A new year and an end to a short losing streak that’s not the end of the world. Liverpool got Luis Suarez scoring again with a beautiful free kick, Daniel Agger back in the lineup, Steven Gerrard closer to full fitness while Philippe Coutinho continues to improve, only the goals aren’t coming for the Brazilian.
His incredible dribble in the second half that got him past three Hull players and in front of McGregor should have been one of those ‘goal of the season’ moments, but Coutinho wasn’t even looking to where he was shooting, ending up with nothing, although he was the one who delivered the cross to Daniel Agger in the goal that opened the match.
The Brazilian isn’t producing the numbers he did during his half-a-season stint late last season, but his dribbling and passing ability from the left wing and his impressive discipline to track back and defend give Liverpool another dimension that’s been missing for parts of this season. It took the 3-1 loss at Hull to make Rodgers understand he can’t keep playing without Coutinho in the lineup.
Rodgers did try something slightly different against Hull. Maybe some rotation, but it was mostly about feeling confident enough in his team’s ability to win at home even with changes. Iago Aspas started for Joe Allen, which meant a slightly more attacking Liverpool on paper. However, Aspas continues to disappoint in pretty much every way or position he’s been tried in. When he arrived the talk was of a mobile, dynamic young forward who can play in three different positions. So far, it’s a weak Spanish striker who isn’t adapting to the Premier League style, and is struggling to find a footing or a place in the lineup.
Having Steven Gerrard back will probably end all of the talk about the club being better without him. True, giving him more rest might be necessary in order to keep him productive and prolific in more than just set pieces in the years he has left on the football pitch, but there’s no denying the confidence and intelligence Gerrard brings to the middle of the pitch, even without being the most mobile of players.
The best news for Liverpool has to be the ending of the Christmas fixtures. A squad that’s inferior to the others in the title race and the Champions League hunt doesn’t need a condensed schedule. Without a European competition to bother them, there’s only the FA Cup as a “bothersome” competition, but that’s something Liverpool should be able to handle, at least better than they did last season when they lost at Oldham.
The losses at Chelsea and Manchester City were sort of a ‘come back down to earth’ matches, showing that without having necessary depth or quality, Rodgers is probably going to be left behind, as Liverpool count three losses against the top 3 teams. However, they’re hosting everyone but Manchester United in 2014, which means that it’s impossible to count out this team as of now, and if Rodgers can find a way to squeeze in some rest for Luis Suarez, beginning with the FA Cup match, everyone will benefit.