Another Game, Another Test

by Ernie Fox

After last season’s disappointments there can be no surprises that this term, Brendan Rodgers and his side will be judged on a number of criteria throughout. It truly is the season of judgement and on Monday we will see another test of just how far this side has come, not just over the summer but from the three years of Rodgers’ management.

On Monday night Liverpool will take on their first test against a top 4 side. Last year we didn’t fair so well against the big sides in fact we managed just 1 win from the 8 matches against the sides that eventually beat us to a Champions League qualifying place. This year, we have to do better and so our match at the Emirates will be the first time to see just how far we have come.

It’s not the only test we will have be judged on, from the opening two games of the season I have picked out a few issues of concern that were addressed (or not) from those games played already. Below are some of those tests, and how well we have managed to live up to the expectations.

Character

We’ve all been waiting to hear this word come out of Brendan Rodgers’ mouth. How many times did we hear him use it last season to explain a poor performance? This time around against Stoke was, however, an appropriate occasion. There was a huge amount of pressure on the team to perform, not just because of last season’s overall performances but also our final fixture collapse at the Britannia Stadium. This time around we couldn’t afford such a result and the players knew it. Returning to the ground of such a humiliation, and on the opening game of the season, was always going to be a tricky psychological experience. A 1-0 victory is hardly emphatic, but it did show a determination to put last season behind them, a strength of character we often lacked a year ago. For now we have passed, but there will be further tests on this front. Pass

Benteke

Our big money, summer transfer; the man who has divided opinion. Will he adapt to our style? Will we adapt to his? A goal on your Anfield debut is not a bad way of answering some of those questions. So far Benteke has proven to be an excellent signing, applying pressure on defenders, winning a lot of aerial duals and providing strength up front. Time will tell whether the rest of team are able to make the most of the space he provides in the midfield by occupying so much of the opposition defence but after two games I have to say that he is looking to have passed the test with flying colours. Pass

Goals

We didn’t score enough goals last season; we didn’t threaten the opposing team’s goal enough and it resulted in teams being able to hustle us for possession and disrupt our flow. So far, we haven’t really shown a significant improvement in goal return. Perhaps we can be generous and allow a little time for the likes of Ings, Benteke, Firmino and Origi to find their feet, but at the moment we have just two goals from two games and one of those was the kind of spectacular effort that you can’t really rely on to get you out of trouble week in week out. So far we have scored more goals than we’ve conceded, but we must improve on this front, we can’t just rely on Benteke but need a more frequent goal return from his support staff as well. Pending

Patience

First of all, as a fan I’ve had to be extremely patient. Three weeks in and we’re yet to play on a Saturday afternoon, instead I’ve had to endure two weekends of no Liverpool thanks to Sky’s Monday Night football concept. But more importantly our opening two victories did display a certain level of patience to our play; too many times in the past I’ve seen us toil away to get an early goal and then having failed to do so, frustration has set in and we’ve ended up conceding and losing the match. Though our opening wins havn’t been overly sensational, we have achieved both with a workman like attitude and remained patient in our play that has resulted in two clean sheets. We haven’t given in or lost concentration and that is one of the main reasons for taking 100% points so far, it’s definitely an improvement on previous years. Pass

Defence

Two clean sheets, what more can you say? Lovren still needs to convince the Anfield faithful that he has what it takes, and I expect Moreno to recapture his place as left back over 18 year old Joe Gomez. However, we are looking much more assured at the back this time around; our build up play is perhaps a bit too slow at present but at least the current back four look a little less scared of being in possession than they did last year. The truth is that they weren’t really put under pressure to make a sufficient judgement, but as you can only play against the team in front of you, you have to say they have fared well so far. Pass

Replacing Gerrard

Possibly the hardest challenge for Rodgers and the hierarchy; make no mistake replacing Gerrard was a two man job, possibly even three. On the pitch Milner has performed well and despite not starting either game, Can has made it clear that he has no intention of warming the subs bench all season. As for that moment of class that Gerrard provided, Coutinho has stepped up to the plate so far scoring a spectacular winner against Stoke. There are defiantly positive signs ahead, but we are a long way from finding that one individual that optimises everything positive about the club and drives the team through the good times and bad. Pending

Assessment

It’s been a positive start, but such are the expectations of this season that we can expect many more tests to come during the season. The ultimate test will come with the final league table standings in 2016 but so far the signs are all good. It is far too early in the season to give a thorough assessment of exactly where we are compared to where we should be, but for the time being we can remain positive.

Written by Ernie Fox

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