I suppose one day I might look back on yesterday's borderline-farce of a game and penalty shootout and smile, and it will be filed with all the other goofy-if-not-glorious memories I have of being a Liverpool supporter. Perhaps between the night they got dumped out of the Champions League by Basel on the same day I got dumped and sent me on a three-day bender and Carragher's two own-goals in the same game against United. There are plenty more I'm sure.
But for most of the afternoon, that game was just an annoyance. I normally wouldn't have watched it at all I think, but I'm on a trip visiting a friend and had to kill some time while she was at work (didn't hurt the pub I found pours a pretty good Guinness). There are worse ways to spend an afternoon after all, so I went into it hoping Liverpool would find something of a higher gear and some new players would make an impact (and that Lucas would at least look something like the Lucas we all knew and loved. Sigh).
But of course, they didn't really, and though they weren't a complete abomination they still made a couple mistakes to keep Boro around. A way to kill an afternoon had become yet another grind simply to get through, and this one had the indignity of an extra half hour of bullshit and then a marathon penalty shootout. It was like the doctor's appointment that never ended. Nope, need to take just a little more blood!
A League Cup fixture should never be this stressful, but Rodgers has never shown an inclination to completely dismiss it. Starting Sterling yesterday shows you it's the same now.
I hope that Liverpool's sluggish start will become an afterthought when we get to April, and it still very well might. But my annoyance with the start, and in particular the leaky defense, is that our manager doesn't seem to be taking much responsibility for it. Last year, when the defense had tossed away some points, it was Rodgers who exclaimed to the media that it wasn't anything structural and was just mental mistakes. It's not my fault lads, it's that they're not doing what I tell them!
Rodgers has thrown new buys at the problem, but none of them have yet to really shine. He's the one who has insisted on Martin Skrtel even though Skrtel has basically been a disaster for over two seasons now. While the team screams out for a leader from the back, it was Rodgers who dismissed and then sold Agger, the only real leader in the backline for reasons no one's been able to pin down. It's Rodgers who has provided a next-to-nothing shield at times with Gerrard as the deepest holding midfielder. It's Rodgers who played Kolo Toure far more than was required (how would those two points he solely threw away at West Brom look now?)
Sure, this didn't matter when Liverpool were scoring six goals. But it matters now. Liverpool still don't seem to know how to control a match. Either they smother it out of existence in the first half hour or they panic and the other team gets the upper hand. For a Mourinho disciple, Rodgers's teams sure don't seem to know how to grind out an easy 1-0 or 2-0 win. You don't always have to be a Kiss show from '75 on the pitch. Sometimes you get your one goal and then you see out a match without too much fuss by not giving the other team anything. Liverpool can't do that under Rodgers. Or at least they haven't shown they've been able to.
We sometimes forget that Rodgers is also kind of still in his embryonic stage as a manager. This is only his fourth season in the top flight, and there are going to be missteps. Perhaps Lovren will evolve into the leader at the back that we all hope and we'll all forget this. We'll just have to see. But there seems to be a willful blindness to the issues at the back. Let's hope lessons are learned.