Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers may have been satisfied with a 2-2 draw on Wednesday evening in a Champions League tie at Ludogorets Razgrad as his team now only needs to beat FC Basel at Anfield to qualify for the knockout phase. However, the contest was symptomatic of a season in which the Reds have failed to repeat the performances of last season when they simply scored more goals than the opposition to win games.
In losing six of their twelve Premier League games to date this season, Liverpool now occupy twelfth place in the table yet they had only lost two matches at the same stage twelve months earlier before three defeats in December followed. Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were terrorising opposition defences and Liverpool claimed victory in some matches last term by 4-3, 5-3 and 6-3 margins.
Perhaps their ruthless attack hided deficiencies in defence but it does appear that the persistent injuries of Sturridge during this campaign and the sale of Suarez following the unwelcome publicity of his World Cup bite have focused more attention on Liverpool’s overall play. Raheem Sterling has been tasked with more responsibility in attack but in his late teenage years, he is still prone to lapses in form.
With the proceeds of the Suarez sale, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren, Rickie Lambert, Mario Balotelli and Emre Can all arrived at Liverpool but it does take time for players to blend into a winning formation especially for a club constantly in the spotlight and where individual performances and mistakes are exposed in the media.
There have also been suggestions that club captain Steven Gerrard is longer the influential midfield player of recent seasons and goalkeeper Simon Mignolet has also been the subject of much criticism. With the Liverpool forwards not so prolific this term, any errors by the ‘keeper appear to have been magnified with no goals from Suarez generating alternate headlines.
With Liverpool continuing to play an attacking style of football under the guidance of Rodgers, it does offer the possibility of the defence being exposed as has happened both this and last season. However, it could be argued that defeats this campaign at West Ham, Newcastle and Crystal Palace may not have happened with a fully fit Sturridge and Suarez leading the attacking line. It is difficult to replace such prolific forwards as the Liverpool manager is now discovering.
Some pundits have argued that the Suarez money should have been spent on more quality than quantity but faced with the possibility of a long Champions League campaign this season, Rodgers needed greater numbers in his squad to cope with the extra games as Liverpool were not distracted by European football last season.
Already there is talk of Brendan Rodgers being dismissed from his post if results do not improve but a relatively benign set of fixtures in the coming weeks may offer some respite. Then there is the small matter of an away fixture at Old Trafford to face Manchester United and Arsenal visiting Anfield.
It could be an interesting few weeks for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool.