Brendan Rodgers says Liverpool are getting back on track
‘If we get to the halfway point in January and are there or thereabouts I will be pleased’
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers: “We still have a lot of work to do. There is a long road for us, but we are edging our way there.” Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA
Manager Brendan Rodgers believes the next month will be pivotal to Liverpool’s season.
After a disappointing start, the Reds recorded back-to-back wins for the first time in the campaign with victory at Leicester on Wednesday night.
And, because their main rivals for a Champions League spot have also had their own difficulties, achieving their primary aim of finishing in the Barclays Premier League’s top four still remains well within their capabilities.
They currently stand just six points off third-placed Southampton and have yet to play anywhere close to their best football, or even field their strongest team, with striker Daniel Sturridge — who has been sent to Los Angeles for two weeks’ rehabilitation — not set to return until the new year having not played for the club since the 31st of August.
It leaves Rodgers full of optimism that a good month, starting at home to Sunderland on Saturday and then facing top-four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal in successive weeks, can put them firmly back on track.
“We have a bit of momentum now in terms of results, which breeds confidence in the team and releases what might feel like a little bit of pressure,” he said.
“We still have a lot of work to do. There is a long road for us, but we are edging our way there.
“If we get to the halfway point in January and be there or thereabouts I will be pleased with that, considering the start we had in the first 12 games.
“After Crystal Palace (their third successive league defeat last month) it was a real difficult moment.
“The run of games up till that in terms of results and performances just weren’t quite there, but the reaction and mentality the players have shown since that says a lot about their character and the determination to do well.
“We are not getting carried away with three (including the Champions League draw against Ludogorets) good performances and results. We just have to keep taking that confidence forward into the next game.”
Rodgers has had to make changes, most significantly in midfield, in order to shore up a team which was being beaten too easily.
That has seen the re-emergence of defensive midfielder Lucas Leiva, who for the last 12 months has been linked with a move away, after captain Steven Gerrard was pushed further forward.
“I think when Lucas has played this season he has done extremely well,” Rodgers added.
“There is the potential everyone can leave the football club, but we never had any offers for Lucas.
“He is a player who is an important part of our squad, who has real good experience as a Brazil international.
“Last year, unfortunately for him, we played Stevie in that playmaker role because of the players we had at the top of the field, so it wasn’t so much a defensive role as we needed someone to initiate attacks.
“In the last few games we have gone with a different structure with having a defensive midfielder and he has offered that protection.
“He is in a good moment, playing very well and long may it continue.”
Midfield is also an area where Rodgers is looking for more goals, especially in the absence of Sturridge, and £20million summer signing Adam Lallana and vice-captain Jordan Henderson duly chipped in during Wednesday’s 3-1 win at Leicester.
Lallana has had a stop-start Liverpool career so far, but Rodgers is confident they are now starting to see the best of the England international.
“Some changes in the team and behind that tactically have meant he has missed out in some games, but when he has played he has shown up very well,” the Reds boss said.
“He took his goal very well, and he has great work-rate and intensity. I have been delighted with him since he has come in.
“He is a wonderful talent and will make a big impact during his time here.
“It’s important the midfielders chip in. It’s nice to see the goals starting to pick up and we are becoming a bit more resolute, which is critical for us.”