Liverpool still a work in progress

Monday 30th December 2013 17:38

Brendan Rodgers: Plenty of work still to do

Brendan Rodgers: Plenty of work still to do

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Liverpool FanZoner Richard Garnett analyses Liverpool's fall from top to fifth over the festive schedule, and where improvements are needed.

Festive cheer was in short supply for Brendan Rodgers over the past week, as back-to-back defeats condemned his team to a dramatic league table slide from first to fifth in the space of three days.

Liverpool dropped nine points in December, when a loss of seven or fewer would have been the target at the start of the month.

The damage of the two most recent reversals would be less painful had the Reds not started this sequence of seven fixtures with a hideous defeat at the KC stadium.

Although this was somewhat eradicated by an outstanding victory at White Hart Lane, playing Manchester City and Chelsea away in such a short space of time was a bridge too far for an already stretched squad.

But as the dust settles on officiating travesties and a sense of some yuletide injustice, Liverpool can still be satisfied with the position they find themselves in as we enter the second half of the season.

Moreover, Rodgers has Liverpool playing great football. It is not just the Luis Suarez show that casual observers could be led to believe.

Players like Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling have benefitted from Rodgers' trust and evolved into significant contributors.

The attacking interchanges around the penalty-area, particularly those exhibited at Manchester City, are testament to the style of play that has become instinctive to the talented players at his disposal.

But the sticking point for Liverpool is that they need more of those top class performers.

Whereas Rodgers was forced to introduce a 19-year-old debutant for crocked Joe Allen at Stamford Bridge on Sunday evening, Jose Mourinho was able to replace the injured Branislav Ivanovic with 106-times capped England international Ashley Cole.

As Manchester City's prolific marksman Sergio Aguero faced a spell on the sidelines with a calf injury, Manuel Pellegrini can turn to Spanish international Álvaro Negredo.

There are no such luxuries at Anfield and there won't be until Champions League football returns to one of its most glorious theatres.

With that in mind, January investment is an absolute given and Rodgers can expect unwavering support from the club's owners, Fenway Sports Group, as he looks to bring in the personnel that can help elevate Liverpool back into the financial paradise of football's richest competition.

Pre-season, Rodgers invested heavily in an overhaul of his defence, but it is fair to say that stabilising the rearguard is still very much a work in progress.

Some stability - if not clean sheets - appeared to be returning to the backline, but injuries to Jon Flanagan and now Mamadou Sakho have ensured that the tinkering will continue, albeit enforced this time.

This does little to eradicate Liverpool's Achilles heel, the defending of set pieces.

City joined a host of other clubs who have profited from this inferiority which looks a far way from being fixed and offers encouragement to Steve Bruce and his visiting Hull side on New Year's Day.

With the December of doom now banished to statistical indifference, Liverpool have no time to feel sorry for themselves and must get straight back to winning ways with conviction.

Home fixtures against Hull and Aston Villa flank an Anfield FA Cup tie with Oldham and an away trip Stoke before resurgent neighbours Everton cross the park.

Rodgers will surely field a scratch side in the cup fixture as he prioritises all of his efforts into keeping the league campaign on target.

Steve Bruce has a fantastic managerial record at Anfield and fresh from his side's 6-0 demolition of Fulham, will bring a side brimming with confidence.

This is no time for Liverpool to panic. They must start this half of the season as winners, just like they hope to finish it.

You can follow Richard on Twitter here, and don't forget you can follow @FanZone too.

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