Did anyone read a few articles over the weekend in the build-up to Liverpool's return to the unpromised land? It seemed that wherever one turned, countless references were made to the fact that the opening day of Liverpool's 2015/16 season was 77 days since Stoke City thrashed Liverpool at the Britannia stadium. What made it particularly poignant for those who chose to point this out was that that very side was Brendan Rodgers' first opponent on his redemption tour. Season four of the Brendan Rodgers era is about regaining some of the momentum built from the club's most convincing push for the league title for a quarter of a century. In short, Rodgers needs to prove that he can manage one of football's grandest clubs. The lustre may have faded around Liverpool, but being beyond a 6-1 thrashing at Stoke isn't exactly reaching for distant corners of the Milky Way.
On day 77 it came to pass that Liverpool wouldn't impress or play with coherence indicative of a red resurgence. However, three precious points at one of the toughest grounds to visit in England's top division should satiate fans desperate for a good start to another quest for the land of milk and honey. The performance was absent, yet the club's away fixtures in the first four months are as difficult as they come: Stoke, Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and Manchester City. The other five members of the top six, a local derby, and one of the most unrelentingly stubborn teams on home turf after they delivered the club's worst defeat since 1963. While it may be true that Liverpool have home fixtures after every Europa League group game, the away fixtures represent quite the challenge for Merseyside's finest. AFC Bournemouth, West Ham United, Norwich City, Aston Villa, Southampton, Crystal Palace, and Swansea City are an intriguing mix of home fixtures that take Liverpool from summer to the end of autumn.
Each day that passes will be one since that day, until the hull in Liverpool's proverbial ship appears to be finally repaired. Steven Gerrard's last game should never have been the scene of an absolutely harrowing defeat. Despite all the disappointments, mediocrity, and false dawns in the Premier League era, Liverpool never conceded as many first-half goals. It will take many days and far more convincing victories to finally move past that day. Many Liverpool fans and observers firmly agreed—and perhaps still do—that such a game should have heralded the end of two eras, not just one. It felt like an extinction event in a footballing sense, but interestingly, it was the precursor to the strongest support Brendan Rodgers has probably received during his time at the club.
Liverpool, however, weren't the only side to struggle on the opening weekend of the league season. Chelsea drew with an impressive Swansea side bolstered by the addition of the wonderfully industrious André Ayew, Arsenal succumbed at home to a West Ham side inspired by the rapid Dimitri Payet, and Louis van Gaal's Manchester United displayed sterile domination of the ball in an unconvincing victory over Tottenham. In light of these early muddles, Liverpool's victory doesn't appear to be the portent of mediocrity as some may think. Three points away to sides of a dogged nature must be received gratefully, especially early in a campaign littered with taxing trips in the first few months of a vital campaign for one individual in particular. Liverpool fans must prepare themselves for defeats that may or may not herald a potential end of days, at least for the manager anyway.
Furious debate and disagreement currently centre on the fates of Dejan Lovren and Lucas Leiva. It feels all too early for such strife, but the game of "wait and see" is often most difficult for those who require immediate answers. Positive and negative signs may be exactly what they are or represent nothing at all. There is no manual on how to proceed, but it could be that acceptance will be crucial in these early days—ones that may be part of the continuation of a period in Liverpool's history where the promise of more will finally arrive or remain frustratingly unfulfilled.
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