Liverpool vs West Brom: Brendan Rodgers says it is an 'exciting challenge' as he carried Reds through transition period

Liverpool have endured a stuttering start to the campaign

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The Independent Online

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits the team are back in a period of transition similar to when he first arrived at Anfield and accepts there will be more pain to come before things pick up again.

The departure of striker Luis Suarez, integrating a raft of summer signings and injuries to a number of players have all contributed to a difficult start to the campaign.

They have yet to reach anything close to the blistering form they displayed in the second half of last season having won just twice in the league and scored only eight times in six matches.

Of greater concern is their defensive weakness with just one clean sheet in nine outings this season and only two in their last 18 games, which incorporates their scintillating displays which took them to a runners-up place in May.

Rodgers denied, however, he was facing the biggest challenge of his managerial career after expectations were raised following last season's second place. "No, not really. It's an exciting challenge. This is an incredible job and nothing has changed," he said.

"The first six months were difficult here but for 18 months we've been on a magic carpet ride in terms of our performance level and everything improving.

"For me it would have been a case of keeping the squad we had and adding a few bodies to thicken up the squad.

"But that wasn't the case. There was big change here in the summer and we lost a world-class player (when Suarez was sold to Barcelona).

"We had to improve the squad and bring in a number of players and unfortunately we've lost a number of our key players to injuries.

"It brings us into a little period of transition again.

"It's something that was difficult in the first few months when I got here.

"You have to go through some pain along the way. We are in a difficult moment but that's the great challenge for myself and the players.

"We will look at it even harder and analyse it more just to ensure we keep it simple and keep to the values and ethics of this team - hard work, honesty and concentrating on our performance."

 

On Saturday Liverpool host West Brom, who were Rodgers' first opponents when he took over in the summer of 2012.

"There are similarities in that it feels like a new group again," he added.

"I'm not here to whine or complain about injuries. We just need to get on with working hard and go back to core principles which our good performances and wins were all about.

"The job now is similar to then in terms of need to integrate all of that to create winning performances."

Injuries have significantly restricted Rodgers' options this season, particularly up front where the absence of Daniel Sturridge with a thigh injury for a month, has left £16million summer signing Mario Balotelli isolated in more ways than one.

The Italy striker has scored just one goal, against Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets, since arriving and has struggled to reproduce the form he showed for Manchester City when he first came to the Premier League.

When Sturridge returns Rodgers will have the opportunity to play his preferred diamond formation with two up front but until then he has mainly stuck to a 4-2-3-1 set-up.

"It's with the players that we have. I think once I get the injured players back it will give me more flexibility," said the Reds boss.

"I think the idea at this moment is to keep it as simple as we can for the players so the team can be as cohesive as we possibly can be.

"Once I get other players back who can adapt to play in a number of positions then it makes it a bit more flexible for me."

With Emre Can's injury and Philippe Coutinho's loss of form, midfield is an area in which Liverpool have struggled and an injury to Joe Allen on international duty a month ago has left Rodgers effectively choosing five players from seven he has available.

Allen's absence has been particularly felt.

"He's a player who never gets mentioned but he's a player who rarely turns over the ball. He loves the football and gets other people playing," said the manager.

"The key feature for Joe on top of that is the intensity in his pressure.

"He's an intelligent footballer. Tactically he's outstanding and we've really missed his energy and his quality since he's been out.

"He will be back after the international break. Hopefully he'll be available for the QPR game."

PA

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