As results are slow coming some supporters are looking around and blaming everyone from the manager to the owners, the players, the refs, the football gods, and even each other for a slow start. In my not so humble opinion these people are on the wrong track. Though we haven't pulled enough points from our matches, I'm amazed at how quickly this team of mostly young professionals has taken to the change of strategy. They have made watching LFC fun again, despite the subpar record.
I know there are many here who wish for the Rafulation Mark II. I for one, as a lover of the beautiful game, do not. For the last 3 years the teams under Rafa Benitez became more and more boring, the players got bored and unmotivated, and the brand of footbal got worse. Add to this the release of Xabi Alonso (a true LFC legend in the making) to be replaced by Mascherano (an attitude problem looking for a home), the refusal to play Gerrard in central midfield, Rafa's incessant whining for more and more money, and the blaming of players for not "taking their chances in front of goal" - when we only got 1-3 chances per match with his strategy and my choice is easy.
Yes, I remember the good days too. Istanbul, Carra and Sami in the D, the hotblooded headgames against Chelsea, etc. But I also remember that no youth players got on the field, that the vast majority of passes were in our own third, that our wage bill was crippling us and costing us millions just in interest, that the stadium was often quiet through boredom even when we were winning, and that we still couldn't score goals on a consistent basis.
Comparing the shape of the team today with that and I'll take this team.
The style is wonderful. The kids are getting their chances. The team is happy. All our most important players have signed new long term contracts. Anfield will remain our fortress just as it should (*the people losing their houses is a deep discussion - to be had in greater detail than a mere mention here - but a section of seating should be reserved for the families with free "all-event" tickets and free transportation in perpetuity as part of the deal for the sacrifice). Also, we're spreading word through every avenue available (yeah maybe you think Being Liverpool is a stunt, but it's making money for the team while we don't have the extra 20,000 seats - thereby increasing sales and revenue which is being better managed than any time back to the mid 70's). We've reduced the wage bill and increased sales - a neccesity to buy new players.
Sometimes you have to take one small step backward in order to gain the space needed to jump forward. Right now we have to rely on the youth payers to fill holes in the squad. That isn't where we really want to be. Yes, we want Sterling, Suso, Wisdom, Shelvey to all play. But we don't want to pressure them by having to rely on them. We want them to get matches but would like to have competent veterans ahead of them. But we don't have that choice. They tried that under Dalglish, and though I love the man, his signings don't provide. We're seeing our so-called skill players, Henderson, Downing, Cole, are average at best. But at least now we get a full evaluation by fire - and we're finding some of our youth is better than their high paid counterpart veterans. This will make our bench stronger in the coming seasons as we can resign the youth and continue to drop the underperformers. Yes, Sterling is a bonafide starter right now, but a bench with veteran Shelvey, Suso, Wisdom, Coates, Assaidi, and a goalie and forward to be named later, provides a spark when needed - and a great starting core of our future.
Yeah I'm disappointed with the number of points lost (especially the Manchester matches), but I'm not going to yell and scream about it. It was to be expected. But the tactics, the obvious progress, the excitment, the fun, skill, the dominance on the ball, and the wall of sound that is our supporters are back. We've turned the ship around and now we're pushing to gain momentum. But it's a big ship and it takes time. Again, in my opinion, it's going the right direction. And once we all move in that direction, we again become that juggernaut that noone can stop.
Players of the season so far: Johnson and Allen
Players that can't play this system: Downing, maybe Enrique, and Henderson (though Enrique and Hendo deserve the year imo)
Players that are underperforming: Reina (sorry Pepe but you know it too), Gerrard, Cole, Pacheco, Borini (give him time)
Players we need: 1 top world class real goal threat so Suarez can move to the left. a left back
Youth players to identify: someone to take over for Carra next year - Agger, Skrtel, and Coates are a very very good top 3.
Players to drop immediately even if we take the loss: Carroll, Downing, Cole, Wilson, Doni, Pacheco
Peec and donuts.