As a long suffering Liverpoool fan, I feel I’m entitled to this. Ever since I started supporting the most decorated club in English football in 2001, I never once wrote about how miserable the club has made me feel. Not even when fan favorite Rafa Benitez was dismissed and replaced by the enigmatic Roy Hodgson or when we lost 6-1 to an average Stoke City team at the Britannia in club legend Steven Gerrard’s last game. Oh and how about the time when, the reason I started supporting Liverpool, Michael Owen, was sold to Real Madrid on the cheap & they only brought in, yes, Djibril Cisse to fill the void? This time it’s a necessity to write. Otherwise I might lose my mind. As you can see this misery long predates the appointment of Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager.
Brendan Rodgers. Where do I start?
Into his fourth term at Liverpool Football Club. His tenure hasn’t been what you would call smooth sailing. To say it’s been erratic wouldn’t be overstating it. In 2012, Rodgers told us to stop judging him then & to only do so after three years. Here is my judgment.
In his first league game, Liverpool lost 3-0 away to West Brom. We went on to finish seventh in the league, but it wasn’t all that bad. The fans didn’t call for his head. In fact they were impressed. There were lots of positives. His “project” was looking promising. His January signings, especially the acquisition of a certain Little Magician, Philippe Coutinho, were lauded. If he weren’t made of graham crackers, Daniel Sturridge would be one of the best strikers in the world as we speak. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The supporters understood & were willing to give him time.
2013-14 was perhaps the best season for me as a Reds supporter. Yes, it was even better than 2008-09 where we ended the campaign in second place, just four points behind Manchester United. We lost Jamie Carragher to retirement & Rodgers spent big in the summer to get Mamadou Sakho to the club from PSG. We won the first three games by a 1-0 score line, in which Daniel Sturridge scored in all three, that included a victory against fierce rivals Manchester United at Anfield. That was the season the SAS strike force went into full gear. With the addition of Sterling, & with Coutinho just behind the front three, our attack could bring down even a parked tank. The only problem is we kept conceding. It didn’t matter because at this point Rodgers’ philosophy was to outscore the opponent. The likes of Arsenal & many more top teams were brushed aside convincingly as we won by great margins.
As fate would have it though the footballing Gods decided to play a cruel trick on us & made Steven Gerrard slip for no apparent reason against Chelsea. Rodgers’ tactics were questioned after the game. Mourinho had his team park the bus for the entirety of the match & his players spent most of the ninety minutes in their own half. Liverpool did not actually need three points. Therefore they didn’t actually need to play. Mourinho is a specialist at strategically pissing off his opponents.
If we had gotten a point out of that game & then went on to beat Crystal Palace we would have been champions, instead of City. Rodgers overlooked that possibility. Perhaps he opted to go all out because Chelsea fielded a weakened team, with a young central defender, Kalas, making his debut even, & wanted to exploit & capitalize on his inexperience. But he fell right into The Special One’s trap.
He is Rodgers’ master after all. & we all know that masters do not pass down every single one of their skills to their apprentices. They always have that one hidden ultimate skill in their repertoire in case the student decides to go against their master.
Thankfully, Fernando Torres did not score when had the chance at the end as he opted to square the ball to Willian for an easy tap in or I would have set my television on fire.
In his third term, everyone was expecting Liverpool to build up on the previous season’s unexpected success but the footballing Gods did it to us yet again. Luis Suarez, part of the reason or the whole reason, according to some fans, why we almost became champions did the inevitable & left Liverpool for greener pastures in the form of Catalan giants, Barcelona. His replacement is (ugh)Mario Balotelli, despite Rodgers vehemently dismissing the links all summer. To be honest, Balotelli wasn’t exactly given a fair crack of the whip but if reports are to be believed, his attitude, when it came to training, wasn’t to Rodgers’ liking which is why he was often benched. Even when he started, he barely broke a sweat. The fans called for him to start a run of games so that he could ultimately prove his worth. They never got their wish. Some would say Liverpool’s style of football did not suit him. Balotelli himself declared he needed a strike partner to play alongside him. It didn’t help when Daniel Sturridge spent much of that season on the sidelines. Be that as it may, Rodgers still had Rickie Lambert & Fabio Borini to utilize but he was reluctant to play with two strikers. Surprisingly, he chose to play Raheem Sterling as a lone striker in a new back three formation. It worked for a while as Rodgers managed to halt the rut & we went on a 14 game unbeaten streak but it was easy to see our luck would end eventually. His refusal to play his players in their preferred positions was one of the reasons we kept losing. Playing 20 million signing Lallana at right wing back is simply ludicrous although Emre Can’s emergence at center back was a happy accident. We were back in the champions league for the first time since 2009/10 but it didn’t matter as we got knocked out in the group stages.
Present day, Liverpool are 13th in the table. A proper replacement for the departed Steven Gerrard wasn’t even recruited in the summer. Instead Liverpool brought in headless Duracell bunny, James Milner, on a free transfer.
We started the campaign well, garnering seven points from our first three games but it has been all downhill since. Our goal record is still sparse even with expensive signing Christian Benteke leading the line. He will be out for the next few games but the emergence of Danny Ings & the return of the crooked Daniel Sturridge could be the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel that Ings suits our style of play more than Benteke & it’ll be interesting to see Sturridge & Ings together up front in these coming weeks, as long as Sturridge doesn’t suffer a relapse. Not more than a single goal scored in a game since March is a very appalling statistic.
Captain Jordan Henderson’s recent foot surgery went well but he won’t be back anytime soon. Rodgers’ favorite son, Joe Allen made his long awaited return against Carlisle & played an hour. He is in contention to start against Aston Villa ahead of Lucas, whose knees have been in sabbatical since 2011.
Now that Lovren is sidelined for a lengthy period we only have the aging Kolo Toure as our back up center back. I still don’t understand why Tiago Illori was sent out on loan. I can’t even comprehend why he was signed. Tiago himself said he wanted to stay & fight for a place but yet BR shipped him out, again, as if he didn’t need him. Mamadou Sakho, who recently signed a new long term deal, will be getting a run in the team & I sincerely hope he doesn’t disappoint the fans who, prior to the Norwich City game, have been begging for his inclusion in the team in the expense of the bungling Lovren. Sakho at times looks as comfortable on the ball as an elephant on a unicycle but he’s more reliable & assured than the Croatian.
Big name signing Roberto Firmino has been struggling to adapt to the physical demands of English football but it’s still very early though Coutinho did not need that long to find his feet. It would also help if Brendan Rodgers stopped playing him as a winger. He is not one. At Hoffenheim he played as a free-roaming maverick, unfettered by magnetic board mores. Rodgers is seemingly trying to play every attacker he has as a winger for reasons unknown. When will Brendan realize you simply can’t place square pegs in round holes & hope nobody will notice? But I’m not surprised anymore especially since he tried this countless times last season. I could even describe this habit of his as typical now. He had a perfectly decent winger in Lazar ‘Laser’ Markovic but decided to loan him out. Granted he has the footballing brains of a walnut, but he would give Sonic the Hedgehog a good run for his money. Right now, young Jordon Ibe is the only natural winger Rodgers has in the team. This man is too obstinate for his own good. Also it’s important to note the body language of the players in recent matches hasn’t looked good. It’s as if they’ve lost the desire to play for Rodgers. The lack of commitment & motivation is clear for all to see. It’s like they’d rather reserve them for anything else but him. Against Carlisle most of them played with the verve of the recently deceased. I’m not sure if he still has the dressing room even.
As heart wrenching as it is to see Liverpool at midtable, I feel Rodgers should continue as manager for now. It wouldn’t make sense for the owners to lay him off now since they decided to stick with him & give him their support even after the trashing at Stoke. However if things stay the same, & he still can’t turn things around in the next few games, he should be axed by December or latest next February. Bear in mind we have a few tough fixtures coming up. I have nothing against Brendan Rodgers. In fact I like him. When King Kenny was dismissed I prayed for Rodgers to be approached from Swansea City. But if it’s no longer possible for him to bring the club forward, he has to go. Perhaps he deserves more time but in this modern era, there is no longer such a thing. We need an upgrade to his “possession without penetration” brand of football. I wish you all the best, Brendan.