WATCHING Liverpool FC this season has been very frustrating at times. The club is, as we all know by now, in the midst of a transition – implementing a new philosophy off the pitch, whilst evolving and tweaking the philosophy on the pitch.
It’s little wonder then that each step forward, has thus far been followed up by an equally sized pace backwards, and all the frustration that that brings with it.
On Saturday evening, however, all those frustrations melted away for 90 minutes as I witnessed the once mighty Reds look mighty again, sweeping aside Wigan with consummate ease and looking very much like a team on the up.
As I sat enjoying every minute of what was a fantastic performance, I wondered to myself, if this wasn’t the beginning of Rodgers’s plan coming together. Yes, the caveat remains, as it has so often when talking about Liverpool this season, that the opposition were poor. However, how much of that was down to the way that Liverpool approached the game as opposed to Wigan’s innate weakness?
Liverpool have racked up big scores against Sunderland, Fulham, Swansea, Wigan and Norwich at Anfield so far this season and, now, have spanked QPR, Norwich and Wigan away from home as well. The Anfield games have seen the Reds hit twenty goals without reply, whilst the away fixtures have seen twelve scored with just two conceded, however on each and every occasion, that caveat of poor opposition has applied. Or has it?
It’s the same Norwich team that beat Manchester United 1-0, the same Sunderland team that beat City 1-0 and practically the same Swansea team that’s beaten Arsenal and lifted the Capital One cup this season, so perhaps, just perhaps, Liverpool should be getting some more credit for making these teams look so poor.
The Wigan encounter on Saturday evening was even more satisfying to behold than some of the other routs the Reds have instigated this season, for several reasons. Firstly, Roberto Martinez and his louder than life chairman Dave Whelan both had plenty to say regarding LFC last summer.
If the former is to be believed, he turned down a concrete offer to take up the manager’s post at Anfield before the job was offered to Brendan Rodgers. Whilst the latter was busy telling all and sundry his views on the situation and why “his manager” had refused the job. Add to that the fact that the Reds had failed to win at the DW since 2007, making the victory a little sweeter.
Joe Allen also had his best game in a Red shirt for quite some time. Confident in his role at the apex of the midfield three, his passing was crisp, quick and incisive. His link-up play was excellent too and his support play, getting into the box was the best I’ve seen him produce in a Liverpool shirt. Lucas, Allen and Gerrard complimented each other well in the midfield and, for once, didn’t look stretched or troubled at any stage in the game.
Luis Suarez was in absolutely scintillating form again as he bagged his second Premier League hat-trick of the season. Some of the inter-play between him and young Coutinho was brilliant at times. Coutinho seems to have settled in to life on Merseyside very quickly and in his two starts so far, has already shown us just what he adds to the team: quick feet, great passing, pace, energy, work-rate and an eye for goal. With two assists and a goal in two starts, if he is (as many have said) a “typical Brendan Rodgers player”, then more of a similar ilk would be very welcome thanks.
Luis Enrique and Stewart Downing continued on the road to redemption with solid, unerring performances, whilst Glen Johnson again displayed the type of form which has solidified his position as England’s best right-back. Carragher and Agger, though not tested too often, played solidly and, barring the di Santo header, never looked in any trouble.
On the strength of this performance and others like it, it’s beginning to look as if Brendan Rodgers’s plan for Liverpool just might be coming together and, while it’s no time to start puffing on the cigar, a strong finish could be on the cards.
You can catch up with Neil on Twitter @Neil1980 and on his blog http://itsallinthegameblog.wordpress.com/