After the highs of last season's title chance, even a return to the Champions League for the first time since 2009 hasn't been enough to overcome the disappointment of a poor start to the current campaign. A slew of injuries and the overplaying of key personnel to their and the team's detriment hasn't helped matters, and neither has a growing feeling as though nobody at the club quite knows what comes after Luis Suarez yet when it comes to finding a new attacking identity.
Yet despite that, Brendan Rodgers remains upbeat about his side's chances, both this season and over the longer term. The first month and a half may have been a massive letdown after the way last season ended, but that Liverpool side overachieved by almost any measure, and as Rodgers has pointed out before, his sides have always ended stronger than they begin. Give it time is the message, and even if the doubts and questions are valid, the manager has probably earned at least that much.
"It's an exciting challenge," he insisted when pressed on the issue of how to get his struggling side back on track. "This is still an incredible job—nothing has changed. The first six months were difficult here and then for 18 months we were on a magic ride in terms of performance levels and everything improving, so it was fantastic. Then there was the big change here in the summer and we lost a world-class player and looked to improve the squad by bringing in a number of key players.
"Unfortunately for us we've lost a number of them now. So, unfortunately, that brings us into a little period of transition again. Ideally for me it would have been a case of keeping the squad that we had and then adding a few bodies to pad it up and fill out the squad, but that wasn't to be. We lost a player, unfortunately, and we've gone into a little bit of transition again. It's difficult, like it was the first few months I was here, but the beauty of that period was we came out of it with a vision and ideas."
It's been difficult for fans to watch another period of transition when they had thought Liverpool had moved past that and were looking forward to a season of, at the least, consolidation. Instead it's been a struggle to fit new players into the old framework—or to develop a new framework that better fits those new players. Then there are some of the same old questions, ones fans had hoped Rodgers and Liverpool had moved past and wouldn't have to be worked through all over again.
Questions like the over-reliance on a preferred starting eleven and what seems an aversion to squad rotation. Already the club have suffered this season from an over-reliance on Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling, both of whom looked utterly exhausted on Wednesday and whose presence on the pitch towards the end of the match only ended up hurting Liverpool's chances. Now, due to injures and that reluctance to rotate, both will be expected face West Brom after a two day break.
This season wasn't supposed to be one of transition like Rodgers' first. It wasn't supposed to be filled with questions and fans arguing over whether their doubts were reasonable. Wasn't and supposed to and should have been aside, though, it's the reality of the situation. It's disappointing, but then it's rare in football—or anywhere else—that everything goes to plan, and on the strength of last year, Rodgers has at least earned a bit of patience as he tries to work his side through another transition.