As Wigan manager Roberto Martinez exits the away dressing room on Saturday afternoon, strolls under the "This is Anfield" sign hanging over the entrance to the tunnel and makes his way out on to the pitch, Liverpool supporters will catch a glimpse of what might have been this season.
Back in May, Martinez broke off his summer holiday in Barbados to fly to Miami and hold talks with the club's principal owner John Henry and chairman Tom Werner with a view to replacing the sacked Kenny Dalglish. Ultimately, of course, nothing came of it and Liverpool, despite seeing their initial request for talks turned down, instead appointed Brendan Rodgers from Swansea.
While respect for Martinez and everything he has achieved at Wigan remains strong, there appear to be few regrets among Liverpool supporters that he chose to remain in his current position. That comes in spite of the inevitable brouhaha made after the club recorded its worst start to a season in a century and the attention given to how they have seven fewer points than at this stage last year under Dalglish and, supposedly more damningly, four fewer than his predecessor Roy Hodgson could muster too.
In the meantime, Wigan, regardless of an evident difference in stature and, by the same token, resources, as demonstrated by Liverpool spending an estimated four times more than they did in transfers during the summer, are only a point and a place behind them in the Premier League table.
Much can be read into the above. Too much perhaps. Rather than placed in their proper context, statistics like those mentioned earlier are all too frequently set with Liverpool's history, tradition and, understandably, the expectation that comes with it as their backdrop. Rodgers spoke candidly about it after last Sunday's 1-1 draw at Chelsea. His honesty was refreshing. For a manager often described as a visionary, Rodgers showed a grasp of reality and an empathy with Liverpool fans that, for all the lampooning of his character after Being: Liverpool, is impressive.
"They're very educated, Liverpool supporters... And it can't be easy for them. Most of us in this room know Liverpool and its great history," he said, "but we can't keep looking in the rear view mirror and looking back. We have to go forward. If you're not going to have massive investment that can make it happen very quickly then you have got to develop it. That's where we're at. The supporters, I'm sure, they see that. They've been very lenient with myself and the team and I'm sure they'll be frustrated at times, but their support has been absolutely incredible."
That leniency Rodgers refers to can be explained in part by the recognition on the fans' part that Liverpool can't, for now, compete with Chelsea and the Manchester clubs at the top end of the transfer market, a matter exacerbated by their own bungling in the last window, when they left the squad short.
"Listen," Rodgers paused, "the reality is that we're a long way off winning the league. I'm not going to sit here and say that we're challenging. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to look and see the squad... You see Chelsea today with Hazard, the investment. If you haven't got that you've got to try and grow your own."
And Liverpool have tried to do exactly that by bringing through the likes of Raheem Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Jonjo Shelvey, Martin Kelly and Adam Morgan to name but a few. Remarkably, they have the second youngest squad in the Premier League behind Aston Villa. Too much can't be expected of them. Not just yet. They and Rodgers require time and patience. Liverpool supporters understand that.
Faith in Rodgers, far from being lost as it already had been with Hodgson by this time in 2010, remains if not unquestioned then certainly strong. Why? Because on the one hand, Rodgers at least appears to 'get' Liverpool. So far, he has said and done the right things, showing an understanding and appreciation of the club's tradition. Like, for instance, when he restored the original 'This is Anfield' sign first hung by Bill Shankly.
Then on the other hand, there have been some encouraging signs of progress in recent performances. Liverpool are unbeaten in six Premier League games. True, four have been draws but the run did come during a particularly tough run of fixtures, including the Merseyside derby at Everton, the visit of Newcastle to Anfield, and a trip to Chelsea. Considering how either side of those engagements there were Europa League and League Cup commitments to honour, Rodgers managed well with a squad stretched across three fronts.
He has answered some of the questions asked of him too. For example, there was a fear that Rodgers' philosophy was too dogmatic, that he wouldn't compromise either on his 4-3-3 or his short passing game. Over the past month, however, he has displayed an ability to innovate and adapt as the situation requires.
Against Everton, he switched to a 3-5-2 at half-time to better protect his defence in wide areas and look to counter attack. Against Newcastle, Liverpool equalised through a long ball from left-back Jose Enrique up to Luis Suarez. And then against Chelsea, he started with 3-5-2 with Gerrard just behind Suarez and Sterling at the tip of a midfield triangle. Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin were at its base, dropping deep to receive balls played out of defence where they were picked up by Fernando Torres and one of Chelsea's three No.10s, typically Juan Mata.
Stop them, particularly Allen, and it's thought that you can also stop Liverpool. So Rodgers adjusted, partly mindful of that, but also because it had become apparent that Liverpool's midfield and attack were too far apart. Aware that "we just couldn't get the distances right", he "flipped" his midfield triangle, so Allen was at the tip with Gerrard and Sahin in front of him looking to get Liverpool on the front foot. Then in the second half, they changed again to 4-2-3-1.
"We were a wee bit tentative first half and that was my fault really," Rodgers admitted. "We normally play with three front players and that allows us to press the ball much higher up the field. We played with 3-5-2 in the first half just to see if we could get Luis a bit of support and still have the superiority in midfield with three midfield players and try to get the wings backs to go and join in a bit.
"We just couldn't quite press it and that's a big part of our game because that allows us to be on the front foot and win the ball higher. Once we then changed it and flipped it around we went back to a sort of 4-2-3-1. We then got more on the front foot again and, as I said, we started to play how we've played a lot this season."
Suarez got the equaliser and once again showed just how important he is to Liverpool. A lot was made of how, with eight goals in 11 games, he was the Premier League's joint top scorer and that without his contribution Liverpool would be bottom of the table with just three points. But it's worth pausing here to highlight another part of his game.
So much of Rodgers' game plan is about winning the ball high up the pitch. According to WhoScored, only two teams are better at this than Liverpool and no player has recovered the ball in the final third as many as the 10 times Suarez has in the Premier League this year. His importance to Liverpool made the speculation on Thursday that they might be looking to engineer his sale all the more dumbfounding. "If we lost Luis, then we have no strikers," Rodgers said, "so I can't afford to lose anyone."
There has been much discussion about Liverpool's problems in front of goal. Their chance conversion rate is still a cause for concern at just 6%. But with Suarez apparently recapturing the sort of prolificness he showed at Ajax, where he scored 81 goals in 110 games, it's arguable that rather than an alternative centre-forward, Rodgers could instead do with players either side of his No.7 [like a fit again Fabio Borini, or one of Theo Walcott or Daniel Sturridge perhaps]. A presence behind him capable of contributing goals wouldn't go amiss either. "Luis just needs that support of instinctive goalscorers," Rodgers said on Saturday.
"We're normally dominating games with the ball [Liverpool average 57% possession, the fourth best in the Premier League], but you need materials," he later added, "and if we can get hopefully one or two in January that can help us in that top of end of the field, we'll turn draws into wins."