It would be naïve to suggest Brendan Rodgers should be sailing clear, steady and with purpose now that all of the big teams barring Chelsea are out of the way. It would be as naïve as stating that Rodgers would be fired following a couple of games at the start of the season. Sadly, that one has already popped up so I shouldn’t be too surprised with any future suggestion that life at Anfield will be easy from now on.
Maybe the fixtures dictate how well a team does rather than their own internal problems. Does the approaching game against Reading on the weekend negate the consistent troubles Liverpool have had in front of goal? That fact that Reading are a newly-promoted side shouldn’t raise any concern that Pepe Reina might have another damaging and forgettable moment, right?
But it’s not clear sailing and it never will be in the Premier League. It shouldn’t matter what your next set of fixtures say, even if all your other big rivals are battling on the premier fronts of European football as well as in the league. Isn’t there a Liverpool derby coming up soon?
To suggest that Brendan Rodgers now has no excuse would greatly belittle the other teams in the league, the teams who have done well for stages of this season and who do pose a very real threat to Liverpool over the course of 90-minutes. It would be unwise to go down the route of implying that Liverpool are hopeless and unable to string together two consecutive winning games, either. How close were they to beating Manchester City? They put up a great fight against Manchester United, too. But we shouldn’t forget that Rodgers is still new at Anfield, and even with a collection of good players, winning streaks don’t naturally fall into place.
The fact is, Liverpool don’t have the depth an attack to put games to bed early and move on in mind to their next fixture. Fabio Borini will be out injured for a number of months, taking us nicely to the January transfer window, while Luis Suarez needs to find a way to imagine that every stadium in England is Carrow Road.
But there’s also that issue of cup competitions. It’s a fine balancing act to do well in the three cup competitions (Europe and domestic)—whatever your definition of “well” is—and still finish in a respectable position in the league. It’s not just the squad because, as mentioned, Liverpool have regularly shot themselves in the foot this season through individual error. Rodgers needs to wipe those mistakes out of his players, but it’s also foolish to assume a pre-game speech of courage and necessity to fight to the death will bring about faultless performances each week.
And what about that whole story of Rodgers not being very good or not up to the task of managing Liverpool and changing their fortunes? If he was worthy of such criticism in August and up until this point, why the sudden change of heart and expectancy that he should grab maximum points over the next few months?
There’s no point fancily dancing round the issue here: the manager has been left with a number of players who are just not good enough. They’re neither good enough to form a strong charge with their own strengths nor good enough to play out the manager’s footballing ideals. It’s still a case of finding what works best.
There’s always talk of teams needing to build on what they had last season. Roberto Mancini wanted to strengthen his title-winning side and launch an attack on the Champions League, Arsenal needed an improvement on last season and Manchester United also had and continue to have obvious holes in their squad. But doesn’t this assumption that Rodgers will start a winning streak now miss the point of other squads and their strength in depth over Liverpool?
It’s not Rodgers’ fault that Liverpool aren’t properly prepared, but he certainly wants to right the ship when the opportunity arises in January. The strength of the Premier League simply doesn’t allow for teams to say they’re going to storm through the next two or three months and grab as many points as possible. There’s no way to prepare for injuries, and the premise completely flies in the face of the unpredictable tag the Premier League always carries.