Liverpool FC manager Brendan Rodgers
Not that Rodgers had much choice. The Northern Irishman had used the summer transfer window to splash out more than £25million on two men fully-versed in his methods, Fabio Borini and Joe Allen.
But departing trio Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy took goals and experience with them, while losing Lucas Leiva to another serious injury so soon after his comeback from a nine-month absence further hamstrung Rodgers.
There have been other issues. Pepe Reina still appears short of confidence – Brad Jones quietly impressive when deputising for the injured Spaniard in the autumn – and necessity has prompted Rodgers to quell Steven Gerrard’s rampaging nature for much of the campaign.
Borini, through injury, and Allen, struggling with form after initially impressing, still have plenty to prove, and so too Rodgers, who while talking a good game is yet to have his ideas fully realised on a consistent basis – witness the 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa being followed by a 4-0 thumping of Fulham.
A refusal to compromise his passing ideals – which can be taken as either great self-belief in his approach or downright stubbornness – has at times caused angst among the Anfield faithful, although tactical tweaks helped earn important points at both Everton and Chelsea.
The failure to sign Clint Dempsey on transfer deadline day was an embarrassment for both Rodgers and the club’s owners and, with Andy Carroll having already been allowed to leave for West Ham United on loan, made an already difficult job that much harder.
Lessons will be learned in January, with Liverpool keen to reinforce their attack with the purchase of Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and former Anfield starlet Tom Ince, now at Blackpool.
They are needed. Other than the outstanding Luis Suarez, Liverpool have struggled to find the target this season with the opposition their second-highest goalscorer after the Uruguayan.
The League Cup offered little respite from domestic concerns, the holders falling at the second hurdle as Rodgers suffered the personal discomfit of watching his side dismantled at home by former charges Swansea City.
At least the much-maligned Europa League has been beneficial, both in terms of providing much-needed game time for youngsters and fringe players and helping build confidence in Rodgers’ methods.
Qualification as group winners from a difficult, tight group was deserved reward for a series of performances that, once again, merited an easier passage, although progress has hardly been made any easier by being paired with Zenit St Petersburg in the first knockout round.
The Premier League, though, remains Liverpool’s main concern. Only six wins from the opening 18 games is not good enough, and although there have been signs of recent improvement Rodgers was guilty of falling into the age-old Anfield trap by talking up chances of a top-two finish.
The Northern Irishman will learn to play down the hyperbole. He continues to feel his way and stamp his authority while, unlike Roy Hodgson, keeping the supporters onside.
Those fans know transforming Liverpool’s fortunes will be a long, arduous task. And realism is now the watchword at Anfield.