It’s not time to panic quite yet. As unnerving as last weekends 1-0 reversal at the hands of Aston Villa was, it’s easy to forget that it’s still early days. This time last season, as pointed out by Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, we were still trying to find our stride. The personal may have changed somewhat, but we’re very much in the same pattern at this stage last year.
Saying we needed to get back on track or other such clichés after the loss to Manchester City at the end of August was a bit premature; approaching the end of September though, it’s not too wide of the mark. Losing to the reigning champions is one thing, but going down to a team like the Villains, with no disrespect to them of course, is always going to require a response no matter where you are in the season — whether a certain Northern Irishman wants to admit it or not.
While it’s nice that the international break is over and we can get back to proper football again, Aston Villa’s trip to Anfield couldn’t have come at a worse time for Liverpool.
Well, I suppose things could always get worse, but when you couple the Reds poor home record against the Villains with their rash of injuries, it’s just bad timing all around. Paul Lambert’s side are unbeaten in their last three matches in front of the Kop and blazed to a 2-0 lead during their last visit to Merseyside. That their hosts were able to pull a pair back to share the spoils is of course a troubling side-note, but the customary shivers and shakes before running out at Anfield won’t be quite as prevalent this time around — there’s a real belief about this side now.
Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has been quick to stress that this will not turn into the “Mario Balotelli show”, but it’s hard to argue that the focus — both on their own website and in the wider media — hasn’t centered around the controversial Italian since his arrival from AC Milan last week.
With the Northern Irishman hinting heavily that Super Mario could make his debut when the Reds travel to White Hart Lane on Sunday, the circus isn’t likely to slow down anytime soon. The 24-year old generates headlines no matter what he does and even if he only makes a cameo appearance for the Anfield outfit, there’s little doubt that the bulk of the media attention will center around him and his first outing in the famous red shirt.
It’s a bit early in the season to be discussing potential title deciders, but when the points are tallied up in May, it’s the meetings with the likes of Manchester City that can have a real impact on where you end up in the race for the title.
While finishing top spot may not be our prime objective for the season, it certainly remains in the back of everyone’s mind following Liverpool’s miraculous run to the summit last year; that’s a conversation for another time though. No one has ever won the title after only two matches and as much as the hype machine would like to convince you that the Premier League crown could very well hang in the balance, Monday’s meeting isn’t quite that important quite yet.
Despite the heroics of last season still living quite vividly in the memory, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers was quick to brush aside any talk of title aspirations in his first pre-match press conference of the Premier League season.
“Our aim is to be competitive. Like the top teams, we want to win a trophy. That would be an aim. In the league, it’s about sustaining Champions League football” he said ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Southampton at Anfield. “For that you want to arrive in fourth. Once you have consolidated that, you can look beyond that. That’s certainly our aim this season.” There’s a long way to go, but the route always seems a bit shorter if you get off to a flier and tomorrow that’s exactly what Rodgers — and his host of ex-Southampton players — will be looking to do as they try to avoid making things awkward at Anfield.