Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat to Stoke City on Boxing Day may have left supporters disappointed, but the Reds have struggled to overcome Tony Pulis’ men in recent seasons. The Anfield outfit have tasted victory against the Potters on just one occasion in the last six Premier League meetings between the two sides, with Stoke’s well-documented physical approach leaving Liverpool often out-muscled and puzzled.
Brendan Rodgers knows that he will not have to face Stoke every week, therefore adjusting the pass-and-move philosophy he is trying to implement in order to compete more in a more physical sense with those particular opponents would be a step too far. However, having a ‘Plan B’ may allow Liverpool to collect more positive results against such teams in the future.
The temporary departure of £35m striker Andy Carroll last summer suggested that Rodgers has no interest in a direct, alternative approach in case things are going wrong. But the Reds’ current style of play is too predictable and until the players perfect their passing and pressing skills, or indeed until the manager is better equipped with players more suited to his style, Rodgers’ methods will only yield inconsistent results.
So, to stick or to twist? To stick with this philosophy wholeheartedly until the system is perfected in several years’ time achieving almost flawless results or to twist by preparing an alternative style of play to confuse and test opponents when things are going wrong? Former Swansea boss Rodgers will probably choose to stick, but a hint of pragmatism may have some short-term benefits.
While Rodgers does not appear to be under a significant amount of pressure, the fact of the matter is that he is currently equalling Roy Hodgson’s points tally when the current England manager was in the Anfield hot-seat a couple of years ago. Hodgson’s Liverpool had also collected just 25 points from 19 league games – and an away defeat at the hands of Blackburn Rovers in the twentieth fixture saw the Englishman relieved of his duties. It seems unlikely that Fenway Sports Group will show Rodgers the exit even if the Reds are beaten by struggling Queens Park Rangers, but it would dent Liverpool’s chances of finishing in the top six.
With half of the season gone, the Merseysiders are currently eight points behind sixth-place West Bromwich Albion and the same number of points away from fourth spot. Though the European places are not out of reach, many will be disappointed to be so far behind at this stage of the season. But given that Liverpool failed to replace Carroll late in August and were left with just two senior strikers in Luis Suarez and the injured Fabio Borini, what more could have been expected?
Expectations will rise once again if Daniel Sturridge finally completes his move to Liverpool next week. The current Chelsea forward is no rookie, but he is hardly the proven, reliable goalscorer that Liverpool so desperately need. The January window could once again make or break the Reds’ season.
See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG