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"Wintertime Shakeup has Reds Looking Up" by Joel Tracy

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After Saturday’s 1-0 victory at the Stadium of Light vs. Sunderland, the disparate pieces of this Liverpool side-unbeaten in their last seven contests (and with one loss in their last fourteen matches)-appear to finally be coalescing. The Reds endured a torrid start to the campaign, blighted by the July departure of the irreplaceable Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge’s star-crossed odyssey towards fitness and a group of summer signings who sputtered out of the gates.


Mired in the middle of the Premier League table and unceremoniously dismissed from the Champions League after a brief return act, Rodgers’ seat in the Anfield dugout was certainly warming up, just as December’s chill swept through the city with a decidedly Ned Starkian feel. Was winter truly coming for last season’s Manager of the Year? After a series of poor results littered with selections that ranged from questionable to “Roger Goodell handling the Ray Rice investigation,” a toothless attack that highlighted his unsuccessful attempt to mitigate the loss of Suarez in the summer, and a defensive “lynchpin,” handpicked by the Manager who seemed to approach each match as though he was auditioning for a supporting role in a Benny Hill gag, Rodgers certainly earned a great deal of the criticism aimed his way.


Fortunately for the Ulsterman his Reds, as they have done in his first two season in charge have gained momentum near the midpoint of their campaign. Instrumental in that change has been the shift to a 3-4-2-1 formation, as well as the reintroduction of Mamadou Sakho and Lucas Leiva into the side. The Frenchman has been a steadying presence on the left of the back three, and his sharp passing has considerably improved the side’s buildup play.


The improved performance of Liverpool’s defenders (who, it must be said, are still prone to far too many confounding errors) owes much to the contributions of Lucas in front of the back three. The atypical Brazillian has been quietly impressive in a shielding role, particularly when played alongside the workmanlike Jordan Henderson. Opposite Sakho, Emre Can has combined with the newly-restored pair to help shore up the Liverpool defense. A midfielder by trade, Can has looked assured at the back, with a combination of rugged defending and skillful distribution.


Farther forward, a trio of Can’s fellow summer recruits have added a healthy dose of spice to the aforementioned three’s more meat and potatoes contributions to their manager’s reshuffled menu. Alberto Moreno appears ideally suited for a wingback role, which allows him to maraud down the left flank. Although the Spaniard has yet to fully convince in his defensive duties, his ability to create space for the front three offers an exciting new dimension to Liverpool’s attacking play.


Adam Lallana, often deployed on the fringes of the Liverpool attack early in the season thrived when aligned alongside Philippe Coutinho in a slightly withdrawn inside forward role. The former Southampton skipper’s technical ability and enthusiastic pressing shone brightly prior to a recent thigh injury, which will keep him out for at least a few weeks.


Lazar Markovic looked lightweight and out of his depth early in the season, but an impressive turn as an attacking wingback (most recently on the right side, after frequently displacing Moreno on the left) highlighted his pace, skill and a cutting edge that hints at a more advanced role in the near future. Currently occupying one of those advanced roles is Coutinho, who appears back to his silky-dribbling, defense-splitting best after a supbar start to the campaign. The Brazillian’s finishing remains as frustrating as ever, but he must surely be licking his chops at the prospect of Raheem Sterling’s return to the side after a long overdue rest, as well as Daniel Sturridge’s long-awaited return from injury.


Rodgers will have plenty to sort out in the second half of the campaign, including Simon Mignolet’s slapstick act in between the posts, the seemingly omnipresent threat of defensive calamity and a trend of wastefulness in front of goal. In addition, the manager will have to weigh Steven Gerrard’s ability to rectify the latter concern - as well as the growing pressure to feature the legend in his farewell season - with the skipper’s shortcomings in positioning and pace. But with his side just five points adrift of fourth-place Manchester United, Rodgers now has a few more reasons to flash that expensive smile than he had a month ago.


Joel Tracy



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Very polished article that. I also like how you extracted a tooth reference right at the end. It crowned it nicely. 

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