BRENDAN Rodgers (pic) has laid bare his frustration with Liverpoolâ€™s form by describing the team as unrecognisable from last seasonâ€™s title challengers and warning supporters there could be further pain ahead.
Liverpool host West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on Saturday with seven points from six league games and having fallen to a fourth defeat in nine matches this term at Basel in the Champions League. Rodgers claimed â€œwe have gone into a little bit of transitionâ€ following the Basel setback and compared Albionâ€™s visit to his first league game as Liverpool manager at The Hawthorns in August 2012, on the basis that â€œthis feels like a new group againâ€.
While a transitional period was to be expected following Luis SuÃ¡rezâ€™s departure to Barcelona and the signing of nine players at Anfield this summer, the extent of Liverpoolâ€™s problems have alarmed even their manager. Rodgers made no attempt to camouflage his teamâ€™s malaise ahead of the Albion game and, in his most damning assessment of Liverpoolâ€™s performances so far this season, admitted he does not recognise the side that fell just short of winning the Premier League title only six months ago.
â€œItâ€™s hard for the supporters [to hear of transition] and I understand that,â€ said the Liverpool manager. â€œIt must be so difficult at the moment to see a team that for 18 months has been so fluent and dynamic. Now they probably look and see a team with maybe no resemblance to that in many ways. I understand that and there is no one more frustrated than myself.
â€œWe look at our game, which is based a lot on possession, but weâ€™re also a big threat in transition when weâ€™ve won the ball back and weâ€™re on the break. We donâ€™t look a threat on the break at the moment. You could argue that we donâ€™t even play in transition. Weâ€™re getting no one in behind. No one is breaking lines.â€
That final complaint, about a lack of penetrating runs behind opposition defences, suggests Rodgers has more concerns over Mario Balotelliâ€™s contribution than the lack of goals and assists that he criticised on Thursday. The Â£16m signing from Milan is likely to lead the line again against Alan Irvineâ€™s team with Daniel Sturridge expected to miss a seventh game with a thigh injury, another source of frustration for the manager.
â€œOur team dynamic was dominating the game with the ball but also without the ball,â€ added Rodgers. â€œAnd without the ball means running and getting in behind people. Weâ€™ve done that for 18 months. We did it at Tottenham. Once we lost that movement and speed of Sturridge â€“ and the link-up of other people within that â€“ that has broken the dynamic a little bit for us.
â€œWe just have to persevere until I get the squad back, until we have Emre Can back, Joe Allen, Daniel and the others. Then I think we will return to that level. In the meantime itâ€™s obviously been hard for the supporters and I totally understand that.â€
Rodgers is confident Sturridge, Allen and Can will be fit after the forthcoming international break, for an intensive programme that includes back-to-back Champions League fixtures against holders Real Madrid. Until the team dynamic returns, however, the manager believes Liverpool will continue to face short-term problems. â€œYou have to go through some pain along the way and right now we are in a difficult moment,â€ he said. â€œBut I think the pain is for now, I think itâ€™s unfortunate.â€
The Liverpool manager also disputes that he should have followed Chelseaâ€™s transfer policy this summer and acquired more established talent, albeit fewer in number. He said: â€œChelsea obviously brought in a seasoned professional in terms of the Premier League in FÃ bregas. Heâ€™s a very good player. And then Costa, who is someone we looked at a couple of years back as well, his profile suits the Premier League.
â€œ We lost a top class player and then had to bring in other players to help us now and for the future. Once these players settle in and adapt and really understand how we work I think weâ€™ll move back to where we were. There will be frustration now absolutely. No one respects that more than me. We have to work hard to get them settled and bedded in.â€ – The Guardian