Some football fans let the game affect their moods. Their team wins, they are happy. Their team loses, they are sad.
That is straightforward. Back in the day my entire temperament for the day was set by the fortunes of my team. As you know, my team is Liverpool. Thankfully for me, other things have got in the way so that I cannot afford to let the fortunes of the team to affect my mood. Just as well really, because if I did, I am fairly certain I would be an absolute misery.
What a contrast to the first few months of 2014. The ecstasy and delight at seeing the team exceed all expectations and legitimately challenge for the title. There was disappointment that the title was not won, but the effort and excitement was highly commendable.
What on earth happened?
Football is full of opinions, I love reading them and I love my ability to come up with one myself. You may recall that on the occasions I’ve written about Arsenal, I have not held back in stating categorically that Wenger has to take responsibility for the failure of Arsenal to be challengers for the title. As far as Liverpool is concerned there are so many factors that could be referred to, but the buck stops with Brendan Rodgers.
Rodgers was chiefly responsible for the challenge last season. Suarez and Sturridge scored the goals, but that’s as much about selection and motivation as anything else. Rodgers was also very astute with tactical adjustments and also instilling confidence in the players. Sterling and Henderson certainly grew as players. We were not great defensively, but we didn’t need to be, because we were brilliant in attack.
Some have criticised the signings over the summer. I actually don’t have that much of a problem with them at all. A lot of them were brought with potential in mind. Others have not had consistent chances to impress. The big issue has been Balotelli, but this again is where Rodgers must take responsibility. I am not fussed at all about who bought him, I am fussed about how he’s played and what’s expected of him. That hasn’t gone well, primarily because of the wrong things expected of him. That is the manager’s responsibility.
Performances and results this season have simply not been good enough. There is not a player who can say they have had a good season so far. There is hardly a performance that we can look at and say we’re really satisfied about. There is little in the way of excuse we can make for those elements, because the players are good enough to do a lot better.
Yet talk about sacking Rodgers is short-sighted … at the moment. This season was always going to be tough in the light of exceeding expectations and managing a completely different situation to any he’s managed previously. His decisions so far have not done him any favours, but it would be foolish to sack him now. His position should be reviewed at the end of the season. That gives him ample time to show improvements that he showed in his first season at the club.
If that happens and Liverpool compete for the top four places as well as making good progress in at least the League Cup and the Europa League, there’s every reason to believe he may live to manage another day at Anfield. That’s the beauty of the situation. It’s not half-way through the season yet. There’s a fair amount of football to be played, there are points to pick up, there are reputations to be established.
To do so however, there has to be a clear change in the current approach. The defensive side of our play really must be addressed. This is not just an issue of signing a player or two. This is about applying measures that allows the defensive approach to be a lot more solid.
Likewise there has to be a wiser use of the creative and attacking elements of the play. Sure we miss the goals of Sturridge and Suarez, but it is not as if there is no one left capable of scoring goals. There also has to be more chances created. What marked last season was an approach that created lots of chances hence the goals scored. If lots of chances were created but not being converted, there would be justification in bleating on about a striker. The issue is our attacking play and creativity leaves much to be desired.
As I mentioned at the start, if my temperament was measured by the performance and results of Liverpool I would be a man most miserable. Yet there is still room for hope. There’s still room for a glimmer of belief that perhaps – just perhaps – we can make the most of the time remaining in the season to turn things around.
C. L. J. Dryden