Finding Form: In The System We Trust

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There was a good reason why Liverpool were struggling so mightily before recent weeks, and reason to believe that good form is returning. Even with a draw at Everton I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Our lack of form before this recent stretch of better performances has been chalked up to many different things, but at the heart of it all is the simple fact that the players are still transitioning into a new system under Brendan Rodgers. This latest game against Everton was yet another example of the progress we have made but also the work left to do.

Football revolves around possession because to score, a team must have the ball. Some teams try to generally dominate the ball the whole game, passing it around wherever. Other teams try to just have possession in the meaningful areas, counter-attacking with numbers at just the right time with numbers forward. I'll ignore the Tony Pulis philosophy of putting every one of his large half-human, half leg crunching machines (see Aaron Ramsey) back to play defense. Liverpool tends to be beaten by teams who use the latter method of counter-striking at the optimal time, taking advantage of sloppy possession and scoring a goal that leaves us down for the count.

As we continue to improve in controlling a game, the players will stop giving the ball away so cheaply in deadly positions, so that when the other team does get the ball, they'll have to work harder for their chances. Case and point. In the game against Arsenal earlier this season, their opening goal sprouted from Steven Gerrard playing a poor ball to Suarez. Because Stevie wasn't necessarily in tune with the system, he opted for a cutting ball instead of playing something much simpler. His run forward directly caused a gaping hole in the center of the pitch, a perfect chance for Arsenal to get on the counter attack. And sure enough, seconds later Podolski was celebrating a goal like a madman, easily sliding a shot past a helpless Reina. That lack of patience for a mere split second cost a goal, and with the already downtrodden spirits of the lads in red, the match was pretty much out of reach. And that is just one of many examples this year. It's this sloppiness in the attack that leaves our defenders scrambling.

This problem will start to go away over time, as Brendan Rodger's system is designed to keep teams from getting that optimal opportunity to get on the counter-attack through domination of possession. It's not like the players don't know that they should keep the passes short and quick, the dribbles conservative as to not cheaply give the ball away, the runs slippery and spontaneous. It's not like they don't understand that possession is the number one priority and that if a central midfielder does decide to burst forward he must be sure as hell that someone is covering the central area that he vacates. It's tiki-taka 101. The thing is, once in a live game scenario, it is hard to kick old habits. Because a player like Steven Gerrard has made his living off of bursting dribbles, superhuman through balls, and sizzling long shots, it will take a while for him to master the discipline necessary to hold off on those things and become more patient.

Gerrard can handle the change, as can the majority of first-team players, but there are some that don't play as well in this system because of the patience and short passing skills required. Herein lies another reason why patience is necessary. In the past four seasons we have seen four managers with completely different tactics and objectives in the transfer windows. Yes, we still have players who can play in the new system, but I'd argue that we don't have many that were made to play the tiki-taka. Rodgers and his scouts need time to find and buy these players both at the youth level and at the first-team level. Sure, we can all easily say that he didn't show much transfer ability over the summer, and to some extent I guess that's true, but to be fair to Brendan, everything seemed chaotic and Dalglish's reputation as an "over payer" for talent carried over to the new regime, causing teams to have absurd asking prices.

I think that we may have hit our lowest point a couple weeks back, and now we are slowly getting back up as a club. Much patience is needed because I'm sure many more bumps in the road will occur. I don't think that our final table position in the league will wind up being anything spectacular, but it's nice to know that things could be getting better. Then again, haven't we all written those lines before?

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