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Hiding to Nothing or Nothing to Hide?

The maddeningly abject form of Brendan Rodgers' Reds reached a new nadir with the capitulation to Newcastle on Saturday. Now, with at least two wins needed from three Champions League games, Liverpool must rally or face elimination.

Brendan's attempts at shameless self-promotion hit a new low when he tried to merge into the UEFA logo.
Brendan's attempts at shameless self-promotion hit a new low when he tried to merge into the UEFA logo.
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

We've all got them now. Questions. So many pestiferous galling questions. Our perception of Red reality, heightened by the luminosity of last season's unforeseen heroics, has been taking a savage pasting over the course of this campaign. Blame is being apportioned, goats are being scaped, lines are being drawn in the sand and players have been resolutely written off by a squabblingly hysterical fan base.

All of this unpleasantness has arisen from the simple fact that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool have somehow ceased to be Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool. Why? Is it simply due to the loss of a Uruguayan genius and the frustratingly fragile muscle tissue of a dancing Englishman? Can it really just be about a high turnover in personnel? Is the manager's newfound tactical rigidity and intransigence the root cause of the wretched results and even more odious performances or have an entire squad of footballers simultaneously lost form?

See? Questions. So many confounded vexatious questions.

Even Jamie Carragher, once native of the parish of Liverpool but now employed by satellite behemoth Sky Sports to expound on footballing matters, seems utterly perplexed and afflicted with the same impulse towards enquiry as the rest of us. On the topic of why Liverpool's defence seems to have forgotten the key concepts inherent in being a functional rearguard, the Scouse legend has more queries than solutions but the nature of his interrogative musing seems to be quite pointed.

"Last season we talked about the defending, the goals they conceded and we've done the same this season as well," opined the famously shrill defensive organiser. "But let's look at that over the last three seasons, Brendan Rodgers' time at the club. Tottenham and Arsenal are there, but without us looking at the numbers you'd think those three teams would be up there - defenders who make mistakes.

"Is that down to a manager?" he asks not unreasonably. "Is that down to the players they buy? Can a manager do a lot if a player makes a mistake? That's a massive problem for Liverpool. If you've got defenders that are making mistakes, how do you rectify it? Do they think defensively-minded enough? Are they proper defenders? Or are they more interested in being on the front foot, attacking? That is Brendan Rodgers' philosophy."

No matter how you come at them, there seems to be a deep-rooted criticism of Rodgers in those words, an ineluctable suggestion that the issues which have plagued Liverpool's campaigns under the Antrim man can be traced back to the manager himself. Rodgers, to his credit, has generally avoided the reprehensible practice of throwing his own players under the bus and his inclination, whether through benevolence or ego, has been to shoulder the responsibility for the performance.

From the earliest days of the Carnlough native's tenure, defensive lapses have been immediately forgiven, with a reminder that it is he who insists on a certain style of play or "philosophy." Perhaps that no-blame culture has taken hold a little too ferociously amongst the defensive personnel. For his part, the manager is laudably defiant and customarily positive. This may not be to the liking of those miserabilists who would wish him to be a little less loquaciously upbeat and he must be aware of the growing rumblings of discontent amongst the fans, even those not prone to idiotic knee-jerkery, but as ever his words betray very little anxiety.

"For a manager you're always under scrutiny at a big club,'' said Rodgers. "Every single game at this level is massive when you're Liverpool manager. You're expected to win every single game -- even Real Madrid -- because of the level we've been at [historically]. For me, I'm relaxed about the pressure. I enjoy my life at Liverpool, being tasked with restoring the club to the great levels it's been at before.

"I think we've made great strides" he continued. "I know we need to improve. There's nobody thinking about that more than me and preparing the team more than me. I need to find the solutions. If it's a defining game for me then great. Whatever the result I'll be focused and hungry to go into the next game. Hopefully we can get a big result and improve."

Los Blancos have been in imperious form following a shaky start and have amassed a thoroughly ridiculous 46 goals in 12 games, with Cristiano Ronaldo claiming 18 of those. In that period they have also only shipped a paltry 7 goals against -- truly intimidating statistics for any team, let alone one as falteringly off-form as Liverpool have been in the same time frame. For some, tonight's match, provided the two teams win their remaining games, is a kind of bonus fixture, with some even suggesting that there is nothing to lose. Rodgers could not be more definitive in his response to that suggestion.

"There's everything to lose,'' he insisted. "We go into it focused and concentrating to get something from the game. We certainly respect it is a difficult task. After they lost here to Atletico Madrid [on Sept 13], they have gone on to win 12 games on the spin. We recognise it's a difficult ask but you come here as a football player and it's a wonderful arena, you want to show your qualities, your courage and your character as a team. We want to do that here. When you ask your players to give their best, and they give their best, then win, lose or draw I'm always proud of the team.

"Over my time here I've been so proud of my players and we are on the next curve of our development and it started slower than I would have hoped. But these are games that provide great opportunity. You go into a game like this here and you get a positive performance and result then it can kick you on and move you into the weekend's game with a great deal of confidence."

Liverpool fans would appear to have a choice between the all-consuming fug of negativity that has settled like a smothering cloak across much of the Red social media population or the barely justifiable optimism of the man leading them through this current storm. As neither of these options make a lot of sense to your scribbler, he will choose a middle course of wary hopefulness, in a perhaps futile attempt at the preservation of his mental health.

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