After beating Crystal Palace to return to the summit of the Premier League table you could forgive most Liverpool fans for thinking that all was right back at Anfield and whilst it’s been satisfying to hear the return of an old favourite “Liverpool Liverpool top o’ the league” ring out of the Kop in recent weeks, talk of anything beyond a top four finish is too premature given the leagues infancy.
The optimism is certainly back at Anfield and there is a feel good factor around the club, but if anybody was in need of a reality check of where Liverpool really are they needed look no further than the post-match interview Brendan Rodgers gave after the game. Speaking to the BBC Rodgers spoke of his disappointment at the lack of control he has seen his Liverpool side exert over games in a campaign which has so far yielded the clubs best points haul at this stage since 1994.
“We haven’t hit anywhere near the level, performance-wise, that we want to…We will take the three points here but we need to improve our level with the football”
And despite all the positivity those who have seen Liverpool at close quarters so far this season would have to agree, the Northern Irishman kind of had a point.
Liverpool havn’t played well across a full ninety minutes yet this season and a lack of control in games coupled with too many absentees in the second halves of matches has been the common theme for Liverpool in what’s otherwise been a very promising start. Despite seemingly coasting to an easy victory against an abject Palace side the Reds conceded too many chances for their managers liking and the inevitable consolation goal arrived after Liverpool produced another quiet second half display, even if the game was really over at half time.
But it’s long been said that the mark of a good side is that one that grinds out results without playing well, and the Reds will have no complaints if they can continue to replicate a run of form that has seen them lose just twice in their last nineteen league encounters (both co-incidentally to Southampton).
But as Rodgers was keen to point out, he is a man that expects more than just results, here is a manager that demands his players produce performances to match.
“It’s not enough to just win games, for me, I’m very much someone who worries about playing well” said the Reds’ boss. “We put (the ball) at risk too much and that’s a part of the system with the players that we’ve lost, so it’s meant a shift to the structure and sometimes 3-5-2 is set up more as a counter attack.”
As someone who prides himself on a footballing philosophy based on possession and style Rodgers has reason to look for improvement. There is no hiding from the fact that in Simon Mignolet, Liverpool have had the busiest of all the Premier League stoppers, having conceded more shots on target than any other side. Whilst one goal in seven second half displays tells its own story. But as many would rightly argue, when you have a strike force in such a rich vein of form as Sturridge and Suarez find themselves at the moment, it doesn’t really matter how much possession you have. Liverpool might be able to keep relying on their key men to bail them out but Rodgers would certainly feel more comfortable if his mantra of tiki-taka football was on show a bit more than it has been thus far.
Rodgers seemed to blame his formation of 3-5-2 as the chief reason for his sides lack of control and so a switch back his favoured 4-3-3 would seem to be on the horizon but even then there would look to be room in the side for an Alonso type player. It certainly comes as no surprise to see the club linked with a return for the midfield maestro lately as he is just the sort of player that Liverpool need if they are going to be able to ensure that they marry up their results with the type of possession their manager craves.
So despite their excellent start the message from Rodgers is clear, there is a lot more to come. Hearing that whilst just going top of the league will no doubt be music to the Liverpool fans ears, lets just hope the players dance to Rodgers’ tune and continue to build on a fantastic start to this years league campaign.