Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Why Rodgers deserves time to turn things around

Those calling for Brendan Rodgers to be sacked need to gain some perspective. 

Liverpool’s season- hopefully- hit rock bottom at Selhurst Park on Sunday afternoon. Things surely can only get better after another confidence crushing defeat, this time to fellow strugglers Crystal Palace, who last won at the end of September against promoted side Leicester City.

Liverpool were at their lowest at Selhurst Park on Sunday
It’s a long way from the dizzying heights experienced last season, when Liverpool not only competed for the title, but also produced football that was out of this world on a weekly basis, delighting Kopites and instilling dread in opponents in equal measure.

Nowadays, teams look forward to facing Liverpool, as they know that, as long as they show a bit of desire, they are capable of beating Brendan Rodgers’ troubled team. Liverpool fans, meanwhile, are struggling to lift themselves from the depths of despair because their hopes of the Reds going one step further and clinching their 19th League title have been extinguished at such an early stage of the current campaign.

In the understandable inquisition into how the Reds’ stark decline has come about, boss Brendan Rodgers has been singled out for blame by many commentators and supporters.

He has spent a lot of money on players whose ability many are beginning to doubt as they continue to produce underwhelming displays; he has failed to sort out a back four that everybody knows needs dramatically improving; he has been too patient with consistent underperformers like Balotelli, Lovren and arguably Steven Gerrard; and his tactical ingenuity and flexibility appear to have deserted him as he persists with a formation and style of play that most opponents have sussed out.

Of course, Rodgers is by no means wholly to blame for the situation Liverpool find themselves in. It’s inevitably going to be difficult and take time to integrate that quantity of new arrivals, which were needed to bolster the squad and ensure sufficient depth to be able to compete on four fronts. Moreover, the Reds’ defenders need to take a long hard look at their individual performances, which have frequently been sub-standard, while injuries have curtailed Rodgers’ options in attack.

Nonetheless, the Northern Irish manager has admitted his mistakes and understands that he is ultimately accountable for the team’s performances, which have simply been nowhere near good enough this term.

Perhaps the main reason for disappointment this season has been the fact that Liverpool have failed to live up to the elevated expectations resulting from overachieving last season.

At the start of last season I would have been happy had the Reds finished just outside the top four, as long as they were there or thereabouts at the business end of the season. Instead, they somehow managed to remain in the title race until the final day of the season, qualifying for the Champions League with three games to spare and ultimately being pipped to the post by Manchester City as they finished runners up.

Managing the team to that success was a tremendous achievement by Rodgers that must not be downplayed or forgotten quickly. To a large degree, he is a victim of his own success, as qualifying for the Champions League ahead of schedule has not only raised expectations arguably beyond what is reasonable, but also imposed additional burdens on a squad unaccustomed to the pressures of regular high level midweek football.

Some have suggested that Rafa should replace Rodgers
Furthermore, Liverpool’s alternative managerial options should they sack Rodgers are scarce. Rafael Benitez has recently hinted at a future return to Merseyside, an area he is well known for feeling at home in, but the Spaniard seems settled at Napoli and it is rarely right to re-appoint a former manager, especially one who divided the fan base so sharply. Other options are thin on the ground, and would probably only prove a stop-gap solution midway through the season.

At the end of the day, Liverpool’s owners FSG have invested a significant amount of time and resources into Brendan Rodgers because they believe in his long term vision for the club, and it would be foolish to sack him and ditch his plan for the club now in favour of starting back at square one with another manager.

Rodgers is a talented young manager with the potential to build a dynasty at Anfield, as revealed by the exceptional performances of his team last season. Jettisoning his long term plan and sacking him after a run of bad results would be short-sighted and stupid, contradicting Liverpool’s long-standing and highly-esteemed tradition of backing their managers to the hilt and giving them the time to implement their plans for the club.

Brendan Rodgers deserves to be shown the same respect, by both the owners and the supporters.


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