The youth of this season prevents a crystallised judgment from being passed on this edition of the Liverpool team but so far it has been an impressive start marked by the return of some effective defensive work.
Last season was one which was notable for moments of defensive frailty as well as the team’s obvious attacking flair.
Positive performances were often punctuated by defensive lapses or errors. Reina managed a number of mistakes notably against Man City, Tottenham and Norwich while there was less steel in the defensive unit as a whole.
Soft goals were gifted to teams throughout the season with the midfield struggling to support the back line and the team allowed the opposition to score 3 goals on no less than 10 occasions!
Some fans may have looked at the fixture list with some trepidation at the beginning of the season. The first two games saw Liverpool faced with problem teams from the year before. Liverpool failed to register a win against Stoke last season and Christian Benteke’s Aston Villa stormed Anfield to record a 3-1 win. The defence looked frail and the physical approach bullied Brendan Rodgers charges leaving some to point the finger at a defensive crisis.
The truth is that there was tactical and personnel problems last season with the change in tactics unleashing a stifled attack but exposing a struggling defence. The record in the league overall was not abject, Man Utd conceded exactly the same number of goals, but it was far from the mean defenses that the club has boasted over the best part of a decade.
This season, Brendan Rodgers has not made many changes to the first team and the team is benefitting from the tactics that were cultivated last year. The way the team defends has been enhanced by the development of the attack and the game against Aston Villa was a clear indication of this.
Kolo Toure has resembled a man determined to restore his reputation as one of the better central defenders in the league. Having dominated aerially against Stoke, as well as showing an incredible appetite to be involved in the game, the Ivorian handled the Benteke problem with ease.
In fact the big man has invited all Reds to reassess our opinions of Agger and Skrtel, who were often praised to high heaven by their ardent supporters. Toure has reminded us of what quality at centre half looks like and if he continues in this vein, he may well bring the best out of those around him (though it remains to be seen how quickly he can return from his injury).
Simon Mignolet has also seemed an astute purchase. He has not looked completely assured during both games but he has looked increasingly sturdy as both matches progressed. A couple of early flaps at crosses sent the pulses racing but the Belgian has delivered some match winning saves to ensure that the three points have remained firmly in the bag.
Reina had fallen down in this department of late. The much loved Spaniard has won games for us with his delivery and saves but last season I can’t remember him making any such save, in fact most times the opposition did have a clear chance, they would score. Mignolet has so far been that integral ingredient for any good side, a player who can help the team win when they don’t deserve to.
This increased defensive strength and the development of Rogers’ tactics provides good reason for optimism as the season wears on. It would appear that Liverpool’s Achilles heel last season has been addressed this time round. Here’s hoping it stays that way.
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