New Season, New Manager and A New System
Last night was the night that Liverpool supporters worldwide had been waiting for. The opening round of the Europa Cup against FC Gomel signalled that Liverpool football Club had begun its 2012-2013 campaign.
It also marked the 700th appearance of Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher and to mark this Stevie G handed over the team's captaincy for the evening. A captaincy that would see the team began their European campaign with a positive ending.
It was one of those typical Liverpool performances though - performances that we the supporters had got used to last season. The eleven players chosen to play were classed as a very strong team - Fabio Borini was making his first team debut and with players such as Stevie, Glen, Jordan, and Enrique on the pitch a lot of the clubs supporters believed it should have been a walk over.
Why was this you may ask? Well the answer was a simple one. FC Gomel were a small team whose home was a small stadium in the backwaters of Belarus and it was believed that when faced with a team that has Liverpool's stature they would fold easily. They did not of course and all credit to them, played extremely well and to be honest going by the state of our defence at the moment could quite easily have scored.
It was of course Liverpool's first outing since returning from their pre-season tour. A tour which appears to have ill managed due to the intense heat that the players had to train and play under. There is absolutely no way, that any of the players could have benefited fully from this, so to be honest last night's game in Belarus, should have been classed as a pre-season workout.
Now I know a lot of you will disagree with me here, but from the moment, the team stepped onto the pitch, they seemed rather lost. The system Brendan favours is 4-3-3 and what he calls the tikka-taki style of play and it seemed to confuse a lot of the players on the pitch. Not only did Stevie appear to be lost for a while, he missed several good moves which indicates that his match fitness is not quite there yet.
Several of the players fell to the same fate and the lack of cohesion between them certainly showed that they have not yet mastered the way that Brendan wants to play. That will come in the fullness of time and I am sure that once it does, the football will become the football that we want to watch. Until then we will have to patient and not class the season over as soon as it has begun.
It may also have given Brendan, a further idea of who he wants to keep and who he wants to move on during the transfer window. Joe Cole is the person that springs to mind here. Last night, he was on the pitch for 23 minutes before being taken off with a slight injury and replaced with young Raheem Sterling. As much as Brendan has worked with him before, is it worth playing your faith in a player of Joe's age and with his injury record. Surely it would better to either bring in a new player or indeed bring Raheem or indeed one of the other youngsters into the first team permanently.
Raheem then proved to the watching world what a wonderful player there is in the making. His passing and his movement was fantastic to watch and I guess with luck on his side, he may well have come away with a goal.
I will be honest, when I say that I honestly thought after watching the first half that Liverpool would return to Merseyside as the losers but Brendan made two substitutions which seemed to do the trick. Martin Kelly replaced Glen Johnson at the beginning of the second half and this seemed to shore up that side of the pitch better.
The best substitution was made when Lucas came onto the pitch in place of Jordan Henderson, who for all intents and purposes had been invisible. The team immediately seemed to play a tighter game and the confidence that appeared to be missing reappeared so much so that Stewart Downing picked met a ball and sent it flying towards the net. It went in and signalled that Liverpool's European campaign was well under way.
At this point in the game, it was hoped that more goals would come. They did not of course and Liverpool finished the evening with a one goal advantage to take with them into the return game at Anfield next Thursday.
Now no Liverpool game reaches its conclusion without giving us the supporters a scare and last night that was down to Lucas. He went into a tackle and fell clutching his leg. I am sure that I am not the only one who quickly said a prayer and crossed their fingers before looking once again at the screen. Thankfully, he is okay and hopefully next week, he will be given more game time.
The game also marked Brendan's first foray into Europe as a football manager and he has said that he was pleased with the team's performance on the night. He also realizes that there is still a lot of work to be done and acknowledges that a few new additions to the squad are needed to get his system of play off the ground.
Hopefully those additions will arrive before the start of the new Premiership season, so that they can have a few training sessions with their new team mates.
If they do not, then we the supporters must do all we can to get behind the team and Brendan. Encouragement is a wonderful thing and with that, I am sure that we will soon see the style of football that we have all come to love - be it pass and move or tikka-taka.