Liverpool made their second trip of the calendar year to the Liberty Stadium yesterday, and while many were left disappointed with more points dropped when a win seemed possible, Brendan Rodgers felt positively about the strides he feels the club has made since the 1-0 his Swansea side earned back in May.
Saying that we don't need to rehash the types of performances Liverpool produces is essentially doing just that--over the past few seasons a Liverpool performance is one that holds many reasons for encouragement and belief, only for the bottom to fall out at the least opportune time and have lots of work amount to a relatively disappointing result. It's why the jokes about conceding just before the half are more painful than funny at this point, and why sarcastic jibes about chances missed or incorrect calls or superhuman goalkeepers or the woodwork are too close to home.
Liverpool have made a living on being nearly men since the 2008-2009 season, and yesterday's draw at Swansea was yet again a case of being so remarkably close that there was just enough reason to believe that this was actually the time. It wasn't, unfortunately, and Gerhard Tremmel's nine saves, Jose Enrique's marginally offside goal, and Raheem Sterling's thunderous volley off the crossbar conspired to leave Liverpool with a very familiar package on the heels of a not-so-foreign performance.
For Brendan Rodgers, however, it still represented progress, particularly when compared to the way Liverpool conducted themselves the last time they visited the Liberty Stadium:
"I thought there was a marked difference. I was really pleased with the quality of our game today, I thought our build-up play was good and we got through the thirds well. I just thought we needed a fraction more belief in the final third. There were opportunities around the box where we could have got a shot off a bit quicker. That comes from certain types of player and personnel you have in.
"I thought the method in our game was good, and people who would have seen the game at the end of last season would have seen a difference today, hopefully."
Liverpool's 1-0 loss to end last season is not one many will remember fondly (or at all) given that it wrapped up one of the worst seasons in quite some time, and all the caveats apply about meaningless fixtures and nothing to play for and etc. But Rodgers' old side did completely dominate his current employers that day, and if that's the marker for progress, then it'd be hard to argue that today was far better than what we saw back in May.
That's not an entirely fair comparison, of course, if only because Liverpool's league form to end the 2011-2012 season was so atrocious that nearly anything looks good by comparison. Depth up top certainly isn't, but in nearly every other regard Liverpool there's an argument to be made that the club are better off; the midfield has more talent while still a bit unsettled, there's promise coming through the youth ranks at an accelerated rate, and the defense has secured two consecutive clean sheets in the midst of an eight-match unbeaten run. Those are good things, even if right now they don't feel like much more than fluff.
We're all waiting--some more patiently than others--for progress to truly take hold at Liverpool and to have the club back among the league's best. We're waiting for goals, for points, for the days when we were worked up over boring wins over lesser opposition in the Champions League. But they're not there yet, and it's bound to be frustrating. If Rodgers' evaluation of yesterday's performance was more than a pep talk and truly an improvement, though, then hopefully they're on their way.