At what point does goodwill start to fade and become scepticism bordering on doubt? Brendan Rodgers might just be about to find out.
There is no doubt that the Liverpool manager retains the support of the majority of supporters desperate for success and the plethora of mitigating circumstances that have made his job difficult have not been rectified since he took over from Kenny Dalglish in June.
But there has to come a point when Rodgers starts to play a good game, as well as talk one. Two wins from Liverpool’s first 11 Premier League games of the season is simply not good enough, even when taking into account the players that he has at his command, and between now and Christmas the pressure is going to be cranked up on the former Swansea boss to deliver some positive results.
The squad is thin, uneven and relying on too many youngsters to make any decent fist of challenging for the European places – that much is true. And it is a squad, too, that has finished no higher than sixth in the three seasons since Champions League qualification was last secured and has no right to even think about the top four at present.
But it can now be argued that even with all that accepted, Rodgers is underachieving. In fairness, coming away from Chelsea with a point as Liverpool did on Sunday is a good result, but six draws from 11 games leaves Liverpool languishing in 13th position as winter approaches and that is not what was expected when the Northern Irishman was appointed.
With a run of ten matches between now and the start of 2013 that takes in trips to Swansea, Stoke City and Queens Park Rangers as well as home fixtures against Southampton, Aston Villa, Fulham and Sunderland, there can be no excuses for the Reds not to begin to climb the table. Rodgers will hear the dissent if things have not improved and no amount of excuses will cut the mustard.
But there is no guarantee that Liverpool will climb the league, especially with their dismal home form, and the visit of Wigan Athletic to Anfield on Saturday is the sort of match the Reds have struggled to win for some time.
It is also the sort of match in which Wigan are capable of springing a surprise (if it indeed would be considered that, given the Latics have lost just one of the last six against Liverpool) and it makes the 2/5 on a home win unbackable. The draw is 18/5 and the Latics are 25/4, and that is the sort of price that makes you take notice of this Wigan side.
Of course, Roberto Martinez could just have easily been in the home dug-out this weekend. The Wigan boss was infamously snapped taking a stroll in Miami with Liverpool owner John W. Henry over the summer as the process of finding the successor to Dalglish was played out (in case you didn’t see that, Dave Whelan let you know exactly what was going on) and depending on who you believe, the Spaniard was either overlooked or rejected the chance to take over the five-time European champions.
Martinez’s loyalty to Whelan is steadfast and this season he seems to be enjoying the fruits of that stance. Wigan are just one point behind Liverpool on 11, five above the relegation zone, and it has been some time since the Latics enjoyed such an encouraging start. To put it into context, this time last year Wigan had five points and were in the middle of an eight-match losing streak.
Admittedly, they remain frustratingly erratic – only Wigan could get knocked out of the Capital One Cup by League Two Bradford City and then go to Tottenham Hotspur and win 1-0 in the very next match. But that is what makes their fixtures such a dangerous proposition to punt on: since March, Wigan have beaten Manchester United, Arsenal, Newcastle, Tottenham and, yes, Liverpool at huge prices and it is one reason why the 2/5 on the Reds is such a poor price.
The other is Liverpool’s abysmal record at Anfield, where they have recorded just three league wins all calender year. Rodgers made a big play on improving their home form following his appointment but he has been unable to find a cure for their homesickness and until he does, you have to be finding ways to make money out of Liverpool’s problems.
The most glaring of those is goalscoring, which is why my play here is going to be the 23/20 there are under 2.5 goals, which, given that Wigan are far from prolific themselves, looks way, way overpriced.
Punters who register here can claim a free £20 bet with their first bwin deposit and placing this on Liverpool v Wigan to feature less than three goals would return £43 if sucessful.
After all, Liverpool and Wigan have scored 14 and 12 goals respectively – an average of 1.27 and 1.09 a match – so I see no reason why goals will suddenly begin to flow for either.
Liverpool’s league matches at Anfield have averaged exactly two goals a game, while Wigan’s away fixtures have averaged 2.2 goals, and it is easy to see why when both teams are obsessed with possession in the middle of the pitch, but desperately lack cutting edge.
Nine of the 14 meetings since Wigan won promotion in 2005 have finished with under 2.5 goals, including four of the last five, and at 23/20, you have to be on the same thing happening for a tenth time.