Brendan Rodgers has done extremely well to dampen the crowd. After Liverpool’s 5-1 win against Arsenal, Rodgers was pushed to admit that he considered his side to be back in the Premier League title race.
Rodgers, though, has chosen to remain composed and unwilling to share in the short-termism. It was quite interesting that even after dismantling Arsenal in the fashion Liverpool had done, Rodgers still pointed to their strength and options on the bench in comparison to his own. Even after such a win, which no doubt sent waves across the Premier League, Rodgers is still mindful of the points dropped prior to Saturday’s meeting with now second-placed Arsenal.
Such has been the way that the Premier League has shifted course for the entire season, it’s still impossible to call who will win the title, who will finish in the top four and possibly who will get relegated. That fact isn’t lost on Rodgers, even though the reaction was to say Liverpool, in fourth, are title contenders and Arsenal, second and five points ahead, are out.
Liverpool have been sensational against both north London clubs in recent weeks. They took the game to Manchester City and should have got a result at the Etihad were it not for an unbelievably poor call from the linesman. But under Rodgers this season, Liverpool have taken a huge leap away from where they were last season and prior to Rodgers’ appointment as manager.
No one in this league is invincible. We’ve seen that with Manchester City’s defeats both away earlier in the season and recently to Chelsea at home. It means that even the best, or those who are claimed to be, can suffer setbacks.
But there’s something bullish in the way Rodgers has operated this season, a stubbornness not to fall away when most would have advised on taking the easy way out on a number of fronts.
Look to the development of Daniel Sturridge, a player who still carries many of the flaws people have criticised him for in recent years, but one who shouldered the responsibility of leading the Liverpool attack in the absence of Luis Suarez at the start of the season, doing so without any hint that the pressure was weighing him down.
Or what about Raheem Sterling, who seemed to blend in with the background at Anfield last season, such was his lack of ability to contribute anything meaningful, only to be named as the best winger in the Premier League a year on by his manager, and well within right to claim a place in England’s World Cup squad.
It falls to Rodgers, as even without the depth to challenge those just above Liverpool in the league, he’s made the most of what he has and brought out the very best in those who can legitimately cause damage to the opposition.
Sterling’s pace, when used properly, is devastating. He scored twice against Arsenal, with Coutinho and Suarez as creators sitting slightly deeper or off centre making the most of his greatest asset. Against City at the Etihad, he did the same, terrorizing a team who had known genuine fear only once this season, when hosting Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
And once again you’ve got to admire the humility of Rodgers to stay grounded and ensure his side continues to work as effectively until the final whistle goes to close this season. They’re ahead of schedule in holding a squad, not just an eleven, to challenge for the title, likely to finish in the top four and now with Suarez bolted down to a long-term contract that more than covers their back in the future; another fantastic achievement considering the events of the summer.
There’s no need to jump the gun in claiming Liverpool to be serious contenders this season. Rodgers smartly said the aim was to finish as high as possible, without putting a label on it.
But in isolation and in their own context, Rodgers has done a colossal job in turning around Liverpool’s fortunes and putting them on a swift path to the top.