Three reasons why Liverpool fans must keep faith with Brendan Rodgers
Harry Reardon sets out three reasons why Brendan Rodgers needs patience at Anfield
It is still early days
So far this season in the Premier League, Liverpool have taken 14 points from 11 games. If much of the attention from those with an interest in the Reds has been focused on the former of those figures, then more has to be drawn to the latter. 11 games is a small sample size. Between 16 September and 1 December 2013, Liverpool played ten games, of which they lost three (including defeats against Hull and at home to Southampton) and drew three, picking up a total of 15 points. Last season, of course, Liverpool finished second in the league, only being denied the title by a slip against Chelsea and a collapse against Crystal Palace. If the available playing staff this season may be different – more of which later – then those bald numbers are pretty similar. It is part of the nature of football for sides and players to go through peaks and troughs but to come out at the end roughly where they deserve to be. Brendan Rodgers has now had an introduction to the requirements of juggling Premier League and Champions League commitments. Time will tell whether his team will continue to face top-level European ties – they sit third in their group, and the spectre of a post-Christmas Europa League campaign is looming large – but Rodgers has risen to the challenge before.
Sturridge is coming back
The fact that there is a challenge at all is at least in part as a result of Liverpool becoming victims of their own success. After a seventh-place finish in the 2012/13 campaign (which itself followed a seventh, a sixth and an eighth position over the previous three seasons), the Reds bolted from the pack last year, winning only four fewer matches and scoring just 17 fewer goals than in the previous two years combined. Their style of play became something completely different from the rest of the league, a multi-faceted game at a furious tempo which seized games by the scruff of the neck and had them wrapped up by half-time. Luis Suárez scored 31 goals, Daniel Sturridge 21, and they were supported by the speed and sparkle of Raheem Sterling. That led to expectation. But then Suárez left, and Sturridge got injured. Steven Gerrard scored 13 times last season, but ten of those came from the penalty spot. Such a source cannot be relied on – the Reds have just one league penalty to their names so far this term – and with Gerrard’s penalties discounted, no-one in the Liverpool line-up since Sturridge played in the dismantling of Tottenham at the end of August reached double figures last season. Reports this week from the man himself on his Twitter account suggest that Sturridge is on track for a return away at Crystal Palace on Sunday week; not, Rodgers will feel, before time.
They haven’t actually been that bad
There is only one number that matters in football, they say, the one on the scoreboard at the end of the game. And there are also lies, damned lies and statistics – not least the statistics which renowned football number-crunchers StatsBomb swore blind for months meant that Andre Villas-Boas would inevitably turn things around for Tottenham. It would surely be fair to say, though, that as a rule, it is better to have the ball than not to have it, and similarly, it is better to have more shots than fewer. On those two fronts at least, Liverpool do not have much to worry about. Their average possession of 56.9 per cent places them fifth in the league rankings this season, while their shots per game ratio is topped only by Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. Their defence has not actually been too shabby either, with only Arsenal, Southampton and Manchester United allowing their opposition fewer shots per game, and no team is better at catching opponents offside. At some point, it is surely fair to say, they will start to get a bit more of the rub of the green, and when that happens, expect to see them climb back up towards the top four.