Chelsea wrapped up another comprehensive win on Liverpool’s turf and the spotlight has fallen starkly on the home side’s manager. There is nowhere to hide from the much publicised plan that failed last week. Three losses in a row is not the Liverpool way and fans around the world will have strong feelings towards the manager. Now is the time to see how Rodgers deals with his most difficult period yet. How will he approach low morale and a team slipping down the table rather than a zesty showcase of the best football the Premier League has to offer?
Rodgers chose to ignore the fresh lineup that did so well against Real Madrid in favour of a losing formula. The one change made from midweek saw Can come in and create a goal. What impressed me was his forward runs and attempts at goal- this is what Liverpool have missed from Henderson and Gerrard this season. Balotelli cut a lonely figure up front that highlighted how disjointed Liverpool looked in comparison to the league leaders. Lovren was again unconvincing and Toure’s snub is hard to justify after he supressed Ronaldo so brilliantly in midweek. Rodgers admits a lack of confidence but I don’t recollect seeing that from the courageous and purposeful midweek performance.
It is becoming extremely difficult to defend Rodgers’ insistence in playing the same team and tactics when favourable results aren’t going Liverpool’s way. If signings in the summer were bought for depth, use them. Especially if they perform well under pressure. Rodgers has lost credibility in his decision making and justifications for team selection this past week. Players who were deemed ‘strongest’ against Real Madrid were shunted against Chelsea. The manager has undermined his own selection process and his players in trying to convince the media that his choices were based on potential to get results. If that were true, we would have seen the very same line up against Chelsea, with perhaps Coutinho and Balotelli coming in.
It’s time people stop looking at Balotelli as the sitting duck for Liverpool’s criticism. All season he has been played alone up front and it is obvious this is not to his nor the team’s strength. Emre Can came in and was uplifting in midfield- his play was inventive and some ideas very nearly paid off. However, Balotelli needs someone to play alongside him to draw out his potential. Rodgers needs to yield to the calls for two strikers upfront and begin finding a different way for Liverpool. They have a formula that creates possession but lacks a clinical finality. Balotelli and Borini were allowed to play together for 9 minutes before Lambert was brought on for Balotelli. Allowing the two front men to form a partnership with Borini’s pace and positioning is crucial to make the best out of both players and this will only come from game time. It is not good enough to look ahead and think everything will be fine once Sturridge comes back. Liverpool need depth in a long and tightly scheduled run up to January.
Reflect and rejuvenate
The international break has come at the right time. Liverpool’s international players will go off and change their mindsets, while the manager will have time to reflect and look ahead. Rodgers needs to go back to basics in what his own strengths are- developing players and outwitting opponents. If he can tap into the mind-sets of Lovren, Borini, Moreno, Manquillo and Balotelli and draw out their quality, Liverpool can rise up from the mid-table flat line they’ve fallen into before the January transfer window. There is no doubt these players have quality- it is time for the manager to forget last season and start again. Rodgers need to regain the mental edge Liverpool had over opponents last season.
Egos, reputations and price tags need to be erased from the criteria that leads to the final team sheet. As with any learner/teacher dynamic, students look up to the teacher and need to believe in the plan. All players want to impress and there is no better stage than Liverpool football club to propel anyone to the top class. Rodgers has an opportunity to start afresh and inject the belief that is at Liverpool football club’s core. One thing is for certain, the spotlight has been firmly set and progress must be made to erase inefficiency and bring back the adrenaline fuelled accomplishments at Anfield and beyond.