"There’s always disappointment when you lose a big game," admitted Brendan Rodgers following Saturday's difficult defeat at the Emirates, one that hurt less for the points lost than it did for the way Arsenal so thoroughly outplayed Liverpool for most of the afternoon. Despite the tough outing, though, Rodgers tried to find a few positives, which mostly came thanks to Liverpool's achievements heading into the match rather than by anything further gained by the end of it.
"Ten games is a good assessment for where you can go," he said, "so we’ve shown that we’re going to have a fighting chance. We know we are trying to build something here in terms of the depth of our squad and the nature of our game, but without major investment that takes a wee bit of time. We’re playing catch-up. When you lose a game there will always be an analysis that will always be negative but I can only be positive with what we’ve got because they’ve given me everything."
Thanks to Chelsea's loss to Newcastle over the weekend, Liverpool still sit tied for second on points with the Blues though trailing on goal differential. It's getting crowded at the top of the table, though, with Tottenham also level on points—though with a worse goal differential than Liverpool—while Manchester City, Everton, and upstarts Southampton all sit a point back. Manchester United, meanwhile, are finding their feet under David Moyes and climbing back up the table.
Still, Liverpool's 20 points after 10 games gives the club an impressive points per game haul and, if they can keep it up the rest of the way, would be enough to ensure them a Champions League finish in any Premier League season to date. Even if the manner of Saturday's loss to Arsenal hurts, it's a good place for the club to be in a quarter of the way through the season, and its a place few expected them to be in when the season kicked off in August.
"You have got to give the big applause to Arsenal," continued Rodgers. "At the moment we’re on 20 points and they’re on 25, [but] there is plenty of time to get those points back. The best team won, that’s the honest appraisal of the game. But we were always in the game because we create chances. If we could’ve taken those chances then the score could’ve been totally different."
Things also could have been different if Liverpool's midfield had done a better job of matching Arsenal's, and though some may disagree on who's most to blame for the quite terrible showing in the middle of the park, few would try to argue that any of the three starters turned in the kind of performance the club needed to have a chance against the league leaders.
"I always feel midfield is where you gain superiority in the game," Rodgers added, making clear he knew where Liverpool's biggest problem was on Saturday afternoon. "We are disappointed with the first goal. We had the intention to press it but we were too far away and the space gets done in behind you. It came from the first phase of pressure. When you go, you have got to get tight. The second goal we were out of position [but] you have got to give Aaron Ramsey credit because it’s a great strike against a top goalkeeper."
On paper, at least, Fulham offer Liverpool a slightly easier opponent and the chance to rebound from Saturday's disappointment. However, Martin Jol's struggling side, currently drifting just above the relegation zone, could end up a side desperate to salvage their season before its too late—at least assuming Jol hasn't lost his team—and so could prove a dangerous proposition if Liverpool take them lightly.