This time last year my thoughts on Dalglish’s time at the club as he celebrated a year in the job, were somewhat reserved. Looking back and reading that article now, it might appear to some to be a rather optimistic perspective, after all, this is the same piece that suggested we could still finish in the top 6. Indeed it went as far as to say anything less would not be progress.
When the 2011-12 season finished I gave a three part look at the Liverpool Problem, the third part of which suggested that Liverpool could realistically look to improve on the abject 8th place finish and possibly look to break into the top 6. I even stuck my neck out to put Liverpool as 6th in my PL predictions.
Now as we start 2013 Liverpool currently are 5 points away from 6th place.
It is strange being a Liverpool fan at the moment. It certainly does not make sense to clamour for Rodgers head as yet. The guy has only just begun and the managerial merry-go-round at Anfield in the last 3 years would make another sacking all the more unsettling, I would imagine most Liverpool fans would be still looking to give Rodgers time.
Unlike the Hodgson stint, there has been seeds of promise in the Rodgers reign so far. Raheem Sterling’s emergence as a first team regular and potential game changer has certainly been encouraging. The number of young players who have been on the fringes in the Hodgson/Dalglish days but are now more prominent in the scheme of things have as a whole not let Liverpool down with their effort. There has even been some noticeably decent contributions from maligned Dalglish signings like Downing and Henderson.
These are not enough, however, to hide the fact that Liverpool’s position in the league is not good enough, even accounting for the changes in style and philosophy. Some performances and expectations from the senior players like Gerrard and the central defensive duo has been lacking. Some of the elementary mistakes that have been made to let the opposition score has been maddening. The home form has not improved since last season, which is a concern seeing as though a number of those matches were winnable, and the performances we gave against some of the bigger side, gave reason to believe we could and should have won the other matches. Not to have done so is disappointing.
As I mentioned, it is odd to be a Liverpool fan at the moment. The reality is, Liverpool has some quality Premier League players – Reina, Enrique, Johnson, Agger, Skrtel, Gerrard, Lucas and Suarez as well as the burgeoning likes of Allen and Sterling. You look at those players and compare them to those at West Brom and Stoke, and it is still baffling that those clubs are above us in the table.
It is also true, however, that the state of the PL is such that with more consistency in performance and result that 5 point gap could be reduced and overtaken. For all the frustration of the Rodgers reign, there is enough to believe there is hope for Liverpool to still finish well this season – by which I refer to that top 6 finish.
Some have pointed to the lack of strikers at the club, which is an issue, but is odd considering Liverpool have scored the 3rd most goals away from home this season so far. There are critics who have suggested our Summer transfer activity wasn’t good enough and the fact that we’re relying on so may young players is proof of that. The answer however is not about splurging cash out to try and bring in players.
It’s all well and good thinking that because they have PL experience they can do a job at Liverpool, but it is not always the case. It highlights how careful you have to be in the transfer window, the Dalglish signings are evidence of that. Identifying the right fit to make an immediate impact at a club that is not in the running for a top 4 finish becomes that much harder a challenge. And January in any case has never been the best time to truly bring in the crucial key players that can make all the difference.
If the club can bring in two or three players who can assist in squad development and offer variety for first team and squad places, then that has got to be a positive thing. The issue, however, is more about making the most of who we already have. I appreciate Rodgers is installing his philosophy into the club, yet it is still about being pragmatic enough at the right times, to allow the changes that can win games or salvage points. More than that, as ever in games of football, it is about all 11 players on the pitch making the most of their undoubted ability to gel together and be defensively resolute as well as clinical in scoring goals and not relying on Suarez to carry the load.
I reckon it’s my stance in life to be optimistic, even if it has been misplaced in recent years. Yet I have to remain hopeful that Liverpool can indeed bring in the few players who can make that crucial contribution and the players can settle down to putting in consistently good performances from now to the end of the season. I’m not bothered about domestic trophies this season. Still being in the Europa League is good experience, but is not a priority to me as a Liverpool fan at all.
This season I want Liverpool to finish higher than 8th. Despite at times appearing brittle and inflexible at times, I believe there is enough quality at the club to make that a reality.