Liverpool currently sit level on points with Arsenal atop the Premier League table, second only by virtue of the number of goals scored, and off to their best start in years. They've lost just once--to another side in Southampton that's started the season very well--and further drew a match that they very well could have won. Brendan Rodgers demanded improvements in his second season, and despite a litany of injuries to important first-team players over the season's first few weeks, the table indicates that those improvements have arrived.
And yet, the theme of this season for supporters, points haul be damned, has often been one of disappointment and pessimism rather than positivity and belief. Three matches unbeaten to start the season have, in hindsight, only looked increasingly lucky, while wins over Sunderland and Crystal Palace don't really count because those clubs haven't been any good. Sure, the points have arrived, but the other shoe has to drop at some point.
At first glance, some have taken it to be the sentiment emerging from the club as well, with Rodgers touching on his own disappointment in the immediate post-match and Jordan Henderson, who put together a wonderful display in central midfield, echoing his manager's tone:
"As a team we just need to make sure that we shut the door at the back and we're nice and compact. Dominating the ball and keeping good possession of the ball is something we need to get better at. But going forward I think we are as good as anyone really.Obviously it's frustrating when you see in training how good we are as a group. We've got a lot of good players and he wants us to perform at our best every single game.
"At half-time (Rodgers) wanted us to go out and win by four or five goals and play like we did in the first half. Obviously that didn't happen and so he is going to be frustrated. We were all disappointed with the way we came out in the second half because we wanted to be even better and get more goals. It didn't quite happen but the most important thing was the three points. We wanted to go into the international break with a win and we did that but there is a lot of improvement for us as a team."
Disappointment. Frustration. Need to get better. This is nothing new.
Only it is when you go beyond the first glance and look at the landscape of the season's first few months--Liverpool have underwhelmed and been disappointing and are yet to put together a complete match. And, instead of stumbling and stuttering their way through to mid-October (albeit with a generous opening slate), they're near the top of the league and have something resembling momentum heading into the international break.
So yes, Liverpool's inability to finish off matches--though they've finished off five thus far--might yet catch up with them, they will surely start to slip at some point, and there have been performances that, by any standard, are nowhere near good enough. But the disappointment and frustration, though superficially similar to that of recent seasons past, can no longer be taken as an indication that things aren't headed in the right direction. Now, it seems, it's a sign that an improved manager and squad are anything but content with the strides they've made to this point, and rather than back-slaps and high-fives all around, they're focused on where to go from here.