It’s getting there, isn’t it? Is it? Isn’t it? It’s pretty hard to tell.
The desire to both declare any Liverpool victory as a huge step in the right direction whilst simultaneously viewing each and every setback as a massive bump in the road has been there long before Brendan Rodgers pitched up last summer, but it seems to have taken on a new lease of life during a season in which signs of progress have been grasped for like a child reaching for an ice cream on a hot day.
As such it means that results such as Sunday’s―a goalless draw at home to a West Ham United side who came to Anfield intent on achieving nothing else―can be viewed overly harshly, when simply the bounce of a ball here or an official’s decision there would have made it a successful day.
In truth this was a match that said a lot about Liverpool ever since Rafael Benitez left. Rodgers just happened to be the man in the dugout.
Bar a few high-profile and ultimately hugely costly dropped points at home in the title-chasing 2008/09 season, the Spaniard was well-versed in seeing his Reds side grind down stubborn, defensive sides―and stubborn, defensive managers like Sam Allardyce―to eventually deliver three points.
It is a quality which seemingly left Anfield the moment that Benitez walked out of the Shankly Gates, with Roy Hodgson, Kenny Dalglish and now Rodgers seeing his side frustrate so often.
Hodgson wasn’t helped by his poor signings and rudimentary style of football, Dalglish often struggled to impose an identity on his team and saw them develop a fixation with hitting the woodwork. In fairness to Rodgers, his Liverpool team have swatted aside plenty of opponents in home matches, but those old frustrations remain.
The opposition blocking shots, making clearances off the line and pulling off spectacular saves have been part and parcel of most Liverpool home games for the past few years, but that is nothing new. If you want to be a top side―as Liverpool desperately, desperately do again―then that is what you have to put up with. The current top five in the Premier League experience it every other week.
The question now has to be that, unlike Hodgson and Dalglish, is Rodgers the man to help the team finally overcome this problem? The answer has to be a resounding "yes."
He’s already gone a long way towards achieving it anyway, and although setbacks like the West Ham game will still happen and are likely to be seen next season as well, they aren’t a reason for supporters to lose patience with the manager.
The additions of players such as Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge should be replicated in the summer, and with that then making this clearly Rodgers’ team―a team which simply have to keep hold of Luis Suarez if they are to make any form of progress―then the boss’ stamp will most certainly be visible.
Clearly, Rodgers represented a gamble for Liverpool last summer.
At a time when the club had got rid of a club legend in Dalglish, appointing a then 39-year-old with a lot of big ideas but only one year of experience of coaching in the top division was a big call, but sticking to your guns is vital.
Rodgers retains the support of all inside Anfield, where you won’t find anyone criticising his methods or his team.
Liverpool fans in the wider world are always a little more forthright in their views, however, and although the manager has made friends in a lot of them, he still has a long way to go.
He is going to be given the chance to prolong that relationship next season, when there simply has to be signs that the patience in him is paying off.
After all, the confusion surrounding Liverpool’s potential progress isn’t going to go on forever.