As we come to the end of 2014; it is unavoidable to say that the majority of Liverpool football fans wouldn’t ever have expected to be finishing the year still in search of our 19th league title.
Struggling in 8th place in the subsequent Premier League campaign. Especially given where we were 12 months ago.
Football is a harsh task master however and it is how you recover from these setbacks that ultimately sets you apart from others.
A good start to the year
Last night’s 4-1 win against Swansea was an ideal tonic to take us in to 2015. We have a good run of games on paper, and two games in sees us with 6 points out of 6.
Next we look forward to welcoming Leicester to Anfield. An ideal opportunity to build momentum to try and retain our top four status.
A month ago; I’d probably have said Liverpool football club had no chance of making the top four. However we now find ourselves five points off the 4th spot, by no means an insurmountable target.
A new source if optimism
The dwindling points difference is by no means the source of optimism for trying to gate crash the top four. It is a factor of course, but the means of there is another source of positivity.
Brendan Rodgers seems to have found the formula to make Liverpool football club threatening again. The formula that sees us pressing high up the pitch looking much more like the LFC of last season.
The right man for the job
When our season seemed to be imploding and the manager was taking some quite astounding criticism; I however, remained firm in my point of view. I said he was still the right man for the job and that his task was quite clear. He needed to go back to basics.
Trying to make the formation and system we used last season work in this one was clearly the wrong move.
It was no longer fit for purpose.
Why? Because it was geared around getting the best out of players either no longer at the club or those unavailable to play.
The task was to find a plan ‘b’. A new formation that allowed him to get all his best players in the same 11 that would get the best out of them.
Step forward the 3-4-3.
I have to say; on paper it isn’t a formation that I ever thought I would like. It’s a formation that at the back certainly leaves space for exploitation. Brendan however, has utilised it and the selected the right personnel to carry it out.
This formation allows Rodgers to play all the best players in the team at once together at optimum performance.
Previously players like Lallana and Coutinho were being rotated far too often. They couldn’t be accommodated in the old system. Coutinho’s case in particular, whose form, for a player of unquestionable ability was inconsistent to put it mildly.
With Sturridge injured, Borini seemingly out of favour and Mario Balloteli being, well; Mario Balloteli, the threat up front was pretty non-existent. This for a team who last year outscored every other.
It was no surprise therefore that when the 3-4-3 was deployed, eyebrows were raised. Three front players, none of whom were out and out strikers playing for a team that had been struggling to score goals all season.
It has however worked. Gary Neville said on MNF last night that Liverpool football club have got their threat back.
As a fan, it certainly feels that way. Dare I say it feels like we are exciting to watch again.
Credit to Brendan Rodgers
In the face of mounting pressure; Rodgers sat down with his staff and went about finding a new system to take us forward. A system that gives us our attacking threat back and addresses defensive frailties. Bringing the best out of our available players.
The boy genius returns
I said at the end of last season that Coutinho could and would fill attacking voids left by the departure of players in the Summer. The boy is a genius on his day, a little magician who can run games. Sadly his form this season has been far too inconsistent.
By deploying him ‘upfront’ he has the freedom to go anywhere he likes on the pitch. No longer shackled by defensive duties that come with being part of a midfield three. He has revelled as a result, and his performances have been much more consistent. Getting amongst the goals and contributing numerous assists, culminating in a fantastic performance against Swansea last night.
A spot on purchase prediction
Another star from last nights game Adam Lallana. Now coming forward into a more central role. His two goals last night, although both polar opposites; were typical of the player. The first, sheer dogged determination reaping dividends. The second, an example of the exquisite ability, balance and composure he has on the ball.
Carra spoke on MNF about his ability and two footedness being reminiscent of a continental player. An educated point to make.
Last season when I was asked who we should buy Lallana was the first name on my list. He hasn’t disappointed and will only get better.
Our new front three…and Leiva
The front three of Sterling, Coutinho and Lallana are all willing to close down and press. A key factor for the style of play that Rodgers likes and of our success last year. A value that was absent from our play earlier in the year when the likes of Balloteli was starting. Now present once again and vital that the pressing starts from the front before spreading to the rest of the team.
A mention should also go to Lucas Leiva who was fast becoming a forgotten man. His restoration to the first team fold has coincided with our upturn in form. Leiva has brought a solidness we were missing and has also been a key advocate of the pressing style.
Football is fickle
For me, it goes to show that sticking by the manager was the right option. Don’t get me wrong; top 4 is by no means guaranteed. A few decent results means nothing.
The next couple of months will be telling but I think Rodgers has answered some of his critics. Taking things back to basics and implementing a system that, for the time being, seems to have given us our threat and stability back.
Football is a fickle game, last season Rodgers was untouchable. The minute it starts to go wrong, some fans default to asking for the managers head without giving them the chance to put it right.
Look at West Brom. They sacked Irvine last night in the face of poor results but what do they expect?
Gary Neville hit the nail on the head last night. Somewhere between 14th-17th is where they are gong to be expected to finish. There is still half a season left to play so why not give him the chance to get them there rather than shooting from the hip at the midway point.
Steadying the ship
For me it was the same for Rodgers. He had earned his right to be given time to put it right. Fingers crossed he has started to do that. Sacking him and staring again would achieve little.
He is a good young manager and we should get behind him as he seeks to steady the ship. All in the wake of a fairly traumatic end to last season and the subsequent Summer exodus of the Liverpool football clubs best player.