AN epitome of our side’s consistency was summed-up over the last fortnight; thrashing a Premier League outfit one week, losing to League One opposition the next, then matching (and in all honesty, surpassing in all but the final score) two top teams, away from home. The most discontenting part of it to me was the FA Cup defeat, coming after at least six days without action and with both our ace front-men in the starting line-up.
In respect to Oldham though we lost to a side who were resilient and gave a good team performance for most of the game, relative to our shadowy one that is, and they might have deserved their luck with Sterling and Borini missing some fine chances and a trademark Steven Gerrard thunderbolt cannoning back off the crossbar.
With our exit from both the Capital One and FA cups, Rodgers has a very thin margin for error in the competitions that remain. Although there might have been no pressure for cup glory, domestic silverware would have been a great way to get FSG believing that tiki-taka was the right way to go. Now, with our current standing in the League and the decreased pressure of cup games, I’m quite sure FSG will be hoping for a strong push for fourth place, which I believe was the main priority of this campaign.
King Kenny assured us European football last season by clinching the Carling Cup, which might have sucked the morale out of our top-four push back then. Rodgers and his charges are faced with a more daunting reality: No top-five finish, no Europe.
The Europa League is still a viable outlet for cup glory this season but will be met by much sterner opposition and for fans of a club like Liverpool (hoping deeply that I am not only speaking for myself), Champions League qualification will be a much bigger concern than winning a second tier European competition.
Although, winning the Europa League would be another outlet to European football next season as winning the competition would grant automatic qualification into the group stages the following season.
Urgency, that’s what the team need to play with now. That’s what Rodgers must instil in them without erasing composure. We need to start attacking like we’re just one goal away from winning a two-legged European tie and defending like we’re the team trying not to concede the goal in that same match – we’ve succeeded in the first point, both at Arsenal and Manchester City.
Surprisingly though, that has been the story of our top-four clashes over recent seasons really. We either start well, go ahead and then sit back and let the opposition throw everything they’ve got at us or we start poorly, go a goal or two down and spend the rest of the game trying to find a way back into it, playing exactly how we should have been from kick-off.
Before some of you copy and paste your favourites of your stashed “Axe Rodgers, he’s no good” comments, allow me to say that mental strength, in my opinion, is what we’re really lacking at the moment.
Our result in the mid-week game against Arsenal was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever tried to defend in post-match peer debates recently and like some other results before it (like our draw with Everton) most definitely bears out this assertion. The team just crumbles under pressure and I’m not sure that there are any training drills or simulations that can take care of that.
What can help build it up is a good winning streak, something we haven’t had in quite some time. I think a run of about 8 to 10 wins or even games unbeaten would do a world of good for the team. Experience is always key when you’re on the defensive too, and I hope Rodgers and FSG don’t rue letting Sneijder’s depart for Turkey considering the youthfulness of our current squad.
A top-four finish is still a semi-realistic goal at this point, but the team have to show that they want it as much as they say they do if they really want to get the Kop behind them. Let’s hope they keep us believing with more performances – without the individual errors – like against City on Sunday.
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