Cast your mind back to 2011/12. Brendan Rodgers’ promoted Swansea side were beating the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and picking up impressive points home and away and finished 11th. Pundits praised Brendan Rodgers for his tactical insight, his approach to man-management, his deep understanding of football and how he presented himself in press conferences and interviews.
Fast forward to 2014, fresh off Liverpool being a slip and defensive collapse from winning the title, he was named LMA Manager of the Year and was seen as the man to lead Liverpool into a new golden era. Just over a year later, he’s perceived to be more David Brent than a Northern Irish Pep Guardiola and rumours are circulating that Carlo Ancelotti or Jürgen Klopp could replace him this season. Oh Brendan, how did this happen?
Brendan Rodgers: A Man On The Brink
Despite squeezing past Carlisle in a penalty shootout, the result failed to liven up fans’ spirits and instead further added weight to the ‘Rodgers Out’ crowd. A damning statistic from Wednesday night’s game was that Liverpool had 47 shots, 16 shots on target but only scored once. For a side that scored 101 league goals two seasons ago, to say that’s bad is an understatement. Granted, it was a chance for squad rotation against a lower league side but regardless of the opposition, you have to be scoring more. But it also shows that player motivation under Rodgers looks to be faltering in the same way it fizzled out under Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish and for a man who’s known for his excellent man management skills, must feel like a dagger to his heart.
Where has it gone wrong? One area to look at has to be his transfer policy; instead of wisely investing £40M+ on a star player like a Sanchez, Benzema or Reus, he always went down the economical route. The logic of ‘why spend £1 on a bag of Haribo Tangfastics when I can get three packs of sweets for £1 at Tesco?’ applies to Brendan Rodgers’ transfer policy. It is baffling how Rodgers never replaced Suarez (and now Sterling) with another world class player as Liverpool would be in far better shape with an outstanding striker or midfielder in their team.
Remember that vine of an Arsenal fan simply saying “Williams, Felliani, Begovic, Michu. Get your money out buddy”? Rodgers’ Liverpool are that club – using fans’ scouting knowledge and pouncing on one-season wonders. Dejan Lovren had a decent debut season for Southampton: bought. Danny Ings was Burnley’s best player and available on a free: bought. Kolo Toure was an invincible once: bought. The recurring theme with a majority of his signings is how they are never able to translate their previous season’s form to Liverpool and inevitably flop. And now when Rodgers needs results to keep his job, he has to call upon the underwhelming players he’s bought to drag him out of this mess. Something tells me it isn’t happening.
Rodgers’ obsession with wing backs and cautious possession football has also added to his downfall. From watching Liverpool this season, it’s apparent that the players simply don’t understand the system, feel motivated or individually suit to its hard working fluid style. They are too easily contained by their opposition, unable to build any momentum or attacks because players either can’t find the space, no-one can pick out players in a dangerous position or no wingers are making those goal scoring runs. Is this ignorance from Rodgers? Possibly. A switch back to the diamond 4-4-2 last seen in 2013/14 could be the alternative formation his team is looking for, given one striker isn’t relied on to score and works if you want to play as a strong unit.
Challenging times ahead for Rodgers with a fixture list that fails to ease the pressure off his job. After Saturday’s meeting with Aston Villa, Liverpool face FC Sion, Everton and Spurs away, Rubin Kazan, Southampton, Bournemouth and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Going off Liverpool’s recent performances and lack of goal scoring in an out of form team, it’s obvious that this is a very testing time for the club and manager. He needs to change his tactics, address any dressing room problems and his uninterested players need to realise what’s at stake to prevent demoralising results against Everton and Tottenham. Otherwise come a month, we might be seeing Sam Allardyce as interim Liverpool manager.