I wrote this yesterday before Liverpool’s game against Basel. I was going to post it before the match but decided against it, because I (like you probably) thought we wouldn’t get the required win, and it would be more use posting it today. Predictably, we’re out of the Champions’ League. It’s not us Brendan, it’s you.
I used to blog about football regularly but stopped because so many people do it, and quite a few do it better than me. There is an ocean of commentary that surrounds every Liverpool game, sometimes it’s choppy and at other times it’s at flood levels. Very occasionally – with these occurrences becoming more frequent, it’s tsunami sized. Much of that commentary goes over the same points and it gets tiresome to read, so I’ll try and keep this as concise as possible.
I’ve lost it with Rodgers because of the tactical failings and inability to adapt to circumstances. The revolving roles of Toure, Lucas and Gerrard have all been attended to long after fans had identified that change was needed. And why has it got to the stage where Kolo Toure becomes our defensive knight in shining armour when £45m has been spent on aquisitions for central defence?
There is no clear plan in Brendan’s head. And like all managers on their way to the chopping block, he has developed blind spots and obstinacies that baffle supporters. Chopping and changing his selections at will, generally defying logic to all-comers. Not resting players, when they’re visibly tired or have a more important game coming up. Dropping players who put in good performances. Not dropping players despite their consistently poor performances. Mignolet, Johnson and Skrtel will always be picked, despite being our worst performers.
Recently the defence has looked a little bit more secure – when in the company of Stoke, Leicester or Sunderland – but against the top teams, it’ll likely revert to type. Basel could’ve scored 3 or 4 goals last night, if they brought their shooting boots. Rodgers hasn’t had a decent back four in the 2 and a half seasons he’s been in charge. Last season was a roller-coaster precisely because the attack somehow found a way to score more. That hasn’t happened this season, nor does it ever look like happening – even if Sturridge returns. A young coach can be forgiven for making individual errors along the way in his development, but to routinely have a defence that ships more than 40 goals in a season? That to me, shows a fundamental flaw. And it’s a fundamental flaw that he refuses to address.
The summer buys were all a gamble and none look like paying off yet. Three or four of those buys will probably develop into very good players in the next couple of years, but none of them – bar Balotelli – had any solid Champions League experience. Rodgers transfer dealings have come under a lot of scutiny, to say the least this season. While a lot of people write off much of it as a crock of shit, save for 2 or 3 buys, I’d say that’s unjust. It’s unfair mainly because almost everyone of Brendan’s buys over the past 3 years have just disappeared. Aspas, Luis Alberto, Ilori, Yesil, even Borini – and possibly even Sakho can be added to some extent. The first 3 barely saw the Anfield turf and Yesil seems no nearer the first team. That’s £20 million worth of staff. Borini has hardly played, when fit or not on loan, and neither has Sakho. Sakho has tons of experience and seemed like he would be the man that the defence was to be built around, yet he gets rotated and dropped. Those two alone were thought to cost the club close to £30m. Rodgers most expensive signings – Lallana, Markovic, Lovren, Sakho. None of them are first team regulars, in that they are names that you should instinctively expect to see in the line-up at kick-off..
So, you can hardly call the army of back-ups assembled by Brendan a crock, when nobody has really seen them play regularly. This is the fundamental problem that Brendan has – he can’t seem to be buy a first XI, and instead loves to buy squad players. Looking over the team sheets week after week you can’t help but notice the ghosts of bygone eras. If you count the first team regulars – over half of them, 6 to be precise, come from the Rafa and Kenny regimes. It’s as if Brendan doesn’t even trust his own judgment.
He’s bought back-ups in every position – except goalkeeper- now one of his biggest conundrums. Why do that if you’re going to get rid of a goalkeeper that has Champion’s League experience and loved by the fans? Brad Jones is not deemed good enough to challenge the very poor Mignolet, so why is Jones even on the books? The question that baffles me the most is this: why is Liverpool’s reserve keeper not good enough to play for Liverpool?
Many people state Rodgers’ good work in developing youth during his tenure. Again, I’m not convinced. Sterling was already spoken of in reverent terms as a 15 year-old signed by Benitez. Henderson got the run of games in the team (that he needed), simply because of lack of squad options in his first season in charge. Both Sturridge and Coutinho were talents needing a team that would consider them as starters. Suso, a talented young footballer, is lost in the wilderness and others have been farmed out on loan, which has rarely resulted in anything but the exit at Anfield.
Brendan Rodgers isn’t solely to blame for all of this. FSG and the transfer committee also need to hold their hands up because they have made a number of mistakes. I can fully understand buying young players that have huge potential and that can be developed because Liverpool lack the financial clout of Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea – but to have a young manager who is still learning his trade makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. If the club are going to budget on transfer fees and take raw talent on, then the only way this is going to work is by having an experienced manager who has big game experience, won trophies and has a track record of developing talent – or have a young manager who has played at the highest levels and can command respect. Rodgers, as yet, has none of these qualities – although I don’t doubt that at some point in the future he’ll become a decent manager.
Should Liverpool fail to get 4th place come May, and with construction work already starting in developing the stadium, belts and budgets will surely be tightened on the playing field. Rodgers – or anyone else who might follow – will have to see what can be made of a team of back-ups, and whether any of them can ‘grasp the nettle’ and make themselves indispensible.
In the meantime, let’s make the most of another transitional season, another five-year plan. You should all know how this works by now.