The fact that Liverpool traveled to Edinburgh without Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard was no excuse for another bad performance, somehow scraping an away victory thanks to an own goal from Andy Webster, probably giving the Reds the ticket to the Europa League group stage.
Good vibrations after the game? Not so much. The midfield unit of Charlie Adam, Jonjo Shelvey, Jay Spearing and Jordan Henderson couldn’t really create much for Liverpool, who were mostly held back by the Scottish side in the first half. Adam managed to get two chances, while Henderson was a bit more industrious in the build up play than he usually is. Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini had to work hard and aid the defending instead of getting a constant supplies of good passes.
Eventually, the entrance of Downing and Joe Allen in the second half shifted the pressure quite a bit in favor of Liverpool before Martin Kelly’s cross missed Borini but brushed Andy Webster and gave Liverpool the crucial goal. This isn’t exactly the lineup we’ll see from Liverpool on Sunday against Manchester City, but we still haven’t seen one good performance from Brendan Rodgers’ side this season, including against weak European opponents.
Signs that should worry Rodgers? With or without Nuri Sahin, it seems the club is finding it hard adjusting to the possession style Rodgers wants to integrate into the team. There were some good moments against West Brom, but the referee and one fantastic Zoltan Gera shot took care of that attempt. Again Hearts, Rodgers played with 4 midfielders that probably only one of them (Shelvey) fits the plans of his pass and move style.
He should have given Lucas and Joe Allen a bit more time on the pitch together. Those two, along with Steven Gerrard, should be the engine and key to Liverpool’s success this season. Fabio Borini is completely dependent on what the midfield gives him, while Luis Suarez will get by on scraps if needed, creating his own chances, but having a trio that can actually support him and grab some of the attention would be nice as well.
Defensively, the lack of speed is worrisome, especially when Jamie Carragher takes the pitch, no longer powerful enough to win the majority of the physical battles. A suspension/injury to Daniel Agger and/or Martin Skrtel at any time during the season might turn out to be disastrous, especially with the midfield unit still not really coming together as of now, in both terms of offensive production and the ability to help and solidify the defense.
There’s more talent than last season’s 8th place finish suggests, but there’s also plenty of work and mentality changing to be done by Rodgers, who knows the pressure is on, no matter how new he is at the current job.