From almost winning the title in 2013/14, quite astonishingly Brendan Rodgers finds himself hanging on his last chance with Liverpool. Last season was not a disaster for Liverpool, but it was definitely a disappointment, considering the season before. But what then followed by media and some sections of fans has been somewhat harsh on the Irish manager.
What Went Wrong
Guiding Swansea City to promotion to the Premier League and keeping them in it, Rodgers made a huge name for himself in English football, and deservedly so. His success led to a job offer at Liverpool, which he gladly accepted. But often as it has proven to be, managing a mid-table club, and a club like Liverpool, are two very different things (ask David Moyes). Rodgers handled the job pretty well though, until last season.
The 2013/14 season saw Liverpool scoring a staggering 101 goals, a feet achieved only the third time in Premier League history. It landed Rodgers the prestigious LMA Manager of The Year Award. The combination of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge was one of the best that we have seen in recent times in the league. Next season was a completely different story. As almost all best players in the world do, Suarez left for one of the two Spanish giants Barcelona. Luck also did not favour Rodgers, as Daniel Sturridge sustained a long time injury, and Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli never fitted into his free flowing style of football. The result was imminent, Liverpool finished 7th in the league, and were knocked out in the first round of the Champions League, in which they were featuring for the first time since 2009/10.
For what Rodgers was criticized most for were his summer signings, and how they failed. His expensive signings were Adam Lallana (£25 million), Dejan Lovren (£20 million), Lazar Marković (£19 million) and Mario Balotelli (£16 million). Breaking them down, Mario Balotelli was always going to be a risk, but nobody expected him to be such a colossal failure. Lallana was brilliant in his last season for Southampton, and featured in all the 38 matches. But making only 21 appearances for Liverpool, it was pretty clear that Rodgers never really found the best way to use him, especially given the fact that his pass accuracy remained almost same for both the seasons, and the only dip was number of chances created. The major disappointment was Dejan Lovren though. From being tipped to be one of the best defenders in the league, the Croatian made a lot of defensive errors, and was ultimately dropped. Rickie Lambert was never really bought as the regular option, but even he would be surprised with the lack of opportunity he was given.
Surprisingly though, the comparatively less expensive Emre Can (£9.75 million) and Alberto Moreno (£12 million) were much better, and probably were the reason in preventing the season from turning into a disaster.
Another factor that fans forget is that the transfer market is not as straight forward as it seems. As fans often demand signing a top player rather that 2-3 average players, they don’t realize it’s not easy to convince top players to play in a club which has struggled to qualify for Champions League in recent times.
Just to explain the problem, when Lallana joined Liverpool for £25 million, at around the same time, Toni Kroos joined Madrid for £24 million. Now it may look that Liverpool could have signed Kroos instead of Lallana, but as we all know, it would have taken something rather special to convince Kroos to come to Anfield, especially when their own best player was leaving.
Due to situations like these, which is not helped by the departure of Raheem Sterling, Liverpool are struggling to land players like Marco Reus, and have to settle for good but not world class players.
What Lies Ahead
What lies ahead in coming weeks will decide the Irishman’s future. With voices from Anfield already asking for removal of the manager, the owners have shown faith in him.
Once again, Liverpool have splashed huge amounts of money. Though missing on quite a few summer targets, they have signed some decent players. Here is a look at their prospects:
A great signing for Liverpool considering the fact that he is a free transfer. 29, Milner has proved himself in the Premier League. Not the most stylish but a team player, Milner will provide a lot of balance in attack and defence. Never shying from tracking back and doing the dirty work, he won’t play every match, but might just provide the depth Liverpool required.
Just like Lallana and Lovren, Ings is another bright prospect who has already proven himself in the Premier League. Even if Burnley did get relegated, the 22-year-old was the bright spot. But will he able to adjust to Rodger’s style? Well he should, but as history suggests, it is a little early to say. Even if he won’t be the first choice striker, the striker should do fine.
Long time United target, Nathaniel Clyne turned a lot of heads when he joined Liverpool. Proving himself to be one of the best right-backs in the business with Southampton, Clyne, 24, adds another name to the list of players arriving at Anfield from Saints. Possessing great pace, Clyne has proven himself a handful for defences to handle when he comes forward. His reunion with Lovren can also help the Croatian regain his form.
The club’s marquee signing Firmino is the most exciting prospect for Liverpool this season. With a price tag of £21 million, the Brazilian will be under pressure to live up to the hype. Though it is not easy for any player to adjust to the league straight away, but coming from Bundesliga, where the physicality in play is somewhat similar as that of Premier League, this fact will certainly help. With fellow Brazilian Philippe Coutinho alongside him, he should and quite simply has to make a mark and fill the void created by Raheem Sterling’s departure.
The biggest gamble taken by Rodgers this season is Christian Benteke. Though having a strong physique and huge body, unlike Balotelli, Benteke has a more than decent pace. Often rescuing Aston Villa, the Belgian has often proven to be a handful for defences. But the main concern again, for Rodgers, will be the fitness of the striker.
Apart from players coming in, two key players have departed too from Liverpool’s side. In footballing terms, Steven Gerrard will be replaced by Jordan Henderson, but Sterling’s departure will truly hurt Liverpool.
There are lots of reason to be positive too. Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho are finally realizing their potential and showed glimpses of what can be expected from them. Henderson will also get a boost and confidence in going forward after the arrival of James Milner, who, to be honest, will provide more energy in the midfield than Gerrard.
Sturridge will again lead the line, and if he gets injured again, which is pretty much the case all the time, Liverpool has better back-up than last season in Christian Benteke, Danny Ings and the 20-year old Divock Origi (back from loan).
The versatile Emre Can is also a huge asset for Rodgers, who can now move back to his natural midfield position from right back after the arrival of Clyne.
Brendan Rodgers has been pretty unlucky in his Liverpool career. Whether it be the Suarez bite which led to a 10-match ban, or the infamous Gerrard slip which essentially costed Liverpool the title, Rodgers has many times been helpless on his part. The list doesn’t end here, Daniel Sturridge’s injury last season, the catastrophic form of Balotelli, and some disastrous results at the end of last season, which are apparently the memories which fans tend to take with them in off-season, all have acted against him.
The new schedule has also not been kind. Liverpool’s first six away games are at Stoke City, Arsenal, Man United, Everton, Tottenham and Chelsea. With a new squad, Rodgers has to deliver straight away, which will be an uphill task against opponents of this stature.
But despite all this, Rodgers has to turn his luck around, and quickly. He has been provided enough trust and resources by the owners, and if he fails, it won’t be a surprise if Liverpool end the season with a different manager.
In other words, this is the time to show real “character” by Brendan Rodgers!
Pursuing Computer Science Engineering from Bangalore Institute of Technology. Avid sports fan, specially football. A lifelong United supporter.