Liverpool had an evening to forget on Saturday after a 3-1 away defeat to deadly rivals Manchester United, the Reds’ second league defeat in a row. Much like the surprise loss to West Ham a couple of weeks ago Brendan Rodgers’ side found themselves ineffective against a hungrier United opposition. Christian Benteke’s wonderful overhead kick aside, this was another Reds performance leaving a lot to be desired.
There was one positive to come out of the result however – Benteke’s unbelievable strike made it two goals in five games for the Belgium striker and it is evident that his contribution this season will be invaluable. We were also without Phillippe Coutinho who, had he played, would have given us that extra dimension of creativity we needed.
Regardless of this, the result at Old Trafford has sent alarm bells ringing around Anfield about the future of Rodgers, with mumbles turning into shouts for his departure from the club – someone even hilariously set up a website to raise the money for the Northern Irishman’s compensation should he be sacked.
While a humorous yet deeply flawed gesture we will see that conclusions are being heavily jumped if we put our current league record into perspective. We have played five games so far, winning two of them and drawing one and, while the last two games have not been good enough, we still find ourselves in a better position than this time last season, when we had lost one game more.
Team ethic hasn’t perhaps been high and the squad has yet to develop into a fully working unit but, during a summer in which Rodgers brought in nine new players, it takes time for the new additions to gel with the old ones. To expect an immediate integration into the squad for the new players is unrealistic.
These are not excuses for team performances – it is evident that Liverpool need to step it up a level – and Thursday’s Europa League opening game against Bordeaux will serve as a welcome break from Liverpool’s woes in the league.
The Europa League is a great opportunity for Rodgers and the team, despite its gruelling schedule and the helter skelter effect it has on Premier League sides. We have seen from the likes of Everton and Tottenham last season that Europe’s second tier competition can be physically and mentally draining and can have an adverse effect on domestic results.
But Rodgers is now in a position where he has better strength in depth in his squad and he should utilise this in Europe. Especially since the winners of the competition then qualify for the Champions League next season – an alternative method of reaching the promised land. But in a difficult group consisting of Bordeaux, FC Sion and Rubin Kazan, we will have to be on our A-game every week.
Victories are always a great way to boost morale and a win, as well as a good performance against Bordeaux could see a translation of good fortune into the Premier League. Because we are too big a team to be going on an continuous losing sequence.
The Europa League can also see Rodgers experiment with the squad a lot more, both tactically and in terms of personnel. He could try to find the system that best suits his squad, with a 4-2-3-1 formation so far having varying results; perhaps testing the waters with two forwards alongside each other or the three man defence that worked well last year.
Rodgers could also give more starting opportunities to the likes of Jordon Ibe, Divock Origi and Danny Ings, three young and hungry players who would relish the chance to make the starting XI.
Liverpool simply need to beat Bordeaux on Thursday to avoid the kind of early season slump that can derail squad ambitions so early into the campaign. The team will have forgotten about the past two results and be looking to get back to winning ways, and so will Rodgers.
While we have no real reason to panic at this stage of the season it would be a great sign of the team’s resilience to grab three points in Europe and never look back from the alarming performances of the past two games.