Liverpool: Screw The Premier League And Go For Europa Glory
So, what do you do?
Your team is struggling in the league. Your predecessor struggled in the league but won a cup, reached the final of another and lost his job.
You have been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions in the early rounds; in one by the club you previously managed yourself (and who now sit two places above you in the league and are your next visitors when you return from Russia) the other by a club from three divisions below you. Both were weak capitulations. Both, it could be claimed, were the result of your team selections.
What are you going to do? Both for this Thursday night visit to Zenit St Petersburg and for the rest of the season in both league and cup if you wish to salvage something from the campaign and demonstrate that you deserve the time that you are being given to rebuild your club? How will you show that you are actually progressing from the base that your predecessor left you?
How are you going to prove that the decision to end Kenny Dalglish's tenure and place Liverpool's future in your hands was the correct one?
Do you place your emphasis on the Europa League and accept a lower placing in the league, aiming for a trophy at the end of the season, a day out in Amsterdam being a placebo that the fans may accept?
Do you accept that, not having beaten a team in the top half of the table so far this season, a competition which includes Chelsea, Spurs, Atletico Madrid, Ajax, Sparta Prague and Inter may be beyond your team's abilities? You have shown you can compete with the top teams but not yet put forward any evidence that you can beat them.
Do you place your emphasis on the league, knowing that there are still only six points separating Liverpool from sixth position but that you may need to reach fifth in the table in order to achieve the European competition that a Europa League win would provide for next season? Will you lose key players if you don't have that place in Europe next year?
Or do you decide that you are the manager of Liverpool, there are only three months left to play and it's past time that some of your squad showed that they are worthy of being at the club?
The latter, one would hope.
And here's how you do it.
Be revolutionary, set your stall out and stick with it. 'This, this is how we play. We do not vary, we do not veer, this is our system, let everybody else worry about us'
Stick with your 4-3-3 turning into a 3-4-3 when attacking formation. Push your full backs up, drop a holding midfielder in between the centre backs and give the three up top the mobility to create while ensuring there is always a focal point arriving in the box. Do not, and I can't emphasise this enough, do NOT play a 4-4-1-1 with a player in the hole who has no idea where he is supposed to be.
You are playing Thursday, Sunday, Thursday. Accept that Sunday's league game may need to be sacrificed in order to progress in Europe. Start your strongest possible team against Zenit; the team that gives you the greatest balance, the best cover.
That means Wisdom back at right back, Johnson on the left again. Carragher and Agger in the middle, Lucas, Gerrard and Henderson in midfield, Suarez, Downing and Borini upfront. Now this is the bit you really need to get right; Borini plays as the focal point. He's the striker. Let Suarez wreak havoc where he wants, it's Borini's job to pick up the bits and put the ball in the net. He's not doing it in the Premiership, let him get some confidence in Europe, Sturridge is cup tied anyway, this is Borini's competition.
That gives you Skrtel, Enrique, Allen, Shelvey, Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge as the backbone of Sunday's team. This is as tight as it gets, build round this for this week and see how we progress from here.
This should be the best possible time to face Zenit; no competitive game since the 10th of December, boardroom unrest, internal tension over the new stadium (and a police investigation of that likely), conflict between players (the Russian team's captain unhappy with certain star players' salaries) but facing a West Brom side that hadn't won since Boxing Day should have been relatively straightforward. Oh, and, there's the little matter of Zenit only having lost one European game at home in the last 19, a record stretching back to 2008.
It's not easy but it is yet another season defining match in a season that appears to be littered with them
What are you going to do Brendan?