League by Steven Fletcher at Sunderland. Rodgers knows that he has now has no alternative options other than to wait until January before bolstering his depleted attack. In truth, January can’t come soon enough for Rodgers, who will be hoping that he is backed in a similar manner to his predecessor Kenny Dalglish when it comes to the club’s finances.
In many respects, Rodgers is still trying to clear up the mess that Dalglish left behind, and this is another reason for Liverpool’s slow progress. Players such as Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have simply not come remotely close to justifying their extortionate price tags, and neither are of the required quality Liverpool need in order to succeed. Whilst acknowledging that Dalglish guided Liverpool to success in the League Cup last season, his transfer dealings during his tenure can at best be described as questionable, and Rodgers may use January as a period of offloading as well as buying, indicating another busy winter ahead.
It is far from total doom and gloom at Anfield, however. With plenty of youngsters, such as Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom, beginning to break into the first team, Liverpool have a new generation of players coming through that gives the supporters that much needed hope for the future, and it it the future that Liverpool need to have in mind at present.
Any new manager deserves time to adopt to his new surroundings and implement his own philosophy. Rodgers’ makes little secret of the way he believes football should be played and what he is trying to achieve at Anfield. Keeping the ball on the deck and slick passing and movement is what Rodgers is trying to instil into his new squad, and this will take time for the current personnel, as well as any new arrivals, to familiarise themselves with this style of play.
With all this in mind, this season is something of a transitional season at Anfield, and as such not too much should be expected too soon.
Admittedly, 13th in the Premier League and a failed defence of their League Cup trophy isn’t what Rodgers, or anyone associated with Liverpool football club had in mind, but Rodgers is in this for the long haul and he needs the full backing of everyone at Anfield. In the short term, things may look bleak for Liverpool, a lowest Premier League finish is awaiting, but in the long term, things look far more rosy if Rodgers is given the time and backing he deserves.