What a disappointment. Two weeks ago, we reveled in the glory of reminding Spurs who’s their daddy with a boss display at White Hart Lane. It was a magnificent performance capped off by the goal-of-the-month from Alberto Moreno, who looks like he could be our starting left back for the next decade. It should’ve been a fantastic springboard to an extremely important part of the Liverpool season. The only problem was those dreaded two words that wedged themselves in front of that springboard. No, the words I am referring to aren’t “Roy Hodgson” (although that may be somewhat appropriate given the circumstances). I am talking about the words “international break,” which couldn’t have come at a worse time for Liverpool.
In the last two weeks, a fair number of players went off to join their respective national teams for international duty. I’ll never be one to bitch about players getting injured on these breaks, as had happened to a number of Liverpool stars this past week. Yet many fans do. I appreciate the fact that so many Liverpool players are asked to represent their countries. But you can’t have it both ways. You can’t comment that Coutinho deserved to be on the Brazilian squad in last summer’s World Cup and then curse the Germans when Emre Can hurts an ankle in their 8-0 win on the U-21 squad. What really annoys me more than anything is the timing of this particular break. Three games into the start of a long season, and the team disbands for two weeks. Liverpool spent the entire offseason introducing seven new players to the squad, and they still need time to gel. Forget the injuries to Sturridge, Can and Allen. It was more of a detriment that most of the squad was called away to begin with. And when they returned they had only a few days to prepare for an Aston Villa squad that has had most of its core training together for the past two weeks. Meanwhile Brendan Rodgers has to figure out how to manage the fact he has seven games in the next 22 days where the Liverpool faithful expect… make that DEMAND to win them all. Adding depth to the squad was crucial for Rodgers. Losing some of that depth to injury was inevitable. The manner in which some of those injuries occurred is unforgivable. But let’s remain positive, shall we?
No one said it would be easy. We all knew that the season would be a roller-coaster ride. If I wanted “easy” then I’d limit myself to being a Celtic fan and watch them dominate the Scottish Premier League. If you are like me, then Saturday’s loss bothered you for the rest of the day. It left me concerned. Before the season started I predicted that Liverpool could compensate for the loss of Luis Suarez and his 31 goals by shoring up their defense. So far I am not seeing it. Neither is Brendan Rodgers. But I’m also concerned that this team has yet figured out the most effective way to move a parked bus. Last spring we all watched Chelsea thwart all Liverpool fluidity on the attack with no other tactic than to overfill their defensive third. Once they got the lead, it made this tactic look like brilliance. All it really did was expose a simple weakness in the Liverpool attack. Without open space in transition, they look lost. They push the ball out wide and hit a hopeful desperate cross. Or they pass the ball around the 18-yard box aimlessly until Coutinho tries to show the world that he is as good as Ronaldinho or Zico with a long-range blast that either misses the target or is easily saved. It’s maddening. I used to get angered when I saw the team pass the ball around the defense sometimes all the way back to the keeper. I understand now that they do this in hopes of drawing the defense out and open the field. It’s a struggle and frustrates me to watch. Liverpool needs to figure it out, because the blueprint has been published and made available for all to see. But let’s remain positive, shall we?
“Keep working on that 25-yard shot, son…”
The goal has always been to advance in Champions League play while maintaining a spot in the top 4. It’s one thing to drop points at home against a team like Aston Villa, but at the end of the season one would not expect Villa to be competing with us for a spot in Europe. This loss is not the end of the world, much like our 1-0 home loss to Southampton last September didn’t ruin last season. Rodgers has assembled a squad of new talent that simply needs more time to figure it out. Unfortunately time is one luxury we just don’t have a lot of. I almost hate to say it, but I think I’d label tomorrow’s game against Ludogorets a “must-win” game. Anything less than three points at home against the Bulgarian team makes advancement to the Champions League knockout stage a tricky proposition. But let’s remain positive, shall we?
Even if Ludogorets try to park the bus tomorrow, on paper they just don’t have the talent to pull it off like Aston Villa or Chelsea did. And then there’s the all-important 12th man, who’s been eagerly awaiting a half-decade for tomorrow to come. There’s going to be about 45,000 nervously excited supporters at Anfield tomorrow, and millions more watching on television. I don’t care how they do it, just as long as Liverpool gets three points tomorrow. I can’t wait to watch it unfold. It’s not going to be easy, but it will be fun. It will be electric. It will be exciting. If you want easy, then wait until Sunday when Celtic hosts Motherwell in the SPL. Me, on the other hand, I will nervously wait in anticipation. I choose to remain positive. You should too. Come on the Reds!!!