Nobody who watched Liverpool’s first few games of the season could claim that everything was going entirely to plan at Anfield, as Brendan Rodgers’ side overcame Stoke and Bournemouth with goals owing more to luck and a stroke of genius than relentless quality.
Having banked six points from their first two fixtures, the Reds were handed a penalty kick at Arsenal, with high-value forward trio Christian Benteke, Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino pitted against rookie centre-half paring Callum Chambers and Gabriel.
Remarkably, they failed to find the net despite firing eight shots on target, and looked more likely to concede after their hosts settled into the game in the second half.
It would be unfair to say Saturday’s 3-0 loss to West Ham at Anfield was coming, but it’s clear Liverpool have had their fair share of good fortune in the Premier League’s early knockings, and they’ll need plenty more of it in what already looks like another transitional season for Rodgers’ and co.
The Northern Irish gaffer has clearly made better use of his resources this summer than he did 12 months ago, bringing in sure-fire top-flight hits such as Benteke, Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner to fill spots vacated by Luis Suarez, Glen Johnson and Steven Gerrard in recent times.
Considering Johnson and Gerrard’s patchy 2014/15 campaigns, Liverpool are clearly in better shape at right-back and in midfield, and while Joe Gomez’s mistake that led to West Ham’s Anfield opener suggests he’s not the finished product, the 18-year-old looks a far better defender than Alberto Moreno.
Emre Can is clearly improving, Firmino will come on after adjusting to the Premier League and attacking talents such as Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge (should he ever properly return) are still to come, so vastly improving on a paltry tally of 52 top-flight goals last term looks on the cards.
Where Rodgers always has (and likely always will have) a problem is in defence, with Dejan Lovren showing against the Irons that he is no more worth £20m now than he was last summer, and Martin Skrtel looking like the player who drew public criticism from his boss following a 3-2 FA Cup loss to Oldham in 2013.
There isn’t much in Liverpool’s centre-half ranks beyond Mamadou Sakho and Kolo Toure, neither of whom have ever looked the answer to Rodgers’ centre-half woes, but talk in ‘The Times’ that Portuguese youngster Tiago Ilori won’t be sent out on loan for the third season running might hold some significance.
Ilori had a decent run in Bordeaux’s first team during the second half of last term, starting eight of 11 Ligue 1 matches between early February and mid-April, with his temporary side winning five of those fixtures.
The 22-year-old went on to star at the heart of Portugal Under-21’s defence at the European Championships, starting all four matches, including against England, without seeing a goal shipped on his watch.
It seems unlikely Liverpool will spend again this summer, so any further crises will require creative thinking. In central-defence, that ought to lead straight to Ilori, if he’s still around Anfield come next week.