Liverpool supporters are lampooned for repeatedly using the phrase "turn a corner" but they could have been forgiven for suggesting so until the 64th minute at Arsenal on Wednesday night. The superior side in what Danny Baker would call "an exploding clown's car" of a game, seven minutes after Jordan Henderson doubled the visitors' lead Arsenal were level and again Liverpool had failed to beat a team in the top half of the table.
Yesteryear Arsenal's defensive capitulation would have continued until the final shrill signalled defeat, but the solidity Liverpool boasted under Rafael Benítez has been missing for four seasons now and Brendan Rodgers is the third manager struggling to shore up a porous defence.
He said he was "proud" of the display, which was a curious choice to describe his feelings after Arsenal - a team not associated with powers of recovery - recovered to dash Liverpool's hopes of victory. Had Olivier Giroud been as reliable with his feet as he was with his head it could have been worse.
Rodgers salutes the travelling Liverpool fans at Arsenal
But Rodgers was justified in his positivity on the basis of two-thirds of the game. Liverpool outplayed Arsenal and should have been more than two goals ahead after an hour as they preyed on their nervous hots. The Reds have played has played exciting football this campaign and Rodgers' own faith in young players, namely Raheem Sterling, is a commendable commitment to the club's ethos away from the kamikaze spending of Benítez and Kenny Dalglish.
Performances at the big teams have also been encouraging. Liverpool were the better team at Chelsea in November, enjoyed sterile domination away to Tottenham the following month and edged the first-half of their defeat against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Aside from the home defeat to Arsenal back in August, their more auspicious displays have come against the Premier League's elite. Manchester City snatched a draw in the clubs' second league game of the season by virtue of Pepe Reina and Martin Skrtel committing individual errors and the loss versus United was largely owed to Jonjo Shelvey's red card.
Skrtel powers Liverpool ahead against City in August
Great teams rally though and that continues to be beyond Liverpool. It is not a coincidence that they keep failing against the league's top tier and while they may get round the corner at City this weekend, a win should not mask Rodgers' own shortcomings.
A well-respected and highly regarded coach this time last year, Rodgers has fallen into the trappings of newfound fame. His profile at Liverpool is obviously greater than at Swansea but the Being: Liverpool documentary augmented that to a catastrophic degree. The spotlit self-portrait in the lounge, the envelopes and the "trust" speech heralded the nickname Brenton, after David of The Office fame. It has heightened the scrutiny to such a level that on the madhouse that is the Red and White Kop forums - renowned for its blinkered views and staunch defences - he is often scapegoated.
For City, it's A.B. - after Balotelli. The 22-year-old's departure should be welcomed by City fans as coach Roberto Mancini is now cured of his blind spot, but that weakness may still cost him as it dawns on the Abu Dhabi United Group the club's outlay on the irascible Italian was in excess of £30m.
The last start: Balotelli glares at Mancini after his substitution against United
And Balotelli was not Mancini's only striking problem. Carlos Tévez is yet to reach double figures and has not scored a league goal in two months, Sergio Agüero has scored 10 goals when he had hit 17 at this stage last season and Edin Džeko has also scored less than at the same juncture of the club's title-winning campaign.
Agüero has admittedly been afflicted by injuries but like Liverpool, City are reliant on a Latin player in David Silva, whose form is improving after a dip last year. Come Sunday they could be 10 points behind United but did at least turn their own corner on 13 May 2012.
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