"This is a results business and it is results that matter at the end of the day." That is the often used truism of both incoming and outgoing football managers these days. Everything is relative though, and not even results can ensure a positive press for managers once the fans choose to adopt a more challenging approach.
Last week, five time European Cup winners Liverpool FC took on the not so illustrious FC Gomel in the first leg of a Europa League qualifier. This is a tournament increasingly considered a distraction by Europe's top sides, a league that is viewed as sub-standard compared to the Champions League, and a tournament that most Liverpool fans don't even want to be competing in. Yet here is Liverpool FC, needing to qualify over two legs to even earn the right to enter the tournament at the group stage.
There was a lot more than qualification riding on this game too. Brendan Rodgers could ill afford his side to slip up in their first ever competitive match under his stewardship, regardless of the fact that victory over the two legs will mean Liverpool playing Thursday night football for another year. The timing of this games was also an unwelcome distraction from pre-season training. This level of competitive football, at this stage of pre-season is challenging and, even against lower league opposition, fitness (or a lack of it at this stage) can be a great leveller.
If anybody had expected a Liverpool walk over, then they were to be sadly disappointed as the reds toiled their way through the match. FC Gomel are on a mid season break and are at a much greater level of fitness than their famous opponents, yet despite this Liverpool still won the game 1-0. The reds only managed two shots on target, despite this Liverpool won the game. Skrtel and Carragher formed the slowest central defensive partnership for some time, despite this Liverpool won the game. Are you getting the picture by now? Yes, Liverpool won the game.
If all that matters are results, then all is well? From the evidence of the fans reaction though, this is clearly not the case. Liverpool had put out a strong side with Steven Gerrard leading an experienced team and a large portion of last season's strong defensive line in place. If Liverpool were at the mid-season point, this would be considered a poor result. There are crumbs of comfort in the fact that it was pre-season and the players were clearly a little rusty, not just in fitness terms but also in their passing and control. But, Liverpool won the game.
Brendan Rodgers has expressed his post-match satisfaction, even delight, with the effort of his players. You have to believe that, for a manager who favours playing football the right way, the Barcelona way, the feelings were likely to be far from ones of delight. For a manger who wants his teams to have sixty to seventy percent of possession in every game, Liverpool could only manage 55 percent against FC Gomel and enjoyed only two shots on goal as a result of that possession.
The new Liverpool manager has already complemented his club's fans on being some of the most educated in the game. For this reason, they will give him and the team time to start playing the kind of football he wants. But, it is this intelligence that means those fans also know that this was far from flowing, attacking, attractive football.
It is early days and nobody should be judging Brendan Rodgers just yet, but they will be. As has been said before, he has replaced a legend and arrived with the promise of exciting, attacking, possession football. The one positive about this rather forgetful encounter is that Brendan will have learned an awful lot about the team he has inherited and will be in little doubt about where he needs to improve. Whether Fenway Sports Group back him with the plans to improve will be tested over the next three weeks of this summer transfer window.
There is lots to be done and it is far too early to judge. The evidence to date though suggests it will take longer than anyone thought to turn the current Liverpool into Swansea, let alone Barcelona.738103