by Liam McConville
A game against the league leaders is as good as any to assess how a side is developing and yesterday for Liverpool was yet another moment where they flattered to deceive. Liverpool lost despite dominating large periods of the second half, giving their supporters both encouragement and frustration in equal measure. The last half hour of the game was almost all Liverpool, United didn’t so much go into their shell, but build a nuclear bunker and hope they’d hold on. Of course they did and showed the resilience and ruthlessness that Brendan Rodgers’ side must strive for, qualities that for the moment are sadly lacking.
Liverpool has fallen into that most hated of modern terms, the ‘transitional season.’ For all the possession and dominant play that is spoken of, the simple fact is they aren’t winning enough games. Liverpool are yet to beat a side above them in the table, there have been occasional moments where they have been on top against the Premier League’s elite, however chances have been squandered, the inability to grind out wins has meant that Liverpool have been nothing more than a mid-table side this term.
The Reds have become a bit like Tim Henman, teasing you into thinking they could pull off a major result before falling close to the final hurdle. Maybe it’s inexperience or just maybe this team isn’t good enough, the next few months may well provide us with the answers, it’s not quite sink or swim time yet, but it’s clear that Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers is very much at a crossroads.
Luis Suarez has often seemed like he is carrying the side, he is the one genuinely world-class player left at Anfield. Youngsters such as Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom have made a breakthrough, while Steven Gerrard has been ever-present this campaign. Daniel Sturridge is a good addition to the team, and has made a great start to his Liverpool career. However there have been failures too, the mystifying case of Nuri Sahin is somewhat of a black spot against Rodgers. The Bundesliga player of the year for 2011 was much sought after, and the Reds clearly fought hard to get him. However he didn’t get many opportunities to shine and has now headed back to Borussia Dortmund.
Rodgers has often not helped himself throughout this season. Managing expectations was always going to be important; the Irishman has been afforded a lot more time than Roy Hodgson was given, many have accepted that there is a long way to go before Liverpool will be back competing for the major trophies. So it was very odd when the former Swansea boss spoke of Liverpool reaching the top two this season. While it’s great to be ambitious, statements like this are clearly absurd.
His bizarre appearances on Being: Liverpool further invited ridicule, the business style language he has frequently used making him appear more like a contestant on The Apprentice. He has deflected the flak aimed at his star striker, but surely he knows that talk is cheap, ultimately results will have to improve soon for his project to be a success.
Maybe Liverpool just needs one major win, a big victory that would work as a catalyst for future successes. Rodgers deserves time, but equally the squad at his disposal should not be below West Brom in the table. The final thirty minutes showed that Liverpool are knocking on the door of the big boys. What remains to be seen, is whether they smash through this threshold, or whether they merely take a vertical pass and continue to linger in mid-table obscurity.