Liverpool‘s annual trip to White Hart Lane ended in yet another loss. We just can’t seem to catch a break when we travel to Spurs; they have our number. It’s one of those grounds I don’t expect us to come back from with a win. Unlike last season, however, this was no drubbing. I don’t think anyone would deny that we deserved at least a point – I know, that old adage about you get what you deserve, blah blah blah – but again we were the instigators of our own downfall. Unfortunately, until we get to quality signings to support Suarez, this is what is going to happen more often than not.
I’m usually perennially pessimistic when it comes to Liverpool, but right now I’m at peace with where we are as a team, and I’m happy with Brendan Rodgers – I don’t see how you can seriously judge him anyway until he’s given the time and resources to properly do his job, but then the fickle nature of the modern day football fan is not a surprise. He is no messiah, he may like the sound of his own voice, he may have a rather unnerving tendency to touch peoples faces, his middle management speeches may make me cringe, and he has made some mistakes. But, out of the two managers who were stood on the touchline last night, I’m pleased with the one we ended up with.
I’ve nothing against AVB. What he did at Porto, irrespective of the quality of the team at his disposal and the competition – or lack thereof – in the Portuguese league, was extremely impressive. His acrimonious departure from Chelsea was also understandable; how can anyone be expected to thrive under Roman Abramovich? I wasn’t wholly against the idea of him becoming the next Liverpool manager – he certainly has the beard for it – but he wasn’t top of my list. Watching Spurs last night, though, they appeared to lack a clear plan; a definitive system of how to go out and play.
But Spurs’ main threat was the same one they have had for the past few seasons: a pair of quick, skilful wingers in Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon. They gave Stewart Downing and Glen Johnson problems, and the two combined for the first goal, but that is nothing new. Bar a change in personnel, there was nothing noticeably different to Spurs – that I noticed, anyway – from when we played them last season. Like under Redknapp they still don’t have a distinct style of play other than give it to the wingers and let them run. At least we have a blueprint from which we’re working from.
I’m not claiming that Rodgers is some sort of tactical mastermind, but we have a clear system in place. The effectiveness and success of that system can – and has – been argued, but it is something we’re working from going forward. There is a footballing philosophy in place, and that is something we have lacked under the past two managers – as much as I adore the man, can anyone tell me what Liverpool’s style of play under Kenny was last season, and why we spent £80m on the players we did? Now we’re signing players to play a specific role, rather than sign them and then try and fit them in to the side.
Our squad needed strengthening in the summer, but instead it was further depleted, particularly in the attacking areas, and we’re suffering as a result. You can question how the manager spent the money he was given – although I think, in time, all four signings will prove their worth to the side – but if you think we lack talented players either side of Luis Suarez because of Brendan Rodgers, you should be sectioned. Realistically, I don’t think you can expect too much more given the circumstances; we’re a young side that will get better, but we need some help along the way.
We’ve been without our only holding midfielder for practically the entire season, and as a result our midfield trio has lacked the defensively solidity and control that Lucas brings. We’ve had an extremely talented, young striker injured for the past few months, and as a result Suarez has lacked support and been unable to rest when the opportunity has arisen. We’ve had countless refereeing decisions go against us that have cost us countless points (this isn’t me claiming there’s some sort of conspiracy, but just go back and look at all the poor decisions that have gone against us this season).
I’ve accepted the reality of the situation. That doesn’t mean I accept or am content with mediocrity, but expectations must be tempered. Spurs have been a top four club for the past few seasons; we have not. But I don't think we're far off them. Until Liverpool resolve the stadium situation and return to the Champions League, we’re going to struggle to compete in the transfer market with the top clubs, and so we have to be resourceful. Bringing through the talent in our academy is a start, but they must be supplemented with quality in order for the club to prosper. That is the challenge facing Brendan Rodgers, and I hope he’s given a fair crack of the whip.