It's certainly been a testing start to the season under the new manager and backroom team, and while not helped by summer activity the form problem as far as results are concerned is a continuation of a slump that actually began last December and which noone needs reminding continues to be relegation form.
That it came from a position of being in sniffing distance of 4th place is all the more remarkable, emanating as it did from Dalglish and Clarke's decent on the eye direct style of football that led to as impressive offensive statistics as you'd find across Europe - bar the goals scored column of course. From Jonathon Wilson's article in The Guardian,
" The statistics are well known and hard to comprehend; Liverpool finished eighth, their worst finish in over half a century, and yet in the top five leagues in Europe only Barcelona had a greater proportion of their play in the attacking third of the pitch.
There is further empirical support for last year's efforts later in the article too,
"Egil Olsen, the Norway coach who has invested vast amounts of time studying chance creation, insists that in three out of four games the team who creates more chances wins. Liverpool last season were in the other quarter an awful lot."
The very competent Jonathon Wilson goes on to postulate with qualification that it might be the wrong "type of chance" that was being created last season yet finds himself immediately contradicted. Again from his writing,
"In an interview with Lars Sivertsen in Issue Three of The Blizzard, Olsen was adamant that the quality of the chance doesn't matter too much. "It would be possible to try to create chance one, two and three, according to sizes, big, medium and small," he said. "But it turns out that with those of us who work with this, when we're counting chances we usually end up on the same number;"
At the end of the day I think we all know that the 2011summer transfer activity, like the one under Hodgson during the previous summer, simply didn't provide the quality required to make a difference on the pitch when it counted and perhaps more importantly when the chips were down when real quality and character rises to the surface.
Personally I would also criticise the coaching of around the box decisions with many pot shots being taken from outside the box which are well known to be low probability attempts - and we're still doing it by the way.
While Comolli must take responsibility for the excessive expenditure, FSG too must take the responsibility for that side of matters as recently pointed out on TAW. While the may have acknowledged that they don't appear to be prepared to replace the funds spent on the back of their mistake.
However Dalglish (and Clarke?) must take responsibility for the distinctly average personnel bought in, with Rory Smith (Telegraph/The Times/various radio contributions) commenting that Liverpool had bought a bunch of mid table players and had infact finished mid table. Doh!
So while Rodgers all but clears out last summer's significant purchases and by accident or design deflowers major chunks of our reserves and youth, we must temper our delight while our relegation form continues [but boy is Suso good!!].
However promising, the implementation of Rodgers' philosophy remains a work in progress as Wilson's article elaborates. Goals remain hard to come by in the league raising oft stated questions of this summer's activities particularly for me the prioritisation of Borini's purchase [and price] given how at 21 he really needs to continue developing his goal scoring prowess - a task clearly at odds with Liverpool's well known (for at least 2 years) urgent and very current requirements. Italy seemed to be well suited to that development too with his reasonable goal return and gentle introduction to first team responsibilities.
In short we needed a proven goal scorer not a squad player that Borini will clearly be expensively competent for.
In this transition period you would like to think the previously impressive defence would be preserved and protected as a strong foundation to build upon. It now ships at least 2 goals every game.
This was a major fear of mine over the summer that Rodgers would fix what wasn't broken (the defence) while failing to fix what was broken - the goal scoring. Systems are all very well but conventional experience in the work place when dealing with warm subjects would say "first do no harm".
So as autumn nights draw in and our rising spirits pre-empt the coming festive jollifications on the back of Cup performances, we have the old weather beaten piece of gnarled wood issue of where our goals are going to come from and annoyingly, a new one to ponder. Can Rodgers reinvent our prior goal conceding chastity?
Many are rightly calling for some of that newly exposed blood to become part of the first XI displays and Rodgers has demonstrably begun that process and this will surely alter the game on the pitch closer to his designs and vision.
Hopefully it will also be pleasing to watch for the fans who will become decidedly fidgety if results don't come soon, particularly against average opposition - which lets face it Norwich and West Brom are (though if Lukaku could finish rather better he might have embarrassed us very easily on Wednesday).
But when all is said and done, Rodgers with his belief of a system mustn't lose sight of what is needed in the EPL. That is scoring and not conceding or at least the first exceeding the second.
Around the box we need more penetration play so chances come from inside the box where averages rise dramatically and secondly we need a recognition that "not conceding possession" a defensive strategy does not make.
I have to be honest that while I will be as excited as anyone with the introduction of very skillful new blood into the first XI and with it a very pleasing style of play, I remain sceptical that these 2 areas are strengths of the manager or his staff.
He simply doesn't have a top flight track record to go on and his away record with Swansea last year wasn't great - one of my first measures of competence after the Hodgson/Purslow debacle. (Has anyone discovered exactly what Purlsow's competence was to occupy such a senior position, because I'm at a loss on that one?).
But as sure as night follows day those two areas are exactly what will determine the success or otherwise of Brendan Rodgers as manager of Liverpool football club and he will need to demonstrate significant improvements in these areas or results and then importantly belief will be damaged.
Good players as we clearly have coming through and more intelligent playing is very encouraging. However the Premier League with its pace and power is utterly ruthless. Outcomes are determined in and around each penalty box and that is where Liverpool need significant and urgent work whatever the statistics show.
ps. Anyone as totally shit scared and nervous as I am of Suso running down his contract as is happening?
- Jonathon Wilson's article.
- My head
- too many internet streams.