It wasn’t so much the defeat in Basle (they do that to English teams all the time) but the manner of it that grated. It followed on from Sakho managing to strain his thigh apologising to the fans for skipping out of the derby in a strop after not being picked, so you knew a defensive screw-up was imminent.
Worse was to follow when Rodgers resuscitated the “calculated risk” angle on Balotelli after a sequence of unimpressive, goalless games. Then he dropped him.
We’ve seen ballsy managerial decisions before of course, when Rafa subbed Gerrard at Everton for example, but Brendan’s somewhat artless deflections from his own mistakes would have come crashing down on his head if this hadn’t come off.
Especially when poor old Lambert now resembles the big gawky kid at school who got picked last. So much for the romance of football. My mood wasn’t helped by taking a walk along Anfield Road for the first time in ages. A two-bit carnival was taking place, with a live band playing Ring of Fire reggae-style.
I ran to get away before they did a hardcore Fields of Athenry.
With such an unpromising beginning, the day turned out actually not half bad. Lallana and Henderson looked like the lynchpins of Liverpool’s midfield for maybe the next five years, which will come as a relief to those searching for the elixir of life and Gerrard’s address.
The man himself was even seen on the edge of the opposition area at times. This is where many think he should be for the remainder of his career rather than this much-mythologised ‘deep’ role he seems to think will give him eternal youth.
Balotelli did eventually emerge for the hapless Lambert, who might have been flagged offside for the winner if he could have managed to actually interfere with play. Mario was Mario, some good and some bad and some downright peculiar. Get used to it.
West Brom aren’t really a scalp per se, but they’ve turned us over a few times in recent years. It would have been a huge mistake to take them lightly. They’d cottoned on to what everyone else has learned about the Reds; keep it tight and quiet early on, things will begin to unravel.
Our marauding days appear to be over.
We’re also fools to ourselves. Six home games, six equalisers conceded. That’s just plain perverse, and mostly we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.
From his earliest days, there’s been flimsy talk about Rodgers sorting out his defence. Over 100 matches later, you might as well wish for the moon on a stick. If the return of Glen Johnson is greeted with gratitude, you know things aren’t going well.
Just watch Lovren’s tackle for the penalty. That’s a previously-respected, €20m defender doing that.
Now admittedly first impressions aren’t always correct. They’re just right 80% of the time, particularly when big money’s involved. Think of Torres, Mascherano and Suarez. Then think of Keane, Aquilani and Carroll.
The only one close to a 180-degree turnaround in his early form is Henderson, and what a joy he is to watch now. It’s a jaded, greedy, ruthless sport nowadays but sometimes a player comes along and clearly loves what he’s doing.
So now there’s a fortnight’s respite, if you can count watching Doctor Hodgson’s House of Horrors through your trembling fingers as respite. I’m expecting Sterling to come back in an iron lung.
Liverpool fans can take a break, knowing that as bad as we’ve been, we’re only one point off another qualification spot for the Champions League. Maybe it might be a good idea to do something with the one we’ve already got.
Real Madrid? Whatever. I’ve seen better…