LAST week I wrote a piece about the legitimacy of wild optimism just before the start of the season. I still think that was legitimate, but equally one has to be prepared for the odd banana-skin in the early stages.
Brendan Rodgers promised us a new emphasis on ball-retention and an effective passing game. And so we started the season away to a team whom we had trouble with last year.
It was a triumph. In the first half we had 88% pass completion, more than we ever got last season. Our other ex-Swansea man, Joe Allen, was at the centre of it all, distributing accurate passes like a clockwork mouse.
As for possession, we notched up 57%, away from home. Wonderful stuff, and the shape of things to some. Only trouble was, somewhere along the line we lost 3-0.
Now that last paragraph wasn’t meant cynically.
Brendan did what it said on the tin with his tight passing game and his ball-retention. It wasn’t just a bugger’s muddle, and until Zoltan Gera scored one of those goals that one usually only sees from Stevie Gerrard, we were giving a good account of ourselves. In the second half it all went to ratshit, but there’s only so much a manager can do at half-time, and not much at all once the second half is under way. His only real boo-boo was sending Joe Cole on when he wasn’t anywhere near fit, and then having to take the poor sod off again. And neither Downing nor Borini gave us very much from the wings. Oh for Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez, virtually everyone will have been thinking.
All I can say is: yes, it would have been nice if Brendan had demonstrated the ability to walk on water, but he’s got to swim against the tide like everybody else. He may end up as St. Brendan of Anfield – I hope he does – but he’s going to have to do his time in Purgatory, turning around a disappointing team and filtering out the faces that don’t fit. I can’t say it’s a good omen for Man City’s visit to Anfield, but we always have performed fairly well against the best teams. Let’s hope Brendan hasn’t turned that round.
The real shocker was the central defence. It didn’t look good for Brendan to be taking pot-shots at referees’ decisions after the match – yes, Agger’s foul wasn’t much of a foul and Long went down rather easily, but it was a foul in the box and a straight goalscoring chance – and what the hell Martin Skrtel thought he was doing a few minutes later we’ll never know. Jamie Carragher’s legs might be going a bit, but he knew how to organise a defence. It wasn’t that long ago when the Liverpool back four was like a Berlin Wall. That’s one thing Brendan is going to have to get straight pretty quickly.
And, as regards managers, Saturday was a day of bitter ironies. Couldn’t we have kept Steve Clarke on the inside pissing out? The Liverpool team of the 70’s worked on the basis of continuity. Steve was a bootroom man, and should have been working with us rather than against us. And I don’t suppose Brendan’s likely to go public with his views on Swansea’s 5-0 win under Michael Laudrup.
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