Some definitely did, but while the performance and result against Villa was massively disappointing to say the least, it doesn’t mean that all the good work that went before has been for nothing.
As we approach the halfway point of the season and with Anfield having witnessed its last ninety minutes of action of 2012, I thought it only fitting to try and assess where we are as a football club and what the New Year may have in store.
After a very poor start to the season, which saw us go five games without a win and pick up only two points from a possible fifteen, the Reds had been beginning to gather a bit of steam under Rodgers. After losing out harshly at home to those I don’t like to mention in a match that will forever be remembered for Halsey’s shamelessly one sided refereeing display, we went to Carrow Road and thumped five past Norwich. That victory began a sequence of results which saw us go the next eight games unbeaten and lose just once in the following eleven.
The reason the Villa defeat hit many of us so hard was not just the manner in which it was inflicted, neither was it restricted to the seeming inevitability of the game unfolding as it did having failed to score in the opening twenty minutes, but also and I think most crucially the fact that it came at a point when we were really beginning to believe that we were on the up. For my money though, as crushing as the defeat seemed at the time, one defeat doesn’t break a season and there are still many reasons to remain positive about the season ahead.
The news that Raheem Sterling has put pen to paper on a new long-term contract with the Reds comes as an early Christmas present as Brendan Rodgers’s men prepared for the home clash with Fulham. The deal is further evidence of the club’s desire to hold on to its most prized assets in the face of interest from other big clubs. Sterling joins Shelvey, Suso, Agger, Skrtel, Lucas and Suarez wo have all committed their futures to the club in recent times, ensuring that the Reds will have solid foundations in the seasons ahead.
The performance against Aston Villa highlighted the lack of strength in depth Liverpool possess in key positions and the match probably came as one endeavour too many for some of Rodgers’s starting line-up. Sterling and Allen looked particularly in need of a rest, as mentioned by the manager himself, hence him shuffle his pack a little against both Fulham and Stoke, bringing in the likes of Suso and Shelvey.
It’s unlikely that LFC will be making any huge signings in January, as Rodgers has said, the top players cost a fortune mid-season and the value is unlikely to be there. However Rodgers has guaranteed reinforcements and has said that whichever players he brings in will be with a view to more extensive re-shaping in the summer. We need at least two forward players and a left-back, with room in the squad to add an attacking midfielder and a goalkeeper. Just how many of these positions we manage to fill and who the new personnel will be, are very much open for debate, however we are guaranteed some freshening of the squad and that in itself breeds excitement.
I’m not going to mention how far behind the Champions’ League spots we are as I’m sure you’re only too aware of the facts yourselves; sufficed to say we’re not a million miles away. This is one of the most open seasons for a long time, the standard of the league has dropped quite starkly in comparison with five seasons ago and this year, quite literally, any side can beat any other from week to week.
That being the case, Liverpool are poised to enter the second half of the campaign lurking menacingly on the shoulders of the leading pack. Provided the Reds can dig in and put some points on the board over the next fortnight, Rodgers’s side will be well in touch with the European places. With a bit of luck and good judgement, the additions we make in January can give us that little bit extra which we’ve lacked at times thus far this season and we can make a push up the table in the New Year. Things may go even better for us than that, but then again, there is always the chance that Rodgers’s bandwagon may stop rolling due to the wheels having fallen off. Nothing about this season is certain, there will be setbacks such as the one against Villa, however we appear to be heading in the right direction and, whilst it might not be an ideal situation, the uncertainty is, in its way, providing its own form of excitement.
You can catch up with Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 and on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/