Two under-par performances in four days, resulting in defeats against West Brom and Zenith, had taken their toll on fans – with many asking legitimate questions about whether any signs of perceived progress had been real or imaginary.
Thankfully though, Sunday offered Rodgers’s side the chance to nip any panic in the bud, an opportunity which was gratefully seized.
This last week has been the story of the Reds’ season so far. If there is one word which would sum up Liverpool’s season up to this point, it would have to be inconsistency. Capable of putting in top performances away at the Etihad and the Emirates but at the same time capable of rolling over at the Britannia; thrilling at home against the likes of Norwich, Fulham and Swansea but equally lacklustre when Villa and West Brom rode into town.
As to the exact reasons for such inconsistency, well they could be many or few. Many talk of the new philosophy taking some time to bed in, others put it down to the relative youthfulness of the squad; players’ mentalities have been called into question, as well as the quality of some of the club’s more recognised senior players and, of course, there are those who simply blame the manager.
As always, the truth is likely to be a combination of these and other factors.
The new philosophy brought in by Brendan Rodgers has had time to bed in, however it is still prone to imperfection at such a relatively early stage in its development. Liverpool do have a young squad and therefore, consistency of performance may be an issue with certain of the younger players – Sterling and Shelvey for example.
Player mentality has been an issue under previous management and was particularly called into question in the second half of last season; it may still need addressing. The core of senior players is of a high standard, however it’s inevitable that after several years of below-par league results, their performances will be scrutinised and dissected to a greater degree.
The manager? An easy target surely! Rodgers’s lack of experience at a top club and short CV make him a simple scapegoat for those with short memories. I’m not saying that he’s not to be questioned or that he’s not made mistakes but, truth be told, many of the problems were there when he took the job.
Part of this new philosophy is a move towards a sustainable financial structure, where players aren’t paid ridiculous sums of money which can potentially cripple the club and where the emphasis is on youth and hunger. These are bold and important steps that the club is taking and absolutely necessary if Liverpool are to rise again.
Such a fundamental shift in policies is always going to leave some unhappy or upset but what the club is doing should be applauded. Speaking at length over the last few days to a Dortmund supporting friend in Germany only further served to reinforce in my mind the idea that Liverpool are on the right track as a club and that, most importantly, the club must stick to its guns and not be panicked into changing course in the summer.
With eleven league games to go, a good run can make the difference between finishing fifth or tenth. If Rodgers can guide the Reds to a strong finish, the summer transfer window should allow him to add the requisite components to supplement and reinforce a team that is beginning to look like a genuine threat.
Inconsistency is frustrating, especially for fans, because it lulls you into a false expectation only to dash hopes with a cruelty that begins to feel inevitable. However, a week is a long time in football, as the last seven days have proven and knee-jerk reactions are not only imprudent but also usually prove to be detrimental to the well-being of a football club.
For the sake of the club and the future, I hope that FSG are fully aware of the nature of the game by now, and that this team and its manager are allowed time to mature together. If they are, the future may be bright.
You can catch up with Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 or and on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/