“‘O God!’ I screamed, and ‘O God!’ again and again; for there before my eyes – pale and shaken, and half fainting, and groping before him with his hands, like a man restored from death – there stood Henry Jekyll!”
How many footballing blogs start off with a bit of Robert Louis Stevenson?
Taken from his story about two very different characters stemming from the same person, I felt it quite an apt way to begin my piece this week following our result on Sunday.
This past week in the Premier League, we have seen both sides of the Liverpool psyche under Rodgers. We have gone from a toothless attacking display, rarely troubling the opposition number 1, to a ferocious onslaught in which it feels odd to be slightly disappointed at scoring just five.
What we have is two very different beasts, but which is Brendan Jekyll and which is Hyde Rodgers – which is closer to our norm? Of the many differing factors that the man in charge will be judged on, this has to be a crucial question.
The result and performance on Sunday was undoubtedly assisted by a weakened Swansea side with huge Michu and Williams (must be good with a name like that) shaped holes. Yet you can only beat what is in front of you, and Liverpool certainly did that. If it were a boxing match the towel would have been thrown in long before the final whistle.
Is this the death by football we have been promised? Is the goal from Jose Enrique indicative of the football we can expect in the future as the squad settles and finds its feet? Or in fact, were we allowed to play in this manner as the Welsh side were already imaging the Wembley glory we tasted 12 months ago? Is it in fact Monday night against West Brom, that is more indicative of what we are to achieve? A case in which we flatter to deceive, a case where we go through the motions in the hope that Stevie or Luis kick-starts us. Neither did that against the Baggies and we limped away head in hands.
In my mind, the performance against Swansea is certainly what we are trying to achieve and without doubt, when we click, we are delicious. That is the third time we have scored 5 in a league game this season; a record not achieved in a long, long time. This is our Dr Jekyll. This is us at our very best, retaining possession, pressing, dictating the tempo and having the offensive options that retain a constant threat.
So as a direct result of one addition our spine suddenly becomes stronger and more dangerous offensively. Throw into the mix in-form wide players, and we have the capability of dragging opposition teams from pillar to post, disrupting them to provide us with chance after chance. This is what we want to see.
However, we still have Mr Hyde to contend with. Too many times this season have we overly relied on the two world class stars we have and consequently struggled if they have been hounded out of a game. We have struggled when opposed by a high pressing, high tempo game plan, something not unique to a Rodgers Liverpool and our Achilles heel has most certainly been the strong physical centre forward play ala Lukaku, Benteke, Smith, and Bobadilla (sorry to induce nightmares).
Once our Jekyll side has been sufficiently corrupted in a game, Mr Hyde makes an appearance and we struggle. West Brom, Villa, Oldham, Young Boys are but a few to make us look very ordinary this season and heaped unwelcome pressure and negativity on the club. This was always going to be a transitional season – as is any debut season under a new manager utilising so many young players – but the stark contrast between Jekyll and Hyde is a bridge too far for some.
What do I think, I hear nobody ask? We have seen what we are capable of and for me, it harks back to the good old days. When we click, we pass and move (it is the Liverpool groove) and we are a pleasure to watch. This has to be our aim. What we have suffered from and what we have seen turn our good side into our evil side is a lack of character, and mental strength.
The job of Stevie G to grab the team by the scruff of the neck and drag them to a win ala 2005 is getting tougher and tougher as the years pass by and he needs help; not just from our Uruguayan – which is certainly one of the bigger reasons why Carra has come back into contention.
Liverpool sides in the modern era have had the likes of Hyppia, Hamann, Alonso, Mascherano to assist Stevie and Suarez-like figure (formerly Torres), and when you have players of this stature you always have a chance, regardless of form.
This summer is huge for Liverpool Football Club. If we are to get closer to achieving our Jekyll levels consistently we need strength in character, maturity and experience in our ranks who can roll their collective sleeves up and keep Mr Hyde at bay.
Please come find me on twitter @timdibs