Steve Clarke, Liverpool’s first-team coach, makes life difficult for Jonjo Shelvey, left, in training. Photograph: John Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images
The Liverpool first-team coach, Steve Clarke, says the club’s “average start” to the season is partly due to the changes taking place within the squad. The side have 10 points from six matches after losing at Stoke and Tottenham.
At a similar stage last season their tally was six and discontent was growing against the manager, Roy Hodgson, whose reign lasted six months when he was sacked in January.
As part of the overhaul, financed by the owners, Fenway Sports Group, and undertaken by Kenny Dalglish on his return to take charge of the club, seven players were signed in the summer with numerous others heading in the opposite direction.
Most of those new arrivals have featured in most of the opening matches and while Liverpool have played well in patches they are still to consistently produce their top form.
“Without getting too carried away or too disappointed it’s probably just an average start,” said Clarke. “You’re probably looking at about a seven out of 10. Some pleasing performances and some not so pleasing, but you’d expect that from a group of players where you’ve made so many changes and you’re trying to bed a few things down.”
One of the key factors in picking up three wins has been the form of the four-goal striker Luis SuĂˇrez, with seven of Liverpool’s 10 points coming in matches when he has scored. The 24-year-old was voted fans’ man of the match for the fifth time in eight games this season (he has played in both Carling Cup ties) after Saturday’s win over Wolves.
But it is the Uruguay international’s determination to do well â€“ highlighted by his frustration when he was substituted 10 minutes from the end at the weekend â€“ which has equally impressed.
“With any top player the mentality is always that bit stronger. That’s what separates them,” Clarke said. “There are a lot of good players at this level and the really, really top ones have got that mental edge that drives them on all the time and produces the kind of performances that we’ve had from Luis so far.
“He’s very grounded. He comes back in on Monday morning and works as hard as ever in training, he upsets all the defenders, scores a couple of goals and that’s what he’s all about. He trains like he plays â€“ absolutely, every day. He loves to be playing football and that’s a great thing.”
SuĂˇrez was replaced by the captain, Steven Gerrard, making his first Premier League appearance for six months after a groin operation. The return of the England midfielder, who added to his 15-minute Carling Cup appearance last Wednesday, is a boost to everyone at Anfield.
He is lacking in match sharpness and this weekend’s Merseyside derby at Goodison Park may come just a little too early for him to make his first start of the season. However, that will not stop the Huyton-born 31-year-old pushing for a place in the lineup.
“Steven himself will dictate the pace of his comeback with how he progresses in training,” added Clarke. “We’re delighted with the stage he’s at, we’re delighted with everything he’s done for us. We could maybe have got Steven on a little bit earlier [against Wolves] but it didn’t work out that way. We’ve got a full week now and we can use him well in training.”