It took a goal from the then 17-year-old winger Raheem Sterling – his first in the Premier League – to seal a tense Anfield affair with a 1-0 victory over promoted Reading back in October 2012 and hand Liverpool their first three points on home soil under the management of Brendan Rodgers.
The Reds have come a long way since then. No longer are they occupying a place in the bottom half of the top-flight table as they had been up until Christmas. No longer is the pressure of scoring goals solely on the shoulders of Uruguayan star Luis Suarez as it had been until the arrival of Daniel Sturridge in the winter transfer window. No longer are they relying on the very youngest members in the squad such as Sterling, Suso and Andre Wisdom to play game after game at the highest level.
Liverpool, at times, have looked a well-oiled machine as this topsy-turvy season has progressed. The Merseysiders seem to be adapting to the methods of Rodgers, though it has been a gradual process, as it was always expected to be. The Anfield side are one of the most entertaining in the Premier League this term and have scored an impressive 59 goals already. League leaders Manchester United have found the net on 71 occasions, but Liverpool have scored just two fewer than Champions League-chasing Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The Reds are ahead of the other 16 teams in the goal scoring charts. Rodgers’ side have also been fairly solid at the back and have claimed 12 clean sheets. Only champions Manchester City can boast a better record.
But despite looking a real force on some occasions, at other times Liverpool have put in performances which suggest there is still much work to be done before they can be considered good enough to be seriously challenging for a place in the top-four. These disappointing displays – including defeats against West Brom, Aston Villa, Stoke and Southampton – have caused great inconsistency in the Reds’ season. Liverpool’s 0-0 draw against West Ham at Anfield last time out was also a poor result.
There is a sense that each time Liverpool have managed to string together a good set of results this season, they have then gone on to undo that hard work with an incomprehensible display against a lesser side. Without those irregular performances and results, the Reds would be far closer to that fourth and final Champions League spot.
In one way, this is somewhat encouraging as Rodgers looks ahead to next season, as it suggests that Liverpool are not too far off – in terms of players and performances – from reaching their goal of finishing in the top-four. But the difficulty in pointing out exactly why the Reds look so impressive one week but so disappointing the next could prove to be a huge challenge to overcome.
So, when Liverpool travel to relegation-threatened Reading this weekend, the outcome – whatever it may be – will come as no surprise. A big win is expected, but a bizarre defeat may follow. This lack of predictability is what Rodgers will have to fix in the summer.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Reading