Opinion: Is Brendan Rodger really the man for Liverpool?
The big talk amongst the Liverpool fans currently, should Brendan Rodgers (BR from now) stay at Liverpool, or do we need a new manager to take his place? By all means I’m not a football expert, nor an analyst expert, these are completely my own opinions.
He knows the Liverpool team
Let’s start off with the good side of keeping BR. If BR does manage Liverpool next season it’ll be his fourth season in charge, and he has gained a lot of experience this season. He went through a star player leaving the club, Suarez; a legend announcing his departure, Gerrard; rebuilding the team within the game playing seasons; going to European football for the first time; having the main striker out for most of the season, Sturridge; and more that will bore you if I try to type it all out. Going through a ride from hell to heaven and back to hell again, learning the good and bad from the players he have already it can be said that BR will know the team better than a new manager and have more chance of rejuvenating the team again for next season; knowing the strength and weaknesses.
We all know after Suarez’s departure, Strurridge being injured, Balotelli not living up to the fan’s expectation, and Lambert and Borini not suitable for a main striker position in Liverpool, that we needed a different approach to the game than the traditional diamond 4-4-2 we had last season. BR came up with the 3-4-3 and worked well with the team for the first few months of 2015 and we where able to see Liverpool go through an amazing 13 without losing a single game in the premier league. With 3 center backs and wingbacks coming down to support them if needed the defense looked to be getting better for the Reds with the 3-4-3. The Midfield looked solid with Lucas as the holding midfielder while Henderson went up front to join the attacks when needed. Also Coutinho and Lallana seem to enjoy sitting just behind the striker giving supporting run, and passes sometimes even scoring goals themselves, and with the pace of Sterling up front it almost looked like we cannot be defeated. This is a factor that leads from the previous point, BR know the team so he was able to make these decisions and change the team more readily.
Able to use talented players
We all know when Suarez came to Liverpool he was good, really good, but just missed that like bit of finishing quality and often hit the woodworks rather than getting the ball in the back of the net. Then in the second season with BR everything changed. Every shot seemed like it will be a goal and he was able to score 31 goals by himself in 13/14, consequently grabbing the golden boot of the season. It’s not just Suarez, but also Henderson, Strurridge, Coutinho, Sterling, and now Ibe all seem to shine their talent to the world because of BR’s decision to play them in the first squad team and making them experience the top level football. It can be argued that BR really knows how to unlock a player’s potential and let them do the rest on the pitch. Who knows maybe next season he maybe able to unlock even Balotelli’s true potentials like he did for Suarez?
Proved what he can do in 2013/14 Campaign
BR pretty much did everything right in the last season’s campaign. We were playing high pressing football, dominating the midfield and weaving passes together to score some great goals. The whole squad looked like a team with purpose and we missed that Dearing Premier League title by just, and maybe with time provided he might be able to recreate that dream, but this time making it last for more than one season.
Now, lets talk about the contradicting side of things.
Tactical Fluidity, or just can’t make up your mind?
We’ve been through a lot of formations this season. We’ve played 4-4-2, 3-4-3, 4-1-4-1, 4-3-3, and sometimes a mixture of those things where it’s even hard to tell if we have a formation at all in our games. 3-4-3 was the one that stuck with us the longest, but when it failed it really hurt us. We’ve lost the important Manchester United game at Anfield and my word the horrible defeat against Arsenal after that, not to even mention the FA cup semi-final. When Rodgers spotted the problem with the 3-4-3, and the weakness unraveled, he failed to seal the damage, and this isn’t just for one or two games, but pretty much all of the games played since then. If the manager cannot make up their mind in a formation it’s easy the players can be confused on the pitch. True, most of them played in their natural positions but for some one like Emre Can, especially when he was on the right fullback, those games didn’t really go well. The game wasn’t fluid enough, some players couldn’t find their rhythm in the game and some players were closed out too easily against the opposition. If this continues then we know next season we’ll be facing a big problem to keep a consistent form.
When Kenny Dalgish was in charge for 2011/2012 we had an average of 1.05 goals conceded per game (40 goals). Come to 12/13 when Rodgers was first in charge of Liverpool this increases to a 1.13 goals conceded per game (43 goals). Then at 13/14, 1.31 goals conceded per game (50 goals) and this season a slight improvement by 2 goals making the average 1.26 (48 goals). Both Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville have talked about the gaps that are created between the center backs and the full backs through the last two seasons where Neville thinks it was a looming problem for Liverpool in the last 2 seasons. This defensive error also seems like something that lead from the decisional problem that Rodgers has; where he can’t decide to play a zonal marking, or a man-to-man marking. Players are either over-drawn to the opposition and give up easy space, or they’re just too worried about the areas opponents can run into and take a weird position thus leading to all these stupid errors which leads to goals.
The Pressure Game
I think the pressure of managing Liverpool Football Club is something he cannot simply handle, at this stage of his career at least, and at times it seems like this influences and interfere with the players on the pitch at times. The big one last season is the Crystal Palace game. After grabbing the 3-0 lead away to Palace we conceded 3 goals in 5 minutes. Even the 2-0 defeat at Anfield with Gerrard’s slip. Stevie is a player who’s been through more than the Premier title pressure; he had the pressure felt on the 08/09 campaign; and he’s been through a Campion’s League, the famous Istanbul one; FA cup with West ham; and much more. Had BR’s nerves got the better of Stevie G in that game which lead to the slip is something that is a question in my head since last season. But this season it was obvious to see this problem when the Reds just crumbled after the defeat against Man U in Anfield. From that we lost to Arsenal 4-1 and a 2-1 defeat for the FA cup semi final. Also the pathetic performance for the Champions’ Cup group stages and kicked from the Europa league to top all. Even after all the FA cup we performed poorly and couldn’t take the 4th place chance, that was pretty much presented from Man U, because of a boring draw against West Brom and a stupid defeat against Hull City. Also to top that off a back-to-back defeat for Stevie’s last Anfield home game and his last Liverpool game of the season. This leads to the team being mentally weak and panic, leading to poor performances.
Not 100% sure of BR would be the only one to blame in this area, as the transfer committee would have also played a lot of part specially on the Suarez departure, but there are some parts that are a clear on his half. Most noticeable one is how he used the January transfer market, sorry he DIDN’T use that window and that’s the big problem. The fans were urging the club to buy another striker in that transfer window and BR decided not to, since Sturridge should theoretically be available soon after that period. But as we all know now he’s out again and for a big chunk of the start of next season too. Everyone knew that we needed a striker in that period but nothing was done and we suffered pretty much the whole season without a striker. Something what was so simple was not fixed and that as a manager is a pretty bad decision. There is a part of me, it probably just nostalgia, that says “what if we got Alonso in the beginning of the season when he was available and then Torres in the January one, would Liverpool been able to create that amazing era once again?” I know this is impossible and Rodgers will never do such move, since it mean he’ll be relying on Rafa’s tactics not his own, but for the benefit of the team should he have done so? Also trying to off load Lucas Leiva, yet again, is something that doesn’t convince me. He is the one and only natural holding midfielder in the squad and with Liverpool’s aggressive attacking football style we really need a defensive midfielder and there is no one to replace him directly in the squad yet. Rodger is know to prefer Joe Allen in the holding midfielder role but it seems like he’s more effective in a central midfielder position where he can pass and move to fill in missing gaps in the opposition’s defense.
There is one more thing I’d like to address but that conversation can sit for another time, since it’ll make this way too long and I’m highlighting the bad parts too much. My conclusion from all of this is even if Rodgers takes on the next season there is a lot of potential risk that can be face. At the same time even if we change our manager there are risk factors too. Still letting go of an opportunity like Klopp may not be the smartest move for Liverpool especially after what went through this season. It’ll be interesting how Liverpool’s management job changes, or does not, over the next course of the coming days. Personally if Rodgers gets one last chance I think the owners should keen a close eye on the pre-season matches and the first 10 games at most then make a decision. Also if Rodgers does leave, I won’t mind if Klopp steps in, since he publicly said he wants to, as he has European football experience, has won trophies, knows how to get the most out of the players available, and spent less money than Rodgers to do so.
By Jay Kim