Sunday, 18 March 2018

Friends Like These

Loose lips sink Premierships.  Ask any Arsenal fan about William Gallas at St. Andrews and they won't come back to you with an anecdote about the time he shot five under par.  From a Liverpool perspective it should be no coincidence nor surprise that what is projected onto a team becomes their ultimate fate. Many a side has arrived at Anfield with lofty aspirations only to leave with unforgettable battle scars; irrespective of their quality in relation to ours.  The power of the mind has an incredible way of bridging gaps when it comes to talent, no matter how large.

This is not a rallying cry for what is sure to be an absolute blockbuster tie against Manchester City.  There is no doubt as to the heights they are to reach this season. Something equally established is our ability to destabilize them.  Of all the sides left in the competition, no-one is more aware of the potential knock out punch that Liverpool currently possess than the side that will be crowned champions of England but felt it the hardest.  They know it and so do we. As ever, the games will be played very much on the preconceptions as they will be on the pitch.

Setting the Champions League aside powers a perpetual motion machine.  We can't leave the league alone if we want to do all this again next year.  There's no doubt that competing amongst Europe's elite this season may have an impact as to whether we get the opportunity to do it again.  The league is not settled – nor will it be comfortable - until the mathematics have ruled out another of the four into three. In the space of seven days, we've gone from looking above to fearing below and back again.  This is where Liverpool appear to have been given a reprieve. From the most unlikely of sources. A man who rankles and boils our blood as if it were his only goal. It's not even the first time this season he's done it.  Twice he's allowed Liverpool to breath. To draw breath where others would do everything to extinguish it. In fact, the sheer defensiveness of Jose Mourinho may very well be the key to ending Liverpool's league season on a high.  Which is pretty much the opposite of what he's supposed to do.

Four points from two games represents a very good haul.  The man himself would aggressively assert in a press conference that managers before him have done worse.  Snide references to Alex Ferguson aside, let's take a closer look. The game at Anfield came at a time whereby United were in a really good place.  This feels like a million years ago now but there was a time whereby the title was actually up for grabs and it appeared a Manchester power struggle would be the theme of the season.  At the time, we'd not started particularly well and even the merest glance at the LFC defence would result in a goal. United rolled up with the chance to put some real doubts into Klopp's plans for the season.  To sew the seeds of superiority when the opportunity presented itself. In the end, the game finished goalless. Liverpool grew in confidence as it wore on. The rest of the season followed suit.

The same weekend one half of Manchester failed to put the foot down, the other half put seven past Stoke and won by five.  If ever opposing philosophies were encapsulated in a single weekend of fixtures, this was it. In theory, perhaps the risk was to great for Mourinho to lose at Anfield and inject some momentum into our season was too much.  But in having no interest in going for the win, his hand was already tipped. In an increasingly competitive league whereby supposedly six teams are vying for the title, you can't let a rival off the hook like that.

Fast forward to today.  Barely even a week after we went down 2-1 at Old Trafford.  The fact that there was so much confidence going into such a crucial game says a lot about the overall mentality of the club right now.  That is only emphasised by the reaction at the final whistle. Certain clubs can spin out of control with a single loss * cough * Arsenal * cough * but the idea that you can find a certain amount of comfort in those final few minutes – strength even – comes from the attitude displayed on the pitch.  Retreating completely and trying to hold out can work if you've drilled a side effectively. Ultimately - no matter how attacking a side is - you have to have it in yourself to see it through if you're ever going to win anything.  That being said, you can't then complain when it blows up in your face. Football management is so often about playing the odds. Sometimes you do things that work in the moment that wouldn't necessarily work over a period of time.  That's what the best managers do. Doing it every time however, makes it more of a crap shoot. It won't work every time. Hell, it didn't work even a few days later.

Five points.  The gap between Man United right now and Liverpool in the race to become an ultimately unforgettable runner up to Man City's monumental winners.  Last Saturday's result should have been irrefutable, insurmountable. Back in 2014 once LFC had put five past Arsenal there was no doubt as to who would finish above who. When there is such an obvious instance to present superiority then the obligation becomes as important as the result.  Manchester United following up their victory with a confident advancement into the quarter finals of the Champions League would have very much put the boot down.  Though they may say the first part through gritted teeth, the rest should still be as firm. “City have won the league but second is ours. We're next up. We're the ones that will fight them”.  As it was, they failed to meet what was even the minimum of requirements.

Liverpool failed to beat Sevilla twice.  The key factor in the rankle of those results is the fact that they could easily have won both of those games, twice over.  We can brush over a single result. There is no need to look down at the pit of despair that awaits for the one remaining side that has a legitimate chance of making the Champions League next season.  From having to look behind us, we have our heads turned again; by the most unlikely of sources. Mourinho's reaction to their elimination has only further emphasised the gap in potential trajectories.

The intensity of the fire of our hopes and dreams may ultimately come back to burn us.  We are carried along the wings of a Liverbird gassed up on momentum and hope. Pessimism is fine.  Pragmatism works. Until you can't move beyond their constraints. The cliché about living like a lion for a day rather than a lifetime as a mouse exists for a reason.  The fact that our closest rival wants to continue to talk down his chances and rather than roar chooses to squeak should only embolden us.

Belief sometimes comes from the most unlikely of sources.  Strength can be found in that. Things are about to get a hell of a lot more intense.  The key is to take everything forward. Don't look back. That's how you fall. The fact is, all season we've been shown the path forward from our biggest rival.  Whatever fate awaits us in Manchester, we've already been given enough confidence. Enough to push forward and finish the job.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Repetitive Playing Disorder

Pain motivates.  It's primary existence as a physical function is so that if you were to put your hand under a flame, there would be a message sent to your brain pretty fucking sharpish saying "don't do that."  Liverpool Football Club knows pain.  The problem lies within how it's registered.

First of all, there's the reaction.  The idea that any problem we have right now is *the worst*.  We're all guilty.  Right now I don't see how you can't  This Liverpool side might be the most infuriating in terms of the discrepancy between attack and defence, between what it does well and how it fails.  But that in of itself is a problem.  Because if every time you face something, it becomes the biggest obstacle anyone could ever face, then the tasks not only become ever daunting but your likelihood of overcoming them grow ever shorter.  Firefighting all the time makes it easy to get used to the idea that things should be on fire. Whisper it quietly, but they shouldn't.

After that come the brakes.  The supposed voice of reason.  What happens when you're panicking every time something happens that's not the way you planned is that the idea that there could be something wrong in the first place gets lost in a wave of fickle ideas.  No football manager or team is wrong all the time and so if you're accusing them of such then when it comes time to question their methods it's already been diluted.

What's worse, the natural predication of fandom is to stick up for those who are being seen to be unnecessarily challenged.  That in turn develops a defence mechanism that does not prepare for valid points.  We all draw our lines as fans, both for our own clubs and players and those beyond.  However researched or knowledgeable it may be, rarely do they move.  But they do move.

Once anyone has their mind made up these days, that's about as close to a cul de sac as one can get.  Such and such is world class.  Another - similar player - is living off his teammates ability.  Managers are both frauds and geniuses.  Could even be the same manager if you ask two different people.  The fact is that most of the time these opinions are left unchallenged.  It doesn't even matter if they're right or wrong.  The only way to really find out is when things are going wrong.

Comfort and change are strange bedfellows.  Why would a manager swap things around when everything is going well?  He can try to find that secret combination which will suddenly make everything "click" again.  Sometimes he can try too much.  But he has to try.  Liverpool are in a position to try things.  For the eternal pessimistic, their season is as over as Chelsea's was around this stage last year.  Perhaps for Dejan Lovren however, that might be a Stamford Bridge too far.  Which is to say he should not play for LFC again.

The problem is not the defeat in isolation.  It is in what it confirms about the summer.  What it says about a squad that is not as strong as those who are making decisions thought it was.  That's why hurting matters.  The likelihood is that it won't get much worse than this.  In terms of fixtures, there aren't many more [away] games to strike fear into our hearts.  The hope is that we get on a run.  The kind of roll that takes us as far away from our downtrodden minds.  If we do we need to bear in mind one thing.  The pain of right now.  If we do not learn from it in the present, we will be doomed to repeat it.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

An Open Letter To LFC

I'd love to make sense right now.  To find quotes and platitudes that soothe.  If you're looking at this right now there's every chance you have made the same journey.  Questions and answers.  Questions and no answers.  This is a train of thought that first departed disbelief.  Visited anger.  Has arrived at acceptance.  No one person is to blame and as such any implications to the contrary are false.  Having said that, there are questions that need answers.  Things that need to change.  Soon.

Liverpool Football Club is not interested in winning things.  That's an absolute ludicrous statement to throw out there and of course everyone at the club wants to win everything forever etc.  But they don't.  It's the difference between theory and practice.  On paper and on the pitch.  Fantasy and reality.  If you want something, it doesn't matter what stands in your way.  It doesn't even matter if that obstacle is your own inadequacy.  Over the last two years I've mocked on numerous occasions two different incarnations of Manchester United.  They have a flawed squad, papered over by big money signings that don't even make sense and two separate managers for whom winning seems to come second to not losing.  In my head that fear is a fallacy.  A pothole which they cannot avoid.  Surely you can't hope to sustain any kind of long term with such short term thinking?  Two trophies in less than a year says otherwise.

Anyone that knows me would say that the following argument cuts me personally below the belt.  Liverpool have become so very Arsenal, in the sense that they're predictable to a fault and are unable to get over the line when it comes to anything resembling success.  In poker, it's not quite as important to have the eventual winning hand as it is to "get your chips in when you're ahead".  Essentially this boils down to the argument that it doesn't matter what the end result is so long as you did everything right beforehand.  I used to subscribe to this argument.  I think I still do.  But what LFC is doing right now is trying desperately to wait for the right hand rather than actively trying to make some luck for themselves.

Competing with the likes of Chelsea, Manchester's City and United on a financial level is beyond us.  That's just a fact.  Let us not forget that both Liverpool and Spurs had deals agreed in principle with Willian before Chelsea moved in.  How much of a difference he would make to both clubs right now is immeasurable.  In recent years however we've gone from acknowledging such deals to shying away from them outright in case a better suitor comes along.  The list of signings that Liverpool have missed out on in the last decade all over the sake of a relatively minuscule sum is the kind of thing that makes you want to have a cold shower in the dark.  We don't want to pay the extra money.  Which translates to we don't want to win.

If you ever want to see a Liverpool fan roll their eyes, there's a great trick.  Just mention the word Moneyball.  There's no better way to make someone fall into a vegetative state.  What (didn't) work in baseball rather surprisingly doesn't in football either.  It's boss in principle if you're Porto and don't have to worry about six other teams getting your Champions League revenue every year so you can afford to buy fifteen random people from Venezuela and then sell one for fifty million next year but in the Premier League it's never worked and it never will.  Buying good young players and also decent older players discarded for random reasons isn't the worst policy of all time.  A better policy is just to buy great players.  I absolutely loathe what Zlatan Ibrahmovic has done this season but it's part money part reputation.  Yeah you might get a Falcao every now and then but United aside look at his numbers.  It's no coincidence at all that those who pay more get more and the fact that Liverpool are on the opposite end of this scale not because of a lack of funds but by their own choice feels like an immediate admission of defeat.

Leicester 3-1 Liverpool.  A result that felt so unavoidable, I texted someone jokingly before the game and got the scoreline bang on.  Make no mistake.  This hurts.  This really hurts.  I've genuinely not felt this passive toward a season, toward a side and a manager for whom I really want to believe in for some time.  The worst part of it all is that it feels like a breaking point.  Like a realisation that things won't get better.  We've come close before but that extra mile seems too far away.  What hurts most of all is that it's all so self inflicted.  All the sarcasm, all the legitimacy in the world cannot mask what was an absolute joke of a performance against a side that was before tonight in the bottom three.  Why is it that we must offer hope to the hopeless so often? Provide respite for the relegation threatened that three points against Liverpool is not only feasible but all so achievable.  We don't believe it ourselves, mostly because we've seen it so many times before.  You win leagues by dispatching teams like this with ease.  But we're not going for that.  Or are we?

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Final Destination.

Metaphorically speaking, LFC is at something of a crossroads. Win or lose. Champions League or there will be no European football gracing Anfield next year. All or nothing? Not quite

The problem with metaphors is that at some point they can't stretch far enough and fall apart. Failing to go the right way at an actual crossroads doesn't lead to death or anything particularly morbid. It just takes longer to get to your eventual destination.

One road is paved with gold. The lure of Champions League football would be impressive, especially added to the lure of the manager and the momentum we already have. That being said, whatever path we take, we keep on moving. Always.

Describe the consequences of tonight's result to someone who knows nothing about football.

If Liverpool win we get Champions League football.
If Liverpool win we get loads more money.
If Liverpool win potential transfer targets will see us as a more viable option.

Are they looking at you weirdly?

If Liverpool win they will have won a European trophy.

All that needs to be said. Come on Redmen. Let's do this.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Living By The Sword

Brendan Rodgers has a problem. Getting Liverpool Football Club back to the top of English football once more. A task that once felt so near to completion, only for it all to come crashing down around him. It's not a responsibility he must carry with him alone but his shoulders bear its considerable weight this time around more so than in previous years. Relentless - like an impatient toddler - the demand to arrive at this most coveted of destinations continues ever to grow. While our final destination remains the same, every season brings with it a unique starting position. So how do we get to there from here?

There is no definitive route to the top. No method which guarantees success. Within that there is scope to chose your own path. The Premier League is a perpetual motion machine and as such every team has a decision to make. They will all have their own aims and ambitions, as well as an idea of how they're going to achieve them.  Standing still is surefire failure and even if the road taken arrives in disaster quicker, it's a risk worth taking. The quickest route isn't always the most convenient, there may be compromises that have to be made. Risks that have to be taken. Even more so when in our case the reward is the Premier League title.

In a straightforward race to the top we are ill equipped. There are those with greater resources and are much more acclimatised to such a journey. But there must be a way of evening the odds. Not so much cheating the system but rather reprogramming it for our benefit. Finding a short cut in footballing terms isn't about skipping anything.  Quite the opposite in fact.  Bringing together a group of quality players while getting the best out of those on the periphery. Having the literal definition of a team - on and off the pitch - pulling together in the right direction. The work will be hard and the end result overly simplified. Pages of tactics, hours of research, the sum of hours of endless plotting; once it translates onto the pitch undergoes a transformation.

Weeks of training come down to a single moment and within that - dependent on its success – lies the justification for everything else in between. No one off instance should define a player, his manager or the club but it's in those more critical that we find out the most of all involved. The emergency situations are where the Grand Design should reveal itself. When one point simply isn't enough and there's fifteen minutes to find a winner or the opposition simply refuse to lie down. Whether psychologically or in tangible real terms, something simply has to go your way. Talent shines through - be it managerial or on the playing staff - and these instances begin to take on a life of their own. They can very quickly become almost mythological. Beating the opposition before a ball has been kicked, or conversely making a team believe it cannot win regardless of the situation.

A philosophy - and or – an ideal playing style is a blanket term for an accumulation of these moments. It can happen once and be considered a fluke. Any more than a handful and the dots join up to form an image of the manager's own making.

In every day life, plans don't concern themselves with minutiae. They are about one word questions; the who, how and where. Tactics have to encompass much more than that. In addition to identifying all of the above, they must nullify threats that have yet to reveal themselves while not suffocating the personnel involved with so much information that they cannot come up with spontaneous solutions. Do circumstances dictate or does the architect decide to manufacture them for himself? The plan - no matter how meticulous or well detailed - is always something of a charlatan. A confidence trick played on oneself, albeit an often reliable one. The future is never set but it can often be expertly forged within the mind's eye.

Simply having a method is of no great indication of its effectiveness but rather the understanding of the situation within the mind of which it was created. Far more important to any plan of action is the resources at one's disposal. Even the most accomplished of schemers would struggle to amass anything with poor working materials.

Through circumstances partly of his own making, that's where Rodgers found himself last season. It doesn't matter whether there are doubts about his ability to manage or the specific names of those he has chosen to put right what went wrong last year. Now there are definitely weapons to wield.

Hindsight doesn't work in football. Fans and pundits can use it to justify themselves having seen one version of reality play out. Learning from mistakes isn't simply about reversing one decision when a similar situation arises but rather understanding exactly why the decisions that were made at the time didn't turn out the way we'd have liked.

[When faced with a difficult choice, the failure of one option does not automatically grant the other infinite success - especially in football. You can do everything right and still lose]

After what's happened in the last twelve months it's easy to see what went wrong and exactly the point at which our meteoric rise began to fall almost certainly coincided with one enigmatic Uruguayan donning a different coloured kit. Easy but a little too simplistic. Removing Suarez from that team should not - and didn't - result in some of the football we saw at times last season. Here's where that line of thinking gets corrupted. Back then we were told that it was foolish to play football in such a manner. That being so open would get us so far but not all the way. It would all end in disaster. They were right. Only just.

Liverpool in 13-14 were a great side, albeit a flawed one. There aren't many in world football without any. Even those that can consider their imperfections insignificant to their ambition may not win it all. It's not about trying to exactly replicate what once worked so well because it's very possible it may not translate this time around. Teams adapt and learn at a rapid rate and to go back in time would be foolish. In this current climate however, there is one particular aspect that almost certainly needs to be rediscovered.

The top four right now exist within a vacuum. Those outside looking inward with jealous eyes, scrambling for an invite inside yet failing to realise it doesn't work like that. There's no way to stumble into the Champions League places any more.  In principle one of Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea or Manchester City will have to come fourth and to simply finish above them will be enough but if that’s the goal then fifth or sixth become very real possibilities. What once was five or six into four has evolved.  In terms of ambition, it's become four into one and in order to give ourselves a chance of fitting into that group we have to – at least initially – go for that top spot.

Almost from the offset last season, Brendan Rodgers was on the back foot.  Even before the summer had put into effect the changes in players, it seemed as if the noise was of reigning ourselves in.  Putting too much stock in how our defects could ultimately prove to be fatal and ignoring the decline in our armoury.  Football management can be something of a Rubik's cube with artificial intelligence in that regard.  Making one side perfect is hard work and even then, a moment later and it can all be wrong again. 

Settling for a place in the top four was a mistake then, just as aiming for one now would be.  In order to oust those that finished above Liverpool, at the very minimum we must match their ambition.  Certain players have been brought in to do specific roles, the intricacies of which are largely insignificant – from a fan perspective anyway.  What is important is the bottom line of their recruitment.  Storing ammunition.  Hoarding arms.  Failure this time around could be as a result of a number of factors but being tentative should not be one of them.  If we're going to go down, go down swinging.

With this team and with these options, our best chance is to be bold.  Ignore perception.  Defy logic.  Safety first is anything but.  It isn't perfect, but what is?  Whatever plan of action is put into place, do it with a clear mind. We need to define exactly who Liverpool Football Club are going to be and why that particular persona will help us achieve our goals. It might not work but it is our most likely path toward something approaching success. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Die trying.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Playing Ludo: A Meeting Of Miracles

What makes sport such compelling drama is the idea that at any given time anything can happen. True though that may be, within those parameters there's enough which we can rule out. In actuality, despite the chance for something really peculiar to occur most of the time what we're left with is variations of the same thing. Which is why when it does, it's magnificent.

Moments are special because of three things. The first being most important which is the sheer levity of what's at stake. Even a miskick can become legendary depending on what's at stake. Next come the circumstances. What struggles did a team or player have to come through in order to ultimately triumph; the more dire the situation, the greater that glory. Lastly come the idiosyncrasies. Those layers of footballing irony that always seem to add insult to injury.

Razgrad. Unlikely to be immediately found on a map, even if the search was limited solely to Bulgaria. It was here that the eyes of the footballing world converged late last night as something truly spectacular began to unfold. Ludogorets have made waves in Bulgaria and have gone on to win the last three domestic titles. Last year they had moderate success in the Europa League, dropping only two points in the group stage before knocking out Lazio and then eventually losing to Valencia. They have acquired a taste for continental success and now they're dining at the top table.

Wednesday 9th December 2009. The last time Liverpool took part in a Champions League game. A club plagued by instability from top to bottom and a dark notion that it would be a lot longer to ever get back. That nightmare is now over.  It will end as the operatic chords of that theme music that we've all longed to hear herald them onto the field.. In getting back there we are reminded of how special this competition is – the 2005 final holds a special place in the heart of everyone – and a much greater appreciation for the taking part.

Their opponents were Steaua Bucharest, who must even now not quite know what happened. Having won the first leg by a goal to nil, a fairly uneventful ninety minutes looked like it would be enough to see them safely through. A last minute goal from Wanderson put the game into extra time. In some games, an equaliser in such dramatic fashion would grab all the headlines. Not this one.

It wouldn't be until the last minute of extra time when the game would completely turn on it's head. With the penalty shoot out looking all but a certainty, suddenly the ball broke to Bucharest's Fernando Varela who found himself in on goal. In a heartbeat he was confronted by both a struggling defender and onrushing goalkeeper, both absolutely desperate for the Cape Verdean striker not to end the game there and then.

Stoyanov in goal it was who eventually felled Varela, only to then realize what the consequences were. A red card was produced and because Ludogorets had made all three substitutions there was no chance of bringing on anyone to replace him. One of the ten remaining outfield players was going to have to take his gloves. Cosmin Moti was the man who stepped up. A Romanian, signed from Steaua's most fierce rivals Dinamo Bucharest.

Back in Bulgaria, the last few moments were a blur. Steaua tried to snatch the game. A free kick was put over for a corner, which itself was punched clear. The final whistle quickly followed. The psychology of a penalty shoot out is such that nothing is ever expected of the goalkeeper and this applied to Moti a thousand times over. If he got his hands to any of them, it would be more than enough of an effort.

If there was one thing that was necessary, it was for his team mates to play their part. No amount of heroics in between the posts could save Ludogrets if they themselves didn't convert. To add even further suspense to a game that needed no more, Wanderson who had done so well to put the game into extra time saw his tame penalty saved by Arlauskis in the Steaua goal. Moti made immediate amends for this miss by denying the very next spot kick.

At this point, there was only one way this story was going to end. Even if it doesn't exist, the idea of fate plays with players minds. It should have been easier for Steaua to score but it never felt like that. Destiny will make someone better than they ever thought possible or shrink their ability to the point where it doesn't even matter. Jerzy Dudek and Shevchenko had one such moment almost a decade ago now.

After five, the teams were still locked. Now we were at the point where one miss and it could all be over. A sixty penalty either way could not separate them. Fabio Espinho scored for Ludo and the eyes of the footballing world watched as Cornel Rapa strode up to face Moti who dived hard to his right and caught it. Never again will a outfield player draw so many plaudits for catching a football.

Tonight's meeting at Anfield represents a point in time for both teams. A clash of two sides who are simply relishing the prospect of facing each other. For Liverpool it is a return to the stage where they feel most at home. Where the things transpire mean all that much more. Our Bulgarian opponents may be new to this stage but for it is a joy and a privilege to share this spotlight with them. Though the two events have no bearing over one another, what happened to Ludogorets was very similar to that which transpired at the Attaturk. To host them is like kharmic kinship. We take to the field tonight, filled with pride and buoyed by the prospect of a brighter future knowing full well that as far as Liverpool are concerned, in the European Cup anything is possible.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Reverse Engineering The Title

With disappointment comes introspection. It's usually preceded by an interminable amount of anger and sadness but eventually the trail will lead inward. Sometimes it's unwarranted. Even after having exhausted every avenue and strained every sinew, thoughts turn inevitably to what could have been.

Hindsight can sometimes be nothing more than arrogance dressed in more appropriate clothes. Someone's own ego in formal wear. There are times when minor adjustments lead to obvious conclusions but when it comes to the unforeseen circumstances of a complex problem, the after the fact solution takes everything for granted.

A lot can happen in ninety minutes. Less so if you're watching the MLS. Every league game comes with a dissection and latterly entire seasons are given a thorough inspection. Within that scrutiny emerges a narrative that will then be pulled apart. Highs and lows are categorised into negatives and positives and while it's important to learn from the past in order to shape the future.

It happens frequently. Usually it hinges on refereeing decisions be they legitimate call or poor decision. On Tuesday night against Manchester United, Milton Keynes had a very good penalty shout turned down when the game was still in the balance. Had they gone on to lose that game it would no doubt have been dubbed the turning point, even though there was no guarantee of any spot kick being scored. Whenever a corner is given erroneously and subsequently scored, fingers often point toward the official rather than the defending. Again, the outcome determines the script from which we all work off.

The moment that a game – or even a season – potentially hinges isn't all-encompassing. It only exists at all because of that which preceded it and is only important because of what followed. To focus on it alone is to shut one eye. It will allow for closer inspection but ultimately prohibit any real depth. Fixating on the failure itself ignores everything that led up to getting close to success in the first place. Becoming infatuated with a winning goal may overlook the fact that it was fortunate. Without the scope for both, there will be no way to get anywhere near whatever ambitions that may be set.

Had Steven Gerrard not slipped, Liverpool would have been crowned Premier League champions last season. A fair assumption, if not a common consensus. It's not the act itself that needed changing but rather the response to it. Learning from the past is just that. Whatever repairs that are needed must take place in the present. Improvement cannot be made retroactively, it must come in the hereafter. Rodgers isn't coaching his players not to make mistakes but to be good enough to correct them.

We forget sometimes that the role of an opponent is to force defeat as much as it is to win. In order for a forward to do his job well, someone at the other end is very likely to be in the wrong. As much as anyone would like to eliminate deficiency completely, in sport it is an inevitability. Talent is not an equivalency and as such there will be an imbalance. Simply making those bad times vanish doesn't work.

When it's not singular instances that get scrubbed, results do. Remove all context completely and just change history altogether. “If only”. The ultimate in wishful thinking. Swapping two (very specific) scorelines around gives Arsenal the title last year, it's that easy. Only it isn't. One outcome affects the next and you very quickly enter a world of pure speculation. Had Sunderland beaten Manchester City, do they then go on to beat Chelsea that weekend? That one week, those two fixtures alone, a whole table thrown into chaos.

Southampton and Aston Villa at Anfield. Hull and West Brom away from home. Those the games in which Liverpool failed to win which they would have been favourites for. Visits to St. James Park and The Liberty Stadium could also have yielded more. Is it possible that the title could have been lost in October? In terms of pure mathematics, yes. In actual terms, no. Setback in those early games may have given Rodgers the catalyst to things on the training ground which led to the victories that were to come.

While it ultimately leads to nowhere, the theory is sound. More points gained on any season represents some improvement and in this case it would at the very least grant the Reds a shot at the title. In the tentative start already made, the opening day victory over Southampton already allows for a three point advantage over 2013-14. Getting to a greater total than last year is about being able to maintain the standard which saw so many victories, rather than micro managing those instances where it wasn't possible.

Ten from the first fifteen available. It's a more than creditable way to begin the Premier League toil. Seven from the next three is more than feasible and could also do more in terms of bettering past results when Aston Villa come to Anfield. In amassing enough points to be successful over the course of the next nine months some will always slip through our fingers. When that happens we just have to collect some from elsewhere.

That which will define this year is still far in the distance. The game to be dissected from every angle won't be played for some time. Any kind of real endeavour must be taken as a whole, which is why they say that the journey is more important than the destination. This trip has barely even started and already there's been a bump in the road. Spurs loom large on Sunday, waiting to make our passage even more difficult. We can't pick and choose what happens in a season any more than sections of a path can be skipped. Obstacles may seem immovable and we cannot close our eyes and ignore them. They have to be gotten through or around. Brendan Rodgers needs to find a way.