Rodgers slowly but surely giving Liverpool back their true identity
Liverpool 4 West Ham 1
Brendan Rodgers recently found himself consulting a familiar guidebook for Liverpool managers, the one containing several comforting one-liners following a setback.
When losing against Hull City a week ago, his distress at the performance was counterbalanced by an appeal to look at the 'bigger picture.'
Rodgers would not have known it, but for those who recall Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gerard Houllier, Rafa Benitez and Kenny Dalglish also argue for supporters to see the growing rose gardens on a day of apocalyptic desolation, it was a head-in-hands moment.
Too often that 'bigger picture' line has been trotted out at Anfield when the portrait resembled Edvard Munch's The Scream. A 23-year wait for the league title tends to make cynicism a default position, but on witnessing yet another stirring home win it is increasingly difficult to argue with Rodgers' cheery assessments of where Liverpool are heading.
This 4-1 victory against West Ham United was Liverpool's seventh Anfield win in eight home Premier League games. They have scored 22 goals over the course of those fixtures, 20 in the last five.
To give that some perspective, that is one more home victory than the club achieved in the entirety of the season prior to the arrival of Rodgers – and just two goals short. Liverpool have 11 more points than this time last season. In 18 months, without a radical change of personnel, Rodgers has restored an identity.
Amid the desperate urge for reassurance this shift is permanent, there is a lingering tendency to see potential flaws, such as the inability to keep a clean sheet even when they dominate games, an away record in sharp contrast to their home comforts and an enduring number of 'squad players' (and recent signings) who may have to wait until next year's League Cup to start a game. It is also the duty of the browbeaten to ask 'what would this team be like without Luis Suarez?'
Anfield occasions, however, have become more consistently joyous than they have been at any time since John Barnes was playing. You presume you are going to witness the extraordinary from Suarez and it's hard to recall the last home fixture he did not oblige.
The Premier League may decide he scored only once here, a crucial third during a period West Ham, improbably, were threatening to steal a point in the aftermath of Martin Skrtel's 66th-minute own goal. That, and Suarez's header from an 80th-minute Glen Johnson cross were the only strikes the 'dubious goals panel' will not be reviewing.
Suarez created the first and the fourth. His 42nd-minute strike across Jussi Jaaskelainen saw the 'keeper push the ball on to the advancing Guy Demel.
Two minutes into the second half, the points seemed safe when Mamadou Sakho's header was helped in by James Collins, but a brief glimpse into how life in Liverpool's midfield looks without Steven Gerrard – who sustained a hamstring strain – ended a rampant attacking spell.
Skrtel deflected Matt Jarvis' header past Simon Mignolet, and Liverpool were grateful there are plastic mallets sharper than West Ham striker Modiga Maiba, who miscued from close range at 2-1.
After heading the third, Suarez saw his 20-yard strike deflect in off O'Brien six minutes from the end. He wasn't the sole performer, Joe Allen was excellent for the second straight home game, Sakho looks the part at the back and Philippe Coutinho is prompting his manager to fire emails to Brazil boss Felipe Scolari.
"I am constantly onto Scolari because I know him from my Chelsea days," Rodgers said.
"They have Neymar, Oscar and Bernard so they have a raft of talent there – but Coutinho is an exceptional player for 21 years of age. Hopefully, he might get into the World Cup squad. He is an absolute joy to watch."
West Ham will be rooted in a relegation scrap until they find a fit or new striker, preferably both.
Liverpool, to again quote Rodgers, are "in the conversation" for a Champions League place. With Tottenham Hotspur next, and trips to Manchester City and Chelsea to shortly follow, it is time to take this splendid home form on a road trip. (© Daily Telegraph, London)