First, an apology about no gamethread. Because I'm a genius I set it up to launch tomorrow. That'll do us a lot of good.
I think for a little longer than we wanted to we're going to have to remember the word "patience". This isn't Dalglish trying to just rescue a mess, which was more geared to play the Rafa Benitez style that Roy Hodgson tried to ruin. Brendan Rodgers is trying to basically overhaul the whole thing, and that's not going to happen when most of the first team is still in the very early stages of preseason. And things may look disjointed until September, or October, or maybe even longer. Even when the players are fit.Because Liverpool weren't good at all today. But then again, how many matches did we watch last year where Liverpool did everything and found every way under the sun and then some others to not score, only to see the opposition come up with one moment of brilliance to come away with an equalizer or winner? So considering that Downing, Johnson, Henderson, Borini, and Gerrard hadn't had more than a half's worth of football before this, taking a 1-0 lead back to Anfield after another week's training (and possibly squad additions and subtractions. More likely the subtractions) is hardly disaster.
But the performance? Disjointed and ponderous. All the returning first-teamers were clearly lacking sharpness, as Henderson, Gerrard, Johnson, and Downing got caught on the ball and unsure of what to do. Jay Spearing did too, but that's kind of his thing. The movement wasn't where it needs to be, and that led to too many hopeful balls to Raheem Sterling or Borini, which is exactly what we're supposed to avoid here. Some of that is down to the disciplined performance of Gomel, who really gummed up the middle for Liverpool. But Rodgers in the future is going to want Liverpool to break through that and not try and go over it.
-While we're only four games in, and this will change, right now we can see that while trying to instill a new system of playing that Brendan Rodgers isn't going to burden the players by trying to install other plans just yet. Right now, through four games, the only tactical change we've seen is inverting the midfield triangle at times, switching between one holding midfielder or two. The first half saw Henderson and Gerrard ahead of Spearing. This didn't work as Henderson and Gerrard couldn't quite figure out who should be where and who was dropping and who wasn't, and Spearing can't be trusted on his own. With the addition of Lucas on the hour, it was two behind Gerrard and everyone knew where they should be. This resulted in Liverpool looking a lot more solid, as it should. In the future, Lucas can be trusted to be the only holder behind Henderson and Gerrard (or Allen and Gerrard), but he's going to have to gain full fitness for that.
Also, one thing that I'm concerned about a bit down the road is that at Swansea, Rodgers wouldn't have to change things too much. The big clubs in the league wouldn't adjust what they do for Swansea, so they could sort of blindside them. The smaller teams couldn't do much about it. At some point, LIverpool will have to shift out of his preferred 4-3-3, or do more than just invert the middle three. Will they be able to? This is a question we'll revisit in March or so.
-Highlights? Lucas. That's about it?
-If not for his goal, it was another Downing performance that would lead to me forgetting he was on the team.
-Well, Joe Cole has ran through the entire contents of his arsenal this preseason, as he came off injured.
-Too many Hollywood balls from a disjointed Gerrard. We already have one Charlie Adam, thanks.
-Hard to judge Borini, who got no support from anyone really.
-Skrtel always struggles with pacy strikers who have some strength, as we remember Drogba eating him alive several times. Alumona combined those two things and was quite impressive, and Skrtel probably never wants to see him again.
-Sterling looked raw, which is what he is. Odd decisions with the ball and runs, he didn't look a force until Gomel pushed forward and he had more space.
-Jose Enrique didn't have a stroke. That's a move forward.
Onward and upward, should look better in a week and at home.