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One Game At A Time?

The remarkable form of Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho has Liverpool fans yearning for success once more but shouldn't we occasionally stop and smell the roses?

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Much to his teammates' chagrin, Adam would simply not give up on his dream of independent human flight.
Much to his teammates' chagrin, Adam would simply not give up on his dream of independent human flight.
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Most of us spend our lives endlessly yearning for a desired future or lamenting a regretted past, when we should, instead, fully embrace our present reality. Of course, the comparative awfulness of said reality will have a huge bearing on the amount of the aforementioned yearning and lamenting that we engage in. Patience is unpalatable, you see. Just as it requires a stoical disposition to prevent oneself from pining for a bygone era, tremendous resolve is also needed to avoid the trap of a life spent in a constant reverie about an idyllic hereafter.

The famously tortured Weeping Philosopher, Heraclitus, insisted that, "good character is not formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. Protracted and patient effort is needed to develop good character." This is all very well, but it ignores the reality that people want to dream. In Wayne's World, that revered sage of the modern era, Wayne Campbell, has long coveted a beautiful white '64 Fender Stratocaster above all else. Despite his friend Garth Algar's concerned urging that Wayne "live in the now!" the lank-haired cable television host is undeterred. "It will be mine," he insists. "Oh yes, it will be mine."

As Liverpool approach the run-in to another campaign, fans of the great club are in an addled state. With their newly forged side floundering abjectly in all competitions, they spent the months from August until December in a heartbroken state, aching for the cavalier heroes of the previous campaign, whose swashbuckling efforts lined coach routes and so nearly brought the ultimate prize. In lieu of that, they had to endure an atypically disjointed side and a coach who seemed shorn of his characteristic decisiveness.

Then, incrementally and with the introduction of a new system of play and personnel, the horror began to abate, the team began to win and climb the league. Joy returned to fans hearts as the likes of Raheem Sterling, Emre Can, Mamadou Sakho, Philippe Coutinho and Jordon Ibe sparkled and warriors like Jordan Henderson and Martin Skrtel rediscovered their mojo. Brendan Rodgers' men have been on a run of form, which, if it had stretched back to the season's beginning, would see them comfortably top of the heap. Recent wins against Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton and Manchester City represent as good a run of form and ruthless efficiency as has been put together by any team above them.

True to form, supporters are not reveling in this remarkable turnaround as much as they perhaps should. They have cast off their dour cloak of gloom and have instead begun to dream again. That, in itself, is a salutary tribute to the team's efforts. One trophy possibility was needlessly thrown away after an unwonted and dismal display in Istanbul, but with the FA Cup still to play for and the rousing defeat of the champions on Sunday, a potentially very successful finish to the campaign still beckons. So excitable have some grown, that the vice captain found himself being asked if Liverpool could yet haul in Manchester City and attain a second consecutive runners-up berth. Henderson, as is his wont, was positive yet steady, echoing the old one game at a time philosophy.

"Listen, it's always possible," claimed the master of the disdainful stare. "The main thing to do would be to concentrate on ourselves as much as we can, keep the momentum going and see where it takes us really. There are 11 games to go this time. We finished strongly last year, we won 12 of our last 14 games. We have learned a lot and hopefully we can use that experience in the last 11 games and give it a real go and win as many games as we can.

"I think we have just got to aim to win every game and I think we have got the ability to do that. We have got a good enough squad to be doing that but we just have to make sure that we don't get too carried away with the result. But it is a big result and it gives us a lot of confidence going into [the game against Burnley on] Wednesday. Hopefully we can just keep building. We are going to give it a real go."

A key component of Liverpool's reintroduction to what the manager likes to call the conversation about Champions League football for the campaign to come has been the imperious form of their young Brazilian schemer, Philippe Coutinho. That the impish pass master now seems to have added the ability to strike glorious winning goals to his already well stocked armoury is a bonus of the most delightful kind. His performances, whilst not surprising in one regard, have been spirit shocking in the consistency of their brilliance. Whether easing past midfielders twice his size, sliding delicately judged through-balls or curling outrageous thunderbastards into the top corner, Coutinho has been Liverpool's man of the season.

"He is unbelievable really, the quality that he has got," Henderson said. "He can go as high as he wants. He is exactly the same in training as what you see on the pitch. He works ever so hard and he has got a great mentality. He can go as high as he wants, he is a massive player for us. He has just signed a long-term contract, which is big for the club. You have to keep him for as long as you can here."

You certainly do, powers that be at Liverpool, you certainly do. It would be remiss of your scribbler to quote Henderson without paying full tribute to the Sunderland native's own recent form. His opener on Sunday was, if anything, even more delectable than Coutinho's effort. Over the campaign, he has not been as noticeably excellent as he was last season but there are many complex factors around personnel and systems that have influenced his ability to impact the game. However, with four goals and ten assists, the hair product fancier has added the end product critics had been calling for and in the most recent run, in the absence of Steven Gerrard, he has been, if you'll pardon the Brendanism, outstanding.

As a genus, football supporters are hard-wired to celebrate the glories of the past and anticipate the potential of what is to come. Like Wayne Campbell, we will always yen for the perfection and beauty of that which we desire and in recent seasons, under Brendan Rodgers, that does not seem so far away for Liverpool fans as once it did. In the interim we should at least humour the well-intentioned promptings of trusty sidekick Garth and try to live in the now.

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