“Results over style” is what is being murmured at Anfield by the likes of creative midfielder Adam Lallana, and you do indeed get the sense that it is now results that are of more importance to Reds boss Brendan Rodgers, who for too long has focused on style over substance.
The signing of Christian Benteke from Aston Villa was a big indicator that the Northern Irishman was ready to change his ways, and their win over Stoke was another sign that there is a real change in style happening at Liverpool.
That is not to say that the Reds will now be a long ball team, but it looks as though that Rodgers realises that results are key for him in this crunch period. He needs points and needs them on the board early, otherwise he will come under intense pressure from the Liverpool board.
When Liverpool lost the title at home to Chelsea in May 2014, the sight of hopeful crosses into the box from deep were every bit as painful as Steven Gerrard’s painful slip that day. Gerrard acknowledged that the Reds were too desperate to score; their inexperience cost them as they “lost their way” and went too “gung ho.”
In particular. he pointed out the Reds went into the game with the “same tactics” that served them so well in their eleven game winning run and when it failed, they did not know what else to do. They panicked.
A lot has changed since that fateful day. The signing of Benteke could be the most significant change in that time, and judging by his debut against Stoke, the big 6ft 4in striker might well have a major impact on Liverpool’s approach play.
The clear clue lies with goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who hit more successful passes into the final third of the pitch at Stoke than in any away game last season.
While it wasn’t exactly hit and hope football that was being played, there was a bigger balance to the Reds’ play. There was more opportunity to mix it up. And it is no coincidence that Rodgers’ men put in the third most amount of crosses in on the opening weekend of Premier League football.
Rodgers even acknowledged that Benteke’s aerial threat opens his side up to new opportunities. He said: “I thought Christian was outstanding.
“He showed all the elements of his game today: his touch, hold-up play, movement in behind. He always really occupies a back four, on his own at times, and it is important to have that ability to be unpredictable.”
The key word there is “unpredictable”, which is something that, under Rodgers’ Liverpool, simply have not been at all in his time at Anfield, and who have always tried to play like Barcelona rather than mix it up. However, Liverpool don’t have Lionel Messi or the likes of Iniesta and Neymar, they can’t try to play like Barcelona all of the time and, if that is all that they try to do, they become far too predictable to play against. That’s why variation in style with Benteke will be crucial this season.
Finally, the fact that players are coming out and saying results are more important now shows Rodgers has got his message across, and now with Benteke on board the Reds look far less predictable; that could well be to their advantage this season.