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The Lazarus Effect

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Having believed they'd elevated themselves back into the very top echelon of the Premier League, Liverpool's early season ghastliness had fans reeling but the turnaround in their form has breathed life into a campaign that seemed dead.

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The lads had just heard Colin Pascoe was taking the team meetings this week. Colly's meetings on shorts-wearing etiquette were pure gold.
The lads had just heard Colin Pascoe was taking the team meetings this week. Colly's meetings on shorts-wearing etiquette were pure gold.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

An avowed cinephile, your scribbler spends an entirely unjustifiable amount of his scant down-time blissfully lost in fictional landscapes. As a decrepit geezer with a literary bent, born during the modern golden age of the 70s, the clichéd expectation might be that the films in question would be provocative thought-pieces, with angst-ridden protagonists locked in existential crises. However, I can assure you, dear reader, that this is not the case. For every Nouvelle Vague masterpiece that graces my modest HD screen, there will be a trashy gore-fest or a block-busting effects-driven spectacular testing the speakers soon after. Last week saw a typically incongruous double-bill of Francois Truffaut's celebrated The 400 Blows and Antoine Fuqua's gloriously daft The Equalizer.

Of late, it has been very notable that there is a definite trend towards a resurrection of the 80s action hero. Interestingly, during that decade of pastel shades, mullets and field-radio sized 'mobile' phones, the heroes of these violent explosion-fests were all absurdly pumped up gym junkies with a better line in deltoid definition than subtle emoting. Perhaps only Bruce Willis bucked the trend in the Die Hard movies and he is a pleasing connection to the aforementioned modern renewal of the one-man-army flick.

In recent years we have seen the superannuated likes of Liam Neeson, Willis and Denzel Washington creaking their way through an inordinate and spectacularly improbable amount of carnage in films that are simply vehicles for their star power. Twenty heavily armed goons are no match for a righteously indignant Denzel or a guilt-fuelled Liam. No lethal blow is truly fatal. They just keep coming, dragging their sexagenarian carcasses ever onwards to more violent redemption. They can't be killed, you see. They've got a lucrative and even bloodier sequel to make after all.

After the dramatic events of the season to date, one could be forgiven for thinking that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool had some sort of secret five picture deal with the Premier League's own moguls. An almost total collapse in the cohesion and fluidity that had marked last year's form was allied to the loss of the side's most effective attacking threat and a startling ineptitude in defence. In short, Liverpool looked in more bother than an unarmed geriatric superstar in a viper's nest of bad guys. Somehow, and with stolid Neeson-like incremental advances, they have fought back to a point at which they find the tantalising mirage of redemption is just beyond the brow of the hill. Will they have the strength and bloody-mindedness to attain it?

If you were to cast one Liverpool player in the role of redoubtable Euro-henchman, and Hollywood loves a European bad guy, then Dejan Lovren would be your go-to guy. With the kind of hewn-from-granite physicality such a role demands, the Croatian certainly looks every bit the imposing adversary. Sadly, opposition attackers have found him to be most accommodating in a Liverpool shirt. An expensive summer purchase, an excessive amount was probably expected of the centre half, but the fragility and incoherence of his performances has shocked all watchers of the Redmen.

In a deliberate move, Brendan Rodgers took the big defender out of the firing line, simultaneously introducing his new and successful three-at-the-back system and Lovren has had to look on as the trio of Emre Can, Mamadou Sakho and Martin Skrtel have made the positions their own. A gradual process of reintroduction had been embarked upon with the former Southampton man making comfortable cameo appearances towards the end of recent matches, but an injury to our French painter/decorator meant he was forced into the fray from the start against his old side on Sunday. The big stopper's display was patchy at best, but he seemed to find a sort of equilibrium as the match wore on and it's heartening to hear him speak of the squad's youthful promise. Even with the comparatively hoary 30 year old Skrtel in the side, the average age on Sunday was only 23.

"We have massive, massive talent and we can just go higher and higher because everyone is so young," Lovren, himself only 25, told the official channel. "With the talent and young [players], I think we can achieve whatever we want, whatever we imagine. We just need to work hard and give our best on the pitch. It's a massive three points for us, now we're a step closer to the top so we need to continue like this. I think we did a great job. Of course, it was a special moment to play against my ex-team -- especially after the win, I'm more happy."

During what was a fraught 90 minutes for the goatee-sporting defender, he was involved in his own share of uncomfortable drama. His torrid first half was characterised by a tendency to look very shaky in possession and a worrying inclination to avail of the backwards pass towards a recently resurgent Simon Mignolet, whose poor kicking is the one part of his game not to have improved out of all recognition. The result was the coughing up of possession on a continuous basis. Liverpool were, however, the beneficiares of some Kevin Friend-ship on the day and Lovren was involved in one of a plethora of possible penalty claims. His caginess on the topic is a delight, as is his praise for the beleaguered referee.

"I am not sure for all three," was his Wenger-like reaction to questions about the penalty claims. "I know for mine when I touched the ball with the hand, I know it was too close. It was a deflection so I couldn't react and I don't think it was a penalty. For the first two, I am not sure -- I didn't see. I was a little bit far away. I think at the end I think the referee was doing a great job."

This tremendously self-serving guff from Dejan Lovren should not disguise the fact that Liverpool head into another huge week with the Croatian likely to be called on again in Sakho's absence but it is at least encouraging to hear him on such positive form in the circumstances. After all, a necessary aspect of the action hero's belligerent attitude is a kind of benign self-delusion. The odds are stacked against Rodgers' Liverpool in their late charge towards glory but take heart fellow Reds, it's nothing Denzel hasn't managed before.