Have Liverpool overcome their weakness and perfected the art of winning ugly?

Brendan Rodgers 2

Liverpool now look like a formidable opponent for any Premier League side.

Even in the process of almost claiming the Premier League title as their own last season, Liverpool never truly looked like a formidable opponent for every team they came up against.

An obvious inability to defend made them suffer when playing against opponents who themselves were hard to break down, meaning that the Reds ‘score one more’ policy became void. The 2-0 defeat to Chelsea last season was the key game that showed this, with the Blues set-up not to concede, and duly completing their task - before scoring two goals on the counter-attack.

After the loss of Luis Suarez in the summer, and Daniel Sturridge’s early season injury, it became apparent that Brendan Rodgers would not be able to continue with his style that worked so well last season. The lack of strike force in the first-team made scoring goals extremely hard, and the results at the beginning of campaign - that saw them in the bottom half of the table and out of the Champions League - hinted at an inability from Rodgers to change to a more reserved style.

The Reds' failure to perform even basic defensive tasks came under intense scrutiny when goals were not being scored to pull them out of the mess, and Rodgers has worked wonders to change his system to create a Liverpool side who are now, defensively, one of the best sides in the division. They have now lost just one game in 18 in all competitions - to Chelsea in the League Cup - and have recorded seven clean sheets in their last 12 games.

Admittedly, they could have - and probably should have - conceded in the 2-0 victory over Southampton on Sunday, with the Saints arguably deserving of two penalties, and Liverpool lucky not to lose Simon Mignolet for handling outside the box. Instead, they rode their luck and clinched a valuable win in the race for Champions League football, despite having much less of the game and being dominated by the Saints for large portions.

Whilst the last sentence does not shine brightly on Liverpool, their ability to now grind out results in games they should arguably lose has become their biggest strength. Last season, the club all too often let opponents back into games - sometimes to miserable consequences - but such an effect has now gone. Mental toughness has seemingly improved, and Rodgers has formed a defensive unit who play to their strengths, rather than shoe-horning various players into an undefined style.

There is something to be said for the coach who was so derided at the start of the campaign for his mis-management of the side. Although he did make a number of mistakes at the beginning of the season, people were suggesting that Rodgers was not the man for the job, but he has proven his doubters wrong, and has utilised the time awarded to him to great effect - and it would come as no surprise to see Liverpool claim a top-four finish at the end of the season.

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