That match, the low point of the 2010-11 campaign, saw Liverpool at its worst — passive, lacking emotion or spark, and devoid of any creativity going forward.
Less than one month later, Liverpool didn’t just get revenge, the team side proved what supporters have hoped they had been capable of all along — creative, exciting, dominant football. Now, that horrible 1-0 defeat may in fact be a demon exorcised.
Of course, one can hardly put too much value in a 3-0 romp against 19th-place Wolves, but it counts for more than you’d suspect. Wolves have been about as good as a 19th-place squad can be this season, and they surely came into the match believing that they could win. Liverpool, also, had only taken five points from 11 away matches going into the fixture, and in nearly every match, they had given the flat, negative performances for which the Roy Hodgson era was maligned.
Saturday, surely, was a stark deviation from such, and was indeed a great cause for optimism about both the side and the manager.
Though the team had yet to give one of the abysmal performances of the Hodgson era since Kenny Dalglish took over, Liverpool had yet to win a match in three times with the legend at the helm.
In those performances, however, the squad had shown some signs of improvement. Fernando Torres‘ flashes of brilliance had been more frequent, the midfielders — Raul Meireles in particular — looked more apt to attack, and Martin Kelly‘s inclusion in the first team had offered more going forward. In fact, if it were not for defensive miscues, the results would have likely been different.
Saturday’s win represented continued progress for those trends — with the elimination of the defensive mistakes — and for such, Dalglish deserves credit.
Dalglish had pledged to get Torres back on track, and he already has been able to achieve such — with rather simple tactical changes.
Basically, he’s put Meireles significantly higher up the pitch — nearly in the Steven Gerrard role, and had Dirk Kuyt in a higher position on the right as well.
The result on Saturday was the dynamic through passing that has so frequently resulted in Torres goals in the past. Liverpool cleanly executed counter-attacks, with Kelly and Glen Johnson running the ball up the wings well, and with Meireles and Kuyt in position to space the head of the attack and free up Torres to make runs to the center — the cause of both of his goals. Previously, Liverpool had been relegated to longballs to Torres — which in turn resulted in the star striker slumping his shoulders after losing out in the air. Now, the formation and approach suited the team’s best player — and also allowed for a new star to emerge.
If there was one positive from the Hodgson era, it surely was the signing of Meireles, who — when placed in an attacking role — has increasingly appeared capable of creative passes, high work-rate, and range in finishing. His goal on Saturday was one of the strikes of the Premier League season — a distance volley that dipped and swerved into the top corner at the final moment. The only questions that remain is how Meireles will be used once Gerrard returns to action and where Luis Suarez may fit into all of this — but those are good problems to have.
With home ties against Fulham and Stoke looming, Liverpool has an opportunity to make a move up the table, and for the first time this season, supporters have to be confident that the team will actually come through with the results.
Many of Liverpool’s better moments this season had seemed to come out of nowhere — flashes of brilliance spelling long stretches of poor play. This time, largely thanks to Dalglish, the team got a result caused by progress in a specific direction — towards a formation and style of play that suits the squad’s best players.
That, in turn, has resulted in a change in demeanor surrounding the club — players hailing the manager and calling for a reversal of fortune. That can only help the situation, but the best part of it all is that — finally — such positivity and optimism are truly in order.
Has Liverpool turned the corner? Leave your thoughts below.