This weekend, Liverpool travelled to the south coast to do battle with fourth placed Southampton. A loss would be catastrophic to the Reds' top four hopes and to be fair they weren't the better team on Sunday, but they got the three points.
This wasn't last year's Merseyside outfit who'd set out just to outscore the opponent. This was led by the defence: namely Martin Skrtel and Simon Mignolet. Far cry from what was come to expect of a Brendan Rodgers side.
Rewind to December 14, 2014. Liverpool just got smacked by bitter rivals Manchester United 3-0 just days after being bounced from the Champions League by FC Basel. Mignolet had just been dropped in favour of Brad Jones, the same Aussie that nobody was exactly sure actually plays football.
Yeah, sure, maybe you’ve seen him in pre-season or training, but, were you ever really sure he was a top flight keeper in England? No. No you weren’t.
If I told you that day that Liverpool wouldn’t sign a keeper, or anyone for that matter, in January and that two months later the same maligned Mignolet would be churning out clean sheets for fun and would be leading the league in that category, two ahead of David De Gea and Thibaut Courtois? To be fair, I still hardly believe it.
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All the credit in the world goes out to Mignolet, bouncing back the way he has. It’s fairly incredible when you think about just how bad he was performing to get dropped for Jones.
Many would have thrown in the towel and begun to look elsewhere for new work. But he stuck in, pushed on and has been leading the Reds' revival. Though, Rodgers deserves all the credit he’s getting now and probably some more.
In December, there were calls for Rodgers to get the sack and that it was a lost season. It was said over and over that they wasted the Luis Suarez and Champions League money. It was screamed that Rodgers refuses to change his system.
Old articles of his previous failures were being referenced, and conclusions were drawn that this was the end. Then when he changed everything against United, it was being said he changed too much.
Now, he’s being lauded for the turn around and rightfully so. Calls for him getting axed were well wide of the mark and it’s incredible how quickly some people want overhauls at the first sign of disappointment.
Thankfully, John Henry and Fenway Sports Group had some more confidence in their man and Rodgers has repaid the faith with a great run of results.
It was Rodgers’ decision to drop Mignolet and take him out of the limelight for a bit. It was Rodgers’ decision to send Raheem Sterling away for a mini holiday to limit burnout. It was Rodgers’ decision to change the entire set up. It was Rodgers’ decision to throw a midfielder, Emre Can, into an unfamiliar role at centre half and toss an attacking player, Lazar Markovic, into an equally unfamiliar wing back role.
This is why Rodgers has targeted footballers who aren’t limited to one position on the pitch. Even vice-captain Jordan Henderson took a few shifts at wing back.
The system has gotten so much out of Can, Mamadou Sakho and Phillippe Coutinho especially. Coutinho continues to improve as he's been the driving force when the team attacks and there’s excitement whenever he picks up the ball.
Skrtel has even improved as well, commanding the back three. When Dejan Lovren has been called on, he’s looked a different player than the defender who’d initially cannon recklessly and irresponsibly around the pitch leaving Liverpool vulnerable at the back and exposing Skrtel.
Alberto Moreno is rounding into a fan favourite with his immense work rate in this system with less defensive responsibility and more room for shambolic attempts at Daniel Sturridge’s celebration.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Pick up that mental remote again and fast forward back to this weekend where Liverpool haven’t lost in the Premier League since the drubbing at the greedy hands of United. They’ve steamed up the table and have top four destiny resting in their hands thanks to remaining fixtures against United and Arsenal, after doing the double on Southampton and Tottenham.
Not to mention, they’re one victory over Blackburn Rovers away from being in the FA Cup semi-finals and one successful trip to Turkey from being one of the Europa League’s last 16.
Lost season? Well, it’s been found. Liverpool have all to play for from now until the end of May to hopefully send club legend and skipper Steven Gerrard off with a trophy and a top four finish. That’s got to be the ambition right now and two months ago most would have called this dream farfetched at best.