"We took our goals well but the second half was nowhere near where we wanted to be," was Brendan Rodgers' take on Saturday's victory over Crystal Palace, with the manager disappointed by a result against one of the worst sides in the league that, despite the 3-1 score line, felt less than impressive. "In my first season we were guilty of playing well and not getting the result. Here we got the win without playing great."
However, just as important as Rodgers' honesty when it came to Liverpool's difficulties, particularly in the second half, was his highlighting of his side's ability so far this season to get positive results in games where they aren't at their best. While it would certainly be nice to see Liverpool dominate for the full ninety minutes against a side like Palace, eking out victory from a flawed performance is at least a step in the right direction.
"We can play a lot better," he said a few hours later, expanding on his earlier thoughts when he appeared on Match of the Day. "But we've got the mentality now that if we don't play as well as we want to, at least we can win games. That's something that's very important. It's a great credit to the players—their mentality to improve has been excellent.
"In the opening seven games, we haven't hit anywhere near the level, performance-wise, that we would want to, but what we've shown is that we can win games, even when we don't play at our best. It's not enough to just win games, for me—I'm very much someone who worries about playing well. We'll take the three points but we need to improve our level with the football."
If there were question marks when it came to Liverpool's second half let-off and inability at times to hold possession, Rodgers had little room to criticise the club's strike duo after another match that saw both Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge on the score sheet. More than just the goals, though, the pair's interplay and at times even a surprising generousity with the ball is perhaps what has been most encouraging.
"Sometimes you can play in different positions and, knowing the two players well, I've played them in a number of positions," Rodgers said. "I've played one of them up top and one in a semi-wide position; I've played Daniel up through the middle and Luis in behind as a ten. [But] they are both what I would call nine-and-a-halves, in terms of how they get in between defenders and can drop in short and go long.
"We wanted to put the two of them up there and obviously then we look at the structure, with the players that we have, in behind that, whether that is a 4-4-2 diamond, [the] 3-5-2, or sometimes a flexible 4-4-2. But with the players that we have at the moment, the 3-4-1-2 suits us and those two were exceptional. They are right up there with the best in this league."