Ah, so that’s what three points at home feel like! It’s been a long time coming, and as the second half wore on with the game delicately poised at 1-0, you could feel the sense of nervousness from the fans and players alike, but Liverpool overcame a late surge from Reading to claim a much needed three points. The Reds’ perennial profligacy continued to make things far more difficult than they should have been, and Luis Suarez alone could – and should – have at least had a hat-trick, but it’s better to work on these problems after a win.
The reoccurring theme that continues to plague us is long beyond worrying; it was a concern twelve months ago, now they’ve begrudgingly been accepted as the norm until we can upgrade our attacking options – something that simply must happen in January. We need attacking reinforcements in the summer, and then Maxi, Kuyt, Carroll and Bellamy have all left and were replaced by Borini and Assaidi. Things would be far worse if Rodgers hadn’t taken a gamble and given the youngsters - who have bought in to what he’s selling - a chance to prove their worth.
The likes of Andre Wisdom, Suso and Raheem Sterling, who scored the winner with a fantastic finish, have taken to the first team like the proverbial duck to water, and it’s scary to think what state our squad would be in if the youngsters had struggled to perform. Fortunately for us, Rodgers’ experience managing younger players has paid dividends and the aforementioned trio have shown the right application and attitude to go with their obvious talent. If you’ve read my ST pieces with any regularity you will know that Sterling is someone that has been frequently mentioned, but even I am surprised with how quickly he has adapted to the demands of first team football.
Against Reading his movement was exceptional, as he knew when to stay out wide to stretch the game, and when to come inside and provide a threat through the middle. He took his goal incredibly well and also created several good chances by releasing the ball at just the right time, and with an assist and a goal in the league this season he has already contributed more than Stewart Downing did in the league last year. It is no secret that the traditional winger who hugs the touchline is an endangered species, but Sterling is as comfortable beating a man on the outside and crossing the ball as he is cutting inside and getting a shot at goal. His decision making for such a precocious talent is astonishing; he may only be a kid but he has a wise head on his shoulders.
He’s nowhere near to being the finished article, and that’s what is so exciting; if he is this good already, imagine how good he’ll be once he gains more experience and finishes growing.
His improvement since the arrival of Rodgers is astonishing. Before he came in Sterling was a talented, cocky kid with plenty of potential but a whole lot of improving to do before he was ready for the first team. His rapid development over the past five months is testament not only to his hard work and self-belief, but also Rodgers’ man-management skills and ability to coach players. He’s nowhere near to being the finished article, and that’s what is so exciting; if he is this good already, imagine how good he’ll be once he gains more experience and finishes growing. He needs to be nurtured carefully, but his potential is frightening.
There was an infamous scene from the Being: Liverpool documentary which sent twitter in to meltdown when Sterling appeared the answer Rodgers back when he was addressing the squad on their pre-season tour of America, to which the boss gave him a dressing down in front of the rest of the players and threatened to send him ‘on the first plane back’. Without knowing the context of what was said it’s impossible to really extrapolate anything from it, but as the series went on you notice Rodgers praising more of Sterling’s work and it is clear that he is doing all the right things; he wouldn’t be in the side if he wasn’t.
From the owners’ point of view, they sanctioned the spending of around £80m in total (including wages and signing on fees) on Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson, and have seen their contributions surpassed by kids who cost buttons in comparison. You can see why they’d be hesitant to authorise any big spending again, but that is exactly what is still needed if we’re to return to the top four. Rodgers is doing the best he can with what he has, but he’s no miracle worker.
Rodgers’ approach may not reap the short-term rewards, but in the long-term his actions could save the club millions. Whilst we should not be relying on a 17, 18 and 19-year-old respectively to play week in week out and be expect them to contribute significantly, this has been a baptism of fire, and these lads have proven themselves to be inflammable.
You can follow Alex on twitter @woolfc
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