Liverpool frustrated with the present while Van Gaal predicts staggered progress for the future
By Rebecca Parry
Now into his third year as Liverpool manager, the word ‘transition’ can no longer be a plausible excuse for Brendan Rodgers. Yes, moving on from losing Luis Suarez can be a transition in itself, but with the way Liverpool performed last season, you know there is an underlying cause when performances haven’t even been close this time around.
Following the all-important week which actually ended with three defeats – to Newcastle, Real Madrid and Chelsea – yet another international break leads you to reflect on what’s been going wrong for the Reds.
The defence has been targeted as the main cause for Liverpool’s desperately poor start to the season – and rightly so. Apart from bringing in Lovren to bulk up the defence, they’re still where they were last season in terms of being unable to keep a clean sheet. And if anything, it’s gotten worse. The reason why it was so difficult to regain composure at the back was because of the way we were putting everything into our attack. It was a full frontal force, and at times, there was nothing the opposition defences could do about it.
Now the difference is – without Suarez and Sturridge – there’s no presence up front and so in effect, we are losing at both ends of the pitch. We’re not reaping the rewards of playing so high up the pitch, because chances aren’t being created or converted when we attempt to power forward. Playing out from the back has also left us with a few pressuring problems recently, bringing uncomfortable flashbacks to mind from Rodgers’ first season with Pepe Reina in goal – where we also created problems for ourselves.
The counter issue is that we are simply not providing what’s needed up front in Balotelli. You could comment on his work rate and attitude for months, but even just in terms of being there, ready to pounce in the box, the attack isn’t producing.
In a sense, Liverpool have been lucky that no one apart from Chelsea – in terms of title contenders – have put up a real fight in getting a good run of victories together. They somehow still have the opportunity to turn things around for the rest of the season. The responsibility for this however, now rests on the shoulders of Daniel Sturridge.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were two of Liverpool’s most important players last season, and we are now relying solely on Sturridge to get the goals. When he returns after the international break, we can hope to see a bit more flow and conversion in Liverpool’s game in terms of goals.
Liverpool fans and players are frustrated with their current performances, especially in contrast to last year’s adventure. But Manchester United fans have recently been warned by Louis Van Gaal that this is not a short-term project, but more of a three year job in terms of seeing the progress.
Does this ring any bells, Liverpool fans? Brendan Rodgers did stress last year that they were one year ahead of schedule in terms of fighting for the title. After United’s troubles over the past couple of years, post Ferguson, another three years is not what United fans will want to hear.
But are all the excuses too soon? Van Gaal’s side haven’t had a great start either. In fact, it’s their worst start in years. Of course, a long-term plan of action is required to move forward, especially with the mess from the Moyes era, but where are the short-term solutions? When Liverpool were considered to be in ‘transition mode’, there were a few years of finishing in sixth and seventh place, and breaking back into the top four was a challenge.
With big money signings over the summer – such as Angel Di Maria – there’s no doubt that results should be better for them, but are they being overlooked when managers are projecting future success to come in years? Maybe not a as Liverpool fan, but as a football fan, it is disappointing to see that perhaps, some of the back up plans are already being rolled out.
It’s been a strange start to the season, with so many teams failing to find some sort of form – and it’s still wide open to everyone. Whoever manages to string together a set of results will start to distinguish the gap between top four, and the rest of the pack – but who will break away first; Manchester United or Liverpool?
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