Speaking at the launch of Liverpool’s new home kit for the 2014/15 season, former striker Robbie Fowler explained how the current Reds’ side are showing the resilience required to win the Premier League title, a trait Fowler admits that the sides of his era sometimes lacked.
"The consistency that the side now are showing, you look at the West Ham game, I think my team or certain Liverpool teams of the past would have struggled there," explained Fowler in an interview with This Is Anfield.
"That’s why Liverpool are where they are and they’ve got this chance because my team [of the 90s] would probably have come unstuck, this team and these players are taking everything in their stride."
Indeed, the legendary Liverpool icon would be right to comment as such. Fowler was part of the so-called "Spice Boys" side under Roy Evans in the mid-'90s who were often tipped as title challengers but eventually fell short, finishing fourth, third, fourth, and third during Evans’ four full seasons in charge.
However, Fowler explains that he does see similarities between his former boss and the current Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. "I like Brendan because he’s similar to Roy Evans," says Fowler. "I mean, Brendan’s tactical nous is far superior to Evans’ and I don’t mean that in a bad way, but what Roy gave you was the belief to win games and his man management style was brilliant."
That added tactical acumen has certainly helped Rodgers get the most out of his squad, exceeding what many pundits and media expected from his side. He even exceeded his own expectations, as the Northern Irishman admitted recently, per The Guardian.
The Benitez and Houllier Years
While Evans’ Liverpool fell short of the EPL title, so too did Gerard Houllier's and Rafa Benitez’s sides, although both achieved something Evans didn’t in taking the Merseyside club to a second-place finish—Houllier in 2002, Benitez in 2009.
That 2008/09 season under Benitez is widely regarded as a huge missed opportunity, as the Reds lost only twice all season but still finished beneath Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United due to 11 draws. Some of those points dropped included games at home to and at Stoke, at home to Fulham, West Ham, Hull City and Aston Villa. Similar games this season under Rodgers have seen a newfound character and mentality that forced the three points.
Similarly, Houllier’s side showed their weakness on many an occasion, not least on the final-day humbling to relegation-surviving Bradford City in 2000.
The past 24 years—the time since Liverpool last lifted a league title and thus ended the campaign as the champions of England—have seen countless upsets against The Reds by the perceived weaker sides in the league. Hoodoos have been cast by the likes of Bolton Wanderers, Stoke City (two successive 0-0 draws at Anfield prior to this season), Wigan Athletic and Fulham.
Similar games under Rodgers this season have resulted in emphatic victories—usually in home fixtures—or entertaining, roller-coaster football that has eventually seen his side run out winners—such as at Stoke and Fulham.
Even the Aston Villa match in January saw this new side to Liverpool, as they came back to salvage a point courtesy of Rodgers’ tactical changes, as well as the team’s character and desire for success.
No longer do Liverpool look like the mentally fragile side that often failed to deliver and frustrated fans with a bafflingly poor performance immediately after a swashbuckling one the week before.
The players believe, the fans believe. As the banner reads, "Make Us Dream."