That was a good weekend, unquestionably so. Many times in the past, Liverpool have had opportunities to forge ahead in a game or two. For seasons, my father and friends used to mock me. In various years, Liverpool would be in a position where there were games in hand over domestic adversaries and it looked that inroads could have been made. They weren't. Season after season it seemed like opportunities were missed. Under Evans. Under Houllier. Under Rafa.
There were times that Liverpool did win those games but a fan's memory often works in what could have been and what actually was. That means the near misses, the frustrations, the big victories, and the trophies. In a weekend where Manchester United suffered a home defeat from two superb West Brom goals and the Portuguese grudge match in London ended in an impasse of sorts, Liverpool had to win. Suarez's first league action since April brought what one intelligent scribe observed as a "bumpy win" and it was just that. Another Sturridge first-half goal gave Liverpool the lead but this time he had a friend to join him in the opening 45 minutes. Naturally, Sturridge wanted to help his friend and Suarez just wasn't going to miss. A second-half goal, Liverpool's first in the league this season ,from the man who just cannot be ignored meant three points, job done, and much to improve upon.
Liverpool have not convinced for the entirety of a league match this season. That's undeniable and certain areas need work on the training field in tandem with the manager improving his work on matchdays. This is the greatest source of hope for any discerning fan because many of Liverpool's weaknesses can be remedied by either players returning from injury and a manager's timely intervention. While one of those is certain to happen at some point as time often heals, the manager's approach might be a source of intermittent frustration in a season of progress. Yet Liverpool can improve and with that improvement we should see not only more victories but ones possessing greater conviction.
Yet conjecture is just that and six games into the Premier League season and Liverpool FC sit second with 4 wins, 1 draw, and 1 defeat. It's a start that is worthy of a top four challenge and confirms that progress has been made. Year One makes Year Zero seem much more valuable as it was last season where Rodgers acclimatised to the job and 2013's player recruitment reflects well on the much heralded Transfer Committee.
Looking at Liverpool's next six fixtures across October and November, there is an opportunity to be in a strong position ahead of a congested and taxing December schedule. Three fixtures in each month and over the course of two months there's an even split between the home and away fixtures. For the rest of the calendar year, Liverpool's involvement in football is limited to the Premier League so in theory preparation should be straightforward with rivals facing fixture congestion.
The notion that home fixtures are easier than away fixtures would be true here as Liverpool's away fixtures look significantly tougher than the home ones. That's not to discredit Crystal Palace, West Brom, and Fulham but travelling to Newcastle, Everton, and Arsenal present various problems for a Liverpool side that remains a work in progress.
Thirty-two games are left in the league campaign and that sounds awfully far off but 26 games left in a season means that some sort of judgement can be formed. Twelve games is nearly a third of the season gone and would it be unreasonable to expect Liverpool to be in the top four or five positions going into the away match against Hull at the start of December?
This is the Rodgers era and it feels like Liverpool are on the precipice of being spoken of in respected tones once again. Of the other big clubs, only the North London clubs seem certain about how matters are developing in and around the club. Arsenal are a paragon of stability and Arsène Wenger celebrated his 17th anniversary in some style with two excellent goals to continue a stunning domestic calendar year in the Premier League. André Villas-Boas stood up to his mentor with a decent showing that could have brought victory if chances were taken against a Chelsea side inspired by Juan Mata's introduction. It's quite interesting what one season can do to settle a club and both Liverpool and Tottenham are benefiting from managers who have been given time to shape the squad to their designs. Rodgers has the Transfer Committee to support his endeavours while AVB has a respected duo in Levy and Baldini to support his own designs.
Manchester United and Manchester City have managers who are either getting used to a new league or a new kind of pressure while Mourinho's return hasn't brought Chelsea the blistering start of his previous tenure in London. Liverpool will most likely see these five sides as rivals in some way and the next six fixtures could see Liverpool needing just a decent December haul to go into the New Year with confidence and optimism that this season could be the one to break recent years of disappointment.