All things considered, this past week or two has been rather forgettable for Liverpool FC, save for one or two items of note.
After a frustrating 0-0 home draw against Stoke City, helped in part by a disturbingly inept refereeing performance from Lee Mason and a whole host of unpunished rugby challenges from the away side, the Reds’ seniors largely jet-setted off to all corners of the globe to proudly embrace the shirt of their nation and cement their status as some of each country’s best players in the land.
Or, in the case of Steven Gerrard, Glen Johnson and Jonjo Shelvey, play for Roy Hodgson.
With no Premier League action on the horizon for a horribly long two weeks, media news and points of discussion about the club should have been in short supply, bar the updating of how Samed Yesil’s scoring for German youth teams was getting on for the increasingly-shivering fans with withdrawal symptoms of any Reds-based news at all.
Unfortunately, Liverpool FC seem immune to the dullness of international breaks these days, and story after story broke out which saw the Reds hit the headlines.
First of all, there was further encouraging news for the families and the fans regarding the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Following on from the Prime Minister’s apology and the publication of the Independent Panel’s findings last month, the Attorney General has also stated he intends to apply to overturn the original inquest and verdicts of the deaths of the 96, and seek for fresh ones.
Anfield redeveloped, probably
The week went on with another seemingly-good piece of news but, on further reflection, was not actually news at all and more a statement or gathering of hopes and wishes.
That Liverpool now want to re-develop Anfield instead of moving to a new stadium in Stanley Park is both clear and—probably—for the best, but there is still an awful long way to go before it can be considered the definitive direction that the club are heading.
Re-accommodating locals, compulsory purchase orders, valuations, designs and planning permission—so much work remains for the Liverpool hierarchy to work through before any kind of work actually starts to take place on the famous old stadium, which the club seemingly want to increase to a capacity of 60,000.
Effectively, the Reds as a club are not much further along the path to ending the stadium issue than they were a decade ago.
There is plenty of reaction and analysis yet to come out of this particular situation, and this is as good a place to start as any.
Twitter and season tickets
God, do we really need to go into this?
By now nearly everybody knows the score, to an extent. By all means read up if you feel ill-informed.
Some have taken one side—that of the perceived victim, wronged by the club after a joke went too far and people became too gullible or worried.
Others have taken the point of view that there has been embellishment or that facts are lacking, while yet more fans are sick of the whole situation and just want to get back to the football.
Which is exactly where we’ll be going momentarily.
Not being in possession of first hand information, the only thought on the matter we’ll offer is: do certain individuals not have more important things to be worrying about?
Them bloody internationals
It could have been worse.
As the wreckage of the latest international break is cleared from of dust, it seems that Fabio Borini and Pepe Reina are the only real worries for Liverpool.
Goalkeeper Reina has suffered a minor muscle strain, warming up at half time for Spain, and may miss out on the Reading match. Further tests will likely be performed before Saturday’s match, and he could yet take his place between the sticks. Striker Borini is quite different. After suffering a foot injury against Manchester United earlier this season, which seemingly went unnoticed, he has now suffered a fracture which requires surgery after the injury worsened and will now will the next three months of the season.
Relegated to the bench in recent weeks, his absence doesn’t impact on the front line of the Reds—but both in terms of versatility and ability there might be a serious reduction in options in the final third for the foreseeable future.
Jack Robinson was taken ill, Andre Wisdom pulled out of the original England under-21 squad with injury, Martin Skrtel needed a painkiller to play, Glen Johnson, Steven Gerrard and Jonjo Shelvey all saw their match delayed by 24 hours and Seb Coates and Luis Suarez faced the double battle of the La Paz altitude and a long-haul flight home.
Oh, and Daniel Agger got through two consecutive matches without injury. Hopefully.
All in all, it’s not as bad as it initially looked as though it could be for Brendan Rodgers and his merry midweek men, but the Reds can ill-afford any further knocks or absences in the final third of the pitch.
Thankfully, Stuart Pearce saw fit to leave Raheem Sterling on the bench for the under-21 match which suffered such awful scenes in Serbia.
Back at Anfield in the Premier League
Finally, after what seems like aeons, Liverpool are preparing to get back to action in the Premier League.
A home match against Premier League new-comers Reading is the next challenge for Rodgers, with the Reds desperately wanting to pick up their first home league win of the season.
In fact, it would only be Liverpool’s third home win of 2012 in the league, a shocking statistic which doesn’t need improving so much as obliterating and never repeating again.
Reading, Newcastle, Wigan, Southampton, Aston Villa and Fulham have yet to visit Anfield this calendar year in the league. Given their relative quality, it would be a disappointment if more than one of them did not leave empty-handed, meaning the Reds must start to not only take charge of games but finish them off and win them, starting this weekend.
There’s no doubt that the Reds have been improving in terms of performances and tactical work over the past couple of months, but points are points. Liverpool need to win games. Not for “relieving the manager of pressure” or any such nonsense, but just to keep the belief, the positivity, the momentum and the progress going.
December could be a hugely key month for the Reds in terms of racking up points quickly so they need to get into the groove of winning matches before then to help really propel themselves up the table when the games come around quickly in winter.
90 minutes and eight days
It’s early days, given that at least five members of the squad have only in the past few hours arrived back in the country and one or two still need further fitness tests, but Brendan Rodgers’ next staring XI shouldn’t have too many different faces in it to that which kept a first clean sheet of the season against Stoke.
With Reina possibly out Brad Jones should start, while Wisdom, Johnson, Agger and Skrtel will continue at the back if all are fit enough.
Get through this next 90 minutes and the players will have an important eight days of rest, recuperation and preparation before the derby match next weekend. Anzhi Makhachkala at home in the Europa League await the Reds before then, but it is hugely likely that most of the league starters will sit out this game ahead of the trip to Everton.
Joe Allen, Nuri Sahin and Gerrard all took part during international week but seem likely to start again in midfield, unless the heavy Polish pitch has taken too much out of the club captain who has one day’s less rest.
The now-familiar front three of Suso, Suarez and Sterling should also continue to learn and grow alongside each other. The subs bench is another matter entirely but Brendan Rodgers will have gotten a good look at the fitness, sharpness and most importantly attitude of some of his non-international players this week—and that will likely have a big say in who figures on the bench against Reading.
It’s been a bit of a forgettable couple of weeks, but the proper football’s back now. Let’s get back on track in the Premier League now, in the best possible way.