Posted by Attack of the Kop On Saturday, 23 March 2013 21 comments
If you were to sum up Brendan Rodgers’ first season so far at Liverpool, inconsistent would be at the fore of everyone’s lips.
However cliché it sounds, the campaign’s been a case of two steps forward and then one step back. As renewed hope is brought back with a string of impressive results, the reality quickly looms that this Liverpool team’s fortunes indeed won’t change overnight.
Coming off the back of three recent impressive victories against Swansea, Wigan and Tottenham, whispers of a return to Champions League football was the talk that surrounded the team from sports betting sites. Alas, the 3-1 loss to relegation threatened Southampton was in order to follow the season’s frustrating pattern and set off the pessimists.
But, there was a statistic that was overlooked. The nail-biting 3-2 turnaround against Spurs was the first time since May 2011 Liverpool recorded three consecutive league wins.
The performance against Southampton was inexcusable, however, the inconsistency is somewhat justifiable and is to be unfortunately expected.
High expectations are getting in the way of remembering that this still is Brendan Rodgers’ first season. The 40-year-old hadn’t been at a club with the same distinction as Liverpool since taking over from Kenny Dalglish last summer.
He’s come out and admitted he’s made mistakes in his tenure; the Northern Irishman’s learning everyday.
In fact, it was far from an overnight turn around for Ferguson at United. Fans grew frustrated and he was close to being relieved of his managerial duties early in his career.
Rodgers inherited an indifferent squad. It was far from complete, though it registered a core of very good players, there were also overvalued and overpaid players.
He set out to replace the departing Craig Bellamy, Maxi Rodriguez, Charlie Adam and Dirk Kuyt with relatively young players.
It’s resulted in Liverpool boasting the youngest squad in the Premier League this season. The likes of Joe Allen, Philippe Coutinho, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey, Suso and Andre Wisdom have all contributed to an average of just 25.3 years.
With inexperience comes inconsistency. However, the long-term results with the talent littered in the squad will be rewarding. At just 20, Coutinho has bagged 2 goals and 2 assists in his four starts since joining from Inter Milan - He’ll only get better with time.
On the flip side you have Joe Allen. After a storming start to his Liverpool career, the £15 million midfielder scooped the Player of the Month award for August. But since then his performances have tailed off, looking a fraction of the player we saw early in the season.
Come next season, Rodgers needs to strike a balance. With veteran Jamie Carragher retiring, a search should’ve already begun for his successor. Plus, there aren’t too many senior figures in the squad already, a concern Steven Gerrard has already spoken out about – It’s a problem that needs to be addressed or we could be facing another stop start season.
How have the management tried to tackle the inconsistency this season I hear you all ask at once?
To start, Liverpool have appointed top-rated sports psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters mid-way through the campaign. He’s worked with great effect alongside the British Cycling team for the last decade, and is distinguished by Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton as the catalyst for their Olympic achievements.
Fabio Borini has already revealed how he’s previously sought help from mental coach Roberto Civitarese while at Chelsea and again when he suffered a broken foot earlier in the season.
"I think it is a thing that, in modern football, can be really helpful.”
"I really appreciate talking to psychologists and I will talk to them again.”
The mental health of players is often played down in the footballing world, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed by clubs, especially Liverpool as we have, and have had, a fair share of underperforming players shot of confidence.
Coupled with that, manager Brendan Rodgers has brought out an incentive scheme for the players. The 3 wins in a row against Queens Park Rangers, Sunderland and Mansfield Town were rewarded with lunch at a local Italian restaurant on the manager.
It shows strives are being made to implement a level of consistency through incentives for players however unorthodox the methods.
A winning mentality is difficult to implement and it sure won’t happen in a manager’s first season. But once it’s in full flow, it’s highly rewarding. The scrappy encounters turn your way. You win games that perhaps you didn’t deserve to.
Just ask Manchester United.