We had a rogue agent in our midst my disloyal friends and willing foes, we had a rogue agent in our midst. This shambling seer peddled the most reprehensible missives over the past two months. In particular, the Misery Begone and Unicron editions dared to preach calm, perspective, and patience. Curses! What was even more vexatious was the misguided souls who supported such optimistic utterances. Fools! What of the The Frailty of Hope? A labour full of putrid postulations designed to "alleviate irrational desires" and cast out nonsensical aspirations for glory.
However, this matters not friend, this matters not. More importantly, welcome back. You were always going to return, it was...inevitable. Wipe away those tears now. Go on, wipe them away. Now look at me, look into my the unbearable apparition and behold reality. Do not worry, there is still time for redemption from these erroneous epistles but only if you put your charred corpses in my restorative hands
Did you see it? Did you taste it? Did you witness how the apocalypse was not cancelled but continued with the desperate aroma of the doomed? Still we wonder. Still we discuss, we debate, we rage, we explain to those who have no interest, and still we do not rise. We are stranded amidst this cacophony of confusion, a most trying tumult and...it should not be so. It should not be so. For where did losing to Aston Villa and West Ham United in succession feature on Liverpool's September itinerary? Where did a luckless Ludogorets belong in the annals of Anfield away dressing rooms? Naturally, the loyalists will tell you it is early in the season. They are right. Manchester United fans were saying the something similar last season when the club had lost three, won two, and drawn one of its opening six games by the end of September. By the middle of December, David Moyes' side was locked in seventh spot and would never come close to touching a top four place for the rest of the season.
Why does everything have to turn from unicorns blessed by Fowler himself to Unicron, master to the Dark Lord, so quickly? At least wait for Liverpool to pick up one point from six against West Ham and Everton first. Then maybe we can decry the shambles ambling in the Premier League's hallway. If our so-called upgraded squad players find Middlesbrough a pronunciation problem and matchday muddle, maybe there's not as much depth as previously believed. Wait for things to go sour before proclaiming them sour. The milk doesn't expire until the Baggies come round after the trip to Switzerland. Liverpool could have failed to beat Ludogorets by then!
- Nameless usurper, Unicron Edition
It is because we are Liverpool supporters. Liverpool have only a few comforts, yet these very comforts do not detract from the task at hand. A strong start usually determines where the best clubs finish. Forget about Manchester City and Chelsea for a moment, they will finish in the top four. After matchday 10, Tottenham Hotspur never touched the top four last season. After matchday 3, Arsenal largely remained in the top four while Everton were relatively close to the top four throughout the season, dropping below fifth after a handful of matchdays. Liverpool dropped out of the top four after successive away losses to Manchester City and Chelsea before the Gregorian calendar New Year but remained in the top four for virtually the entire campaign. The biggest comfort for Liverpool is the failure of others. For the past two weekends, Liverpool's self-inflicted mishaps have been greeted with similar failings elsewhere. That will not continue indefinitely, and it is better if Liverpool acts before a rival club does. Nestle in the top four and forge ahead within its warm, translucent glow.
Liverpool remain only three points outside the top four and amazingly, are in a good time to find form. Is this Fowler's providence? Even after the international break, Liverpool travel to QPR while Tottenham travel to Manchester City. The following weekend, Liverpool are at home to Hull before Chelsea travel to Manchester United. Liverpool then travel to Newcastle for Saturday's early kick-off to make it ten Premier League's for the season the day before the Manchester derby. Those are Liverpool's chances to find a comfortable seat in the top four lounge before the rest of the Premier League teams play their tenth respective games. Everton (home), West Brom (home), QPR (away), Hull (home), and Newcastle (away). If Brendan Rodgers sat down at a plush Chinese restaurant on Sunday night, opened his fortune cookie after a satisfying meal and desert, it would read: "You will have quite a few chances to sort your team out for the top four irrespective of injuries and some worrying performances."
The truth is that Brendan Rodgers needs to look at how Rudi García is not only rotating his squad but also managing the club's captain, legend, and son of the city. Francesco Totti may be turning 38 later this week but he offers quality on the ball, vision, and exceptional technique. Goals and assists too. Steven Gerrard may not be 38 but he turns 35 in May, plays in a much more physically demanding league, and is comparatively prosaic in physicality compared to his younger colleagues. Totti is a huge figure in Rome and has remained loyal to his club, much like Gerrard. In fact, his final third productivity in his thirties has been excellent and he remains a set-piece threat too!
AS Roma have played four games this season. Three in Serie A and one in the Champions League, winning all four. Francesco Totti has started one in the league against Fiorentina, the opening game of the season, where his club was victorious and one in the Champions League. He played 70 minutes against Fiorentina and lasted the entire length of the destruction of CSKA Moscow. He sat on the bench for the other two games, both victories, without seeing a minute as a sub. That's how to manage an ageing star player and help the team. Steven Gerrard? Every minute of every match. Six in total. It's even worse for Jordan Henderson. A full 90 minutes in eight games for both Liverpool and England.
Resting Raheem Sterling against Aston Villa revealed consideration for the youngster's condition and perhaps, that's the right thing to do when Liverpool were playing at Anfield. Aston Villa have proven to be the most wearisome of Anfield opponents but are not a Champions League or Europa League team, not even close. Raheem Sterling played in the World Cup, had a full preseason, played a lot in the second half of last season, and played early season international and club games. Brendan Rodgers could test the depth in the squad early in the season and have the comfort of introducing Sterling in the last twenty or thirty minutes if needed. This approach didn't quite work, but it is one that should be taken with other members in the squad.
Rudi García made two changes in defence, one in midfield, and two in attack following Roma's first Champions League match after a three-year absence. It is true that García is 9 years older than Rodgers and has two years' worth of Champions League experience with Lille to call upon when managing Roma. Sure, those two campaigns were not even worthy of Europa League qualification from the group stages but any lessons were gratefully received by an intelligent mind. Il Capitano's virtuouso performance in Roma's Champions League return was rewarded with the bench as Alessandro Florenzi took Totti's place and Steven Gerrard's winning penalty should have been his last contribution until the home game against Everton. Il Re di Roma and The Giallorossi both benefit from this careful management, and Liverpool should be experiencing this kind of happiness.
Brendan Rodgers is still learning and possibly this season will be the most instructive one in his time as Liverpool manager. He is talented and possessed of the necessary temperament, ambition, and vision to be a successful name associated with one of Europe's most storied football clubs. Undoubtedly so. However, dealing with the club's first Champions League campaign for half a decade, the loss of one of the best players in the world, an ageing captain and legend, and the deepest squad he's ever had to manage is quite the challenge. It is one that he should be able to navigate if he is as good as his supporters think he is. If Rodgers does what is necessary then captain, club, and manager will reflect on a successful season but failure to act will be seized upon by forces emerging from the darkness to seize Liverpool's access to the land of milk and honey.