Time Will Tell For Liverpool this Season and Beyond
It’s getting to that time in the season again: the point at which the football world goes crazy, with people beginning to discuss, with accuracy, who will finish in the most important places.
And with the title looking all but a given, and the scrap for the bottom three yet to kick off, all eyes have turned to the top four.
Upon looking at this particular race, there is one team stealing the headlines with a late surge from the depth and murk of mid-table. Not only that, but they have emerged from the murk glistening, with price assets basking in the praise that is being heaped on them. Many have been surprised by this; before and over Christmas the league had Liverpool in a very much backstage role. But looking at his record, Rodgers always seems to leave it late before stealing the spot light.
Statistics would back this up; in his last three seasons, he has seen Liverpool’s points per game average increase by around one point following the turn of the year. This has led many to believe that it is a bit too much of a coincidence to be disregarded.
Alternatively, people may point to sheer weight of summer signings being the cause here; you can’t expect young, foreign talents to settle overnight. Admittedly it has taken longer than Rodgers probably bargained for, but now that the pieces are falling into place, the picture is looking more and more coherent each week.
It is only a matter of time therefore that this surprisingly intricate 11 piece puzzle will be completed – and it will most definitely draw the attention of any teams around them. But the question therein lies: what then? Football turns with almost the same frequency of the earth, and so it is always a requirement of managers to keep their squad ahead of the curve.
I would argue however, that with time, the current crop of Liverpool players are ready to completely outrun the trend, hurtling off into the distance with the best teams in the country. It hardly takes a pundit to see that the groundwork has already been put in; acquisitions of Phil Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge along with the growth of Ibe and Sterling provide fairly steady foundations onto which Rodgers can build his team.
It would appear that by giving Markovic, Can, and Moreno (to name a few) steady spells in the team, he has but all his eggs into a futuristic basket. The combined age of Liverpool’s squad would have been far less than that of City on Sunday, and yet it was the Reds who appeared to handle the situation to perfection. If it was a gamble from Rodgers to give potential a chance, I think he is about to win himself a fortune.
But all of that could be wiped out in an instant; a player leaving could be enough to throw off the balance. A legend leaving however, could do far worse than that; but not if it is managed easily. That means having a replacement with vigour and love not only for the game, but the club; a replacement with ability and humility; and a replacement with leadership and respect.
Enter Jordan Henderson.
Overshadowed by the sheer brilliance of Coutinho in recent weeks, Henderson has not received anywhere near enough credit. Having not yet lost a game as captain, he looks set to step into the biggest shoes in Merseyside, and do it in style. His goal against City aside, he has become a monster in the middle of the park; relentless running and crunching challenges are so common place in his game they are rarely talked about. The talking point has just been added (his shooting), and he looks like he could be the complete package.
Brendan Rodgers will hope that his captain in waiting is a microcosm of what Liverpool will be in a short time; tenacious and aggressive when he needs to be, Henderson possesses the traits Liverpool need to develop if they are to challenge for titles in the coming years.
But again, only time will tell.