LIKE every supporter I was left totally deflated by Liverpool’s poor performance at West Brom last Saturday. I had high hopes and, perhaps naively, was convinced the pre-season performances were real evidence of the good things to come and that the tiki-taka style of football would flow naturally and demonstrate to the rest of the Premier League that Liverpool were on their way back to the top with a slick passing style of football that would surely secure a first and impressive win of the season.
90 minutes later, plus injury time, I was in a state of depression and déjà-vu. We’d lost a game in a fashion so reminiscent of last season. It’s a game I expected we’d win but Liverpool looked out of sorts, uncomfortable and once again failed to turn possession into goals, a trait they have to overcome if they have any chance of making a serious attempt at a top four place.
So what went wrong? Did some players, just like some supporters, believe the early hype that our new possession and passing approach would become an instant success and as a result not focus fully on the tough reality of battling life in the Premiership? Did we really think that adopting this totally different approach was going to produce dividends immediately? As we now know, the fact is it didn’t and in a manner that was a slap in the face for all of us. But we were warned. Rodgers told us on many occasions during his short reign and the pre-season that it would take time for the players to get used to the new system and that it would take time for it reap the rewards we were all hoping for. Perhaps we didn’t want to listen.
Even though the pre-season had many positives the reality is the top first-team players, many of whom were on international duty due to the Euros, were not involved in the pre-season and hadn’t had a lot of game time experience to have us think is would automatically click. The fact is the majority of the pre-season games were a run out for the reserve-team players or fringe first team players like Aquilani and Cole, especially during the tour of the USA.
The other key factor to Liverpool’s poor first showing was the quality of the players themselves. The question is does the squad consist of the right players to pull off the tiki-taka approach, do it justice and win us games? Certainly Rodgers has stated that he believes the squad needs strengthening and will continue to work up until the close of the transfer window to bring in players he believes can fulfil his vision. So the answer is no, we don’t yet have the right players. During the West Brom game players like Downing and Borini had little or no impact on the game but of course Agger’s sending off did us no favours at all. Still Liverpool managed to achieve 57% possession, which in itself is a positive but not when you consider Liverpool, as usual, had no goals to show for it.
But it’s only one game. It is totally unrealistic to think tiki-taka will be an instant success, it won’t. So the question is, is it the right approach? I think it is. I have faith in Rodgers and I’m optimistic that we will gradually begin to see it becoming more and more successful. Rodgers was heavily criticized for saying we’ll see more days like the one last Saturday but it actually makes sense given the changes to the squad as well. Mind you I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit of instant success on Sunday. Now that would give rise to more optimism.
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