After their excellent few months at the end of last season, Liverpool fans could be forgiven for feeling overly optimistic about the new season. Liverpool haven’t made a terrible start to this season, although they are yet to begin playing with the same spark and dynamism that characterised Dalglish’s first few months in the managerial hot seat. Despite the fact that they have yet to find their best form, they have picked up a steady stream of points. This ability to ‘win ugly’ is the hallmark of the great sides and it is something that Liverpool haven’t shown for a while.
Over the last decade or so Liverpool have rarely shown this ability to win ugly. The only season they perhaps did show it in abundance was 2008-2009, under Rafael Benitez, when they pushed Manchester United close for the title. Over the course of the campaign they showed an amazing fighting quality, with late goals and comebacks galore, and it is this character and spirit that is the mark of champions and contenders, which was reflected in their high league position at the end of that season. Since then Liverpool have struggled with playing below par and picking up points. Although they suffered a heavy defeat to Tottenham when playing poorly, they have picked up points so far this season against the likes of Everton, Arsenal and Wolves when they haven’t really looked at their best.
Picking up points when you aren’t playing well is certainly a positive sign for the reds, as at this time of the season results are far more important than the performance. There is plenty of time for the squad to gel, and to regain the fluidity of last season and that will surely come with more games. The fact that they had so many new signings to bed in, has obviously had an impact over the performances of the team, but it is a good sign that they have picked up points despite this. At this early stage of the season grinding out results is a necessity, and it seems that Liverpool are starting to do this.
Winning ugly is the key that sets apart the champions and the rest. Manchester United and Chelsea have shown that it is a vital quality for success over the years, and it has characterised United throughout Sir Alex’s two decades in charge of the club. United’s game against Norwich last weekend epitomized this. They were nowhere near their best for large stretches of the game, and it looked like it would end as a draw, but they came up with the goods and took all three points away. A lot of their performances last season were less than inspiring, yet they still managed to gain points from games when they weren’t at their best, which is a true sign of champions. The ability to grind out results, come from behind, and come up with late winners, is a mentality that simply cannot be bought, and it is something that the Liverpool players are starting to develop, and will need to master if they are to progress further under Dalglish.
On too many occasions over recent seasons, Liverpool have played well and failed to get rewards, so for them to be winning, or at least picking up points when they aren’t at their best is a promising sign. There is plenty of room for improvement, and it is an encouraging start for the reds, as they can only get better. They are still tweaking their side, and finding what works best, in terms of personnel and formation, so keeping the points ticking over during this period is a positive sign. Ultimately, a win is a win, and if Liverpool manage to do it the ugly way, then that certainly bodes well for them for the rest of the season ahead and for the future.
Do you think Liverpool are starting to get the hang of winning ugly? Let me know your thoughts below or follow me on Twitter @LaurenRutter for more comment and debate.