As bad starts in Liverpool go, the opening chapter of Brendan Rodgers’ domestic tenure as Anfield boss was probably only slightly less disastrous than ‘Hello John, this is Yoko’.
A 3-0 defeat against West Bromwich Albion in the first Premier League match of the season was a painful wake-up call to all connected with Liverpool and if the size of the task facing Rodgers needed emphasising further, the result at the Hawthorns hammered home exactly what he has on his plate at Anfield.
If it could have gone wrong for the former Swansea manager, it did. Plenty of possession was undermined by a lack of cutting edge (where have you heard that before?) and though they were very comfortable until Zoltan Gera’s stunning strike just before half-time, the way Liverpool capitulated, especially after going down to ten men, must have been of great concern to Rodgers.
When you’re throwing on Joe Cole to try to salvage a game you know things are pretty bad, and by the time Cole limped out of the action just six minutes after coming on as a sub, the game was up and Rodgers was left to digest a chastising first day in the office.
Money might be relatively tight for Liverpool, but in Scotland it is as rare as Victoria Beckham’s second helping and new Jambos boss John McGlynn is working on the tightest of budgets as he attempts to revive a club that languished in fifth place last term.
What’s more, there seems to be no more money for Rodgers to spend in a bid to strengthen a squad that is way, way short of quality. What this says about FSG, Liverpool’s American owners, is questionable but with a sell-to-buy policy in operation (as well as the loan market), Rodgers’ already tough job gets harder.
This is compounded by the fact that the saleable assets in Liverpool’s squad are either its best players – without whom they would be nothing more than mid-table fodder – or players you are losing huge amounts on.
You’ve got more chance of getting Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian Embassy than Liverpool have of getting their money back on Andy Carroll and once you add Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson et al into the equation, the Merseysiders have work to do between now and the end of the transfer window.
Their next assignment is a Europa League qualifier against Scottish side Heart of Midlothian and if Rodgers hadn’t made clear the league was his priority, then he certainly has now with the squad he has taken north of the border.
But despite resting Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, Martin Skrtel and Glen Johnson, Liverpool are still the 11/20 favourites with bwin, who make the draw 27/10 and Hearts 9/2 to grab a first-leg lead to take back to Anfield.
Leaving those players behind makes perfect sense with champions Manchester City visiting Anfield on Sunday, but the first thing to say is that without Gerrard and Suarez, you can’t be backing Liverpool to beat anyone away from home at such short odds. The Reds have a chronic lack of invention beyond those two players and if you’re going to part with your hard-earned by backing Liverpool at odds-on in this scenario, you must be feeling pretty brave.
That said, Liverpool should walk on with hope in their Hearts (sorry) given their hosts are not, like many of the teams in the SPL, the force they used to be. Money might be relatively tight for Liverpool, but in Scotland it is as rare as Victoria Beckham’s second helping and new Jambos boss John McGlynn is working on the tightest of budgets as he attempts to revive a club that languished in fifth place last term.
Nonetheless, McGlynn has enjoyed a decent start to his tenure, taking five points from three games, but this is a step up in class and with only one recognised striker on the books, it looks a tall order and I actually thought the bwin bookies would give us a bit more than 9/2 about a home win.
Hearts lost eight times at Tynecastle last season and won just four of their 20 fixtures against teams in the top half of the SPL (not all of those were against the Old Firm), so Liverpool are still the most likely victors, but I’d rather have a look at the value in the market and the 17/5 on a draw at half-time followed by a Liverpool win at full-time is the bet that interests me.
Liverpool will remain solid, with Daniel Agger, suspended for the City match, likely to play alongside Jamie Carragher with Pepe Reina in goal and the Reds could well set out their stall in the first half of a tie they don’t have to win right away.
The much-changed nature of the team may bring about a disjointed display initially, so bank on Liverpool hitting their stride after the break.
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