With a 3-1 setback at Crystal Palace over the weekend, Liverpool suffered its sixth league loss of a very young season. In four months, the Reds have lost as many games as they did all of last year. With its latest loss, the club is winless in its last four Premier League games, and has struggled offensively and defensively. Out of 12 league matches, Liverpool has won only four games and currently sits in 12th in the English Premier League table, four points above the relegation zone. Having recently made it back to the Champions League after last year’s strong campaign, Liverpool are in danger of being knocked out of the European competition with a loss or a tie against Bulgarian club Ludogorets Razgrad on Wednesday. Over recent weeks, players, coaches, and fans have become increasingly frustrated with the club’s lack of success, and head coach Brendan Rodgers knows that his job could be in jeopardy if Liverpool fail to turn things around. In response to the recent struggles, 26-year-old midfielder Adam Lallana noted the importance of maintaining belief and commitment to the team’s objectives as a group. “We need to stick together. It’s as simple as that. When you’re having a tough time as a team, you all need to stay together – you can’t start becoming individuals. We win and lose as a team; we need to stay together, keep fighting and keep working for each other. We have got a tough game on Wednesday so we all need to be together for that one.”
“Sticking together” through adversity can be a significant mental challenge for any team at any level. When things are not going your way and losses begin to pile up, many players can struggle to maintain their effort and remain committed to the team’s goals. They can become increasingly upset and instead of focusing on the team, begin to dwell inwardly on their own frustrations. As a player in these situations, focus on being part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Instead of arguing with teammates or choosing to blame other players when your team loses, take ownership of your actions. Identify ways that you can improve your own role on the field. Pick out small aspects of your game that you can work on so that you are doing whatever you can to give your team the best opportunity to win. Furthermore, pay special attention to your communication on the field, and make sure it is effective. When a teammate makes a mistake, rather than jumping into criticism and angrily pointing out his or her error, provide feedback in a way that will help the player learn from that mistake and improve (i.e., “I see what you were trying to do there, but try doing this instead.”). Bring your team together before training or on a day when you are not training and discuss ways to improve performances as a group. It is not easy to take a leadership role in these circumstances and help your team stick together. However, the players who are able to do so often find that these “slumps” do not last as long. As Liverpool’s players and coaches turn their attention to the Champions League game on Wednesday, the fate of their season could ultimately depend on whether they are able to stick together and work for each other in the face of adversity.
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