Newcastle United 1 Liverpool 0
So, Brendan Rodgers was asked: how do you deal with a slump that has produced just two victories in seven Premier League matches and leaves Liverpool a mere four points ahead of Newcastle United, a club in total turmoil less than a month ago?
Rodgers, who likes his cars, steered a cautious route and suggested: “It don’t think it’s so much about stripping it down and starting again.”
The manager should hope that the owner John W Henry shares his thinking, but Rodgers knows that the American businessman will not be as tolerant of failure as Newcastle’s Mike Ashley.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has survived a dreadful start to the season when no other owner in the Premier League would have been quite so relaxed and forgiving; certainly not John W Henry.
Rodgers still has time on his side. He has earned it, after his groundwork at the club over the past two years, and tomorrow’s game at Real Madrid is by no means a pivotal moment, as some fans would suggest.
Defeat at the Bernabeu would hardly be such an unexpected setback, but the way they submitted against an admittedly revitalised Newcastle team does raise questions about Rodgers that the absence of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge doesn’t totally answer.
Rodgers chooses to focus on the absence of those two forwards, however. “It is fairly straightforward and easy for me to see why the performances haven’t been so fluent — we have lost goals,” he said.
“We scored 101 goals last year in a team that had been working towards that. Take away nearly 80% of that (Suarez and Sturridge) and it can become difficult for you, alongside the introduction of lots of new players.
“It is not rocket science, but you need to find the answers and that is my job as the manager and the coach. We lack creativity and the end ball in the final third. Ultimately that is what has won us a lot of games over a period of time and we didn’t have it here.”
Certainly, forwards Mario Balotelli and Raheem Sterling were again peripheral figures as Liverpool created little apart from long-range efforts from the Italian and Fabio Borini.
Steven Gerrard was also overshadowed by Mehdi Abeid on the Algerian’s first start of the season in the league, perhaps because speculation about his future persuaded Rodgers to stress he believes his captain still has a future at Anfield.
Rodgers was non-committal over whether it may feature a coaching role, but is adamant Gerrard must be given a new contract. “There is certainly no sentiment involved in it. When you see some of his passes today and his influence in the changing room, he is still an outstanding player. He will be 35 at the end of the season but he is still fresh and he still looks after himself very well. Technically he is a big player for us. He is the perfect sort of example for a lot of our players to learn from.”
Others were more culpable than Gerrard, notably Jordan Henderson, whose touch was wayward, and Albero Moreno, who gifted Ayoze Perez his 74th-minute winner.
Those inadequacies were exposed by a Newcastle team, who have won four games in a row, three of them in seven days against Tottenham, Manchester City and now Liverpool.
Perez epitomises the renewed belief within the Newcastle squad. He scored his second goal in a week after a header at Spurs last week and says: “It feels incredible. I couldn’t ask for any more.
“It’s been a really good week with the two goals, but more importantly because it’s the fourth consecutive win for the team. It has been a really good time for the club. I’m definitely ahead of schedule. I always hoped I could do well, but things have been very good and I am feeling great here. I’m settling in well and I just can’t wait to play more games.”
NEWCASTLE (4-2-3-1): Krul 6; Janmaat 7, Coloccini 7, S Taylor 6, Dummett 8; Colback 7, Abeid 8; Obertan 6 (Aarons 27, 6), Sissoko 7, Ameobi 5 (Cabella 66,5); Cisse 6 (Perez 46,7).
LIVERPOOL (4-2-3-1): Mignolet 6; Johnson 5, Lovren 6, Skrtel 6, Moreno 4; Gerrard 5, Allen 5 (Borini 66, 6); Sterling 5, Coutinho 5 (Lambert 80, 5), Henderson 5, Balotelli.
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