Liverpool welcome Stoke City to Anfield this afternoon and will be desperately hoping to turn around the worst run of results the team has experienced in recent memory.
Brendan Rodgers was quoted this week describing himself as “…The favorite for the sack…” Whilst this may be a tad harsh – I think he’s currently joint favourite along with Harry Redknapp and Paul Lambert at Skybet – his assessment isn’t too far from the truth. In my 40 plus years of watching football, rarely have I witnessed such a dramatic fall from grace. Perhaps not since the old Nottingham Forest side, the one that was “too good to go down”, got relegated back in 1993.
If Rodgers wants to avoid that fate, he can do one thing and one thing only. Select a team of players based on merit, and their strengths. He cannot continue with this insistence on picking the likes of Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson who have little, or in the case of the latter, very very little to offer the cause. Thinking about it, Dejan Lovren can join that list too in light of his recent performances. It’s not as if there aren’t any performers in the squad.
Alberto Moreno, Emre Can, and young Javi Manquillo, Mamadou Sakho, Rickie Lambert even Kolo Touré have all performed well when called upon and should retain their places instead of this pointless rotation. If they perform, they should be in the team. Regardless of how many competitions they’re in. And he complains that he’s favourite for the sack…? On Rodgers’ recent selections, I’d imagine we’ll see Balotelli start against Stoke today, despite Rickie Lambert being the only striker capable of scoring right now.
The more I think about the situation, the more I feel there is perhaps, a personality in the dressing room who’s causing some bother – perhaps even Rodgers himself. I read recently that a “senior player” at the club spoke to Rodgers personally about his playing Balotelli despite
the Italian’s poor form. Sounds plausible. What’s happened to Philippe Coutinho too? From being one of the outstanding performers during last season’s run to hardly being able to string a few decent passes together. Add that to the departure of Daniel Agger in favour of the hapless Lovren, the clear reluctance to play Sakho, the opposite with Johnson and one can’t help but thinking it’s not just a poor run of form that’s lead to the current lack of confidence.
The very best performers need to be starting now. Can, Manquillo, Moreno, Sterling, Lambert. All of these lads deserve a starting place. I would include Sakho also. The silence surrounding the 24 year-old French international is deafening. Here we are with two central defenders who look more like Laurel and Hardy than a solid Premiership defensive duo. Surely, surely, anyone in Rodgers’ position would think a change should be made.
They say pride comes before a fall and I’m of the impression that it’s this that has put Rodgers and the team in the current predicament. It’s time for him to swallow his pride. Put some faith in players that he himself has brought into the club. Players who do have some clear quality and he needs to start believing in them instead of looking to throw yet more money away on new buys.
Rodgers said in his pre-Stoke interview “We have to play the hand we’ve been dealt…”. I disagree Brendan. You and Liverpool have picked your own cards. Now it’s time to show the courage to play them. You’ve spent no small amount on a number of players who deserve more from you. They deserve a chance of a run in the side to show what they can do. Lovren has had that chance, Balotelli has had that chance. Existing non-performers like Gerrard and Johnson have had the chance. For each of those players’ positions, there’s a replacement who is not getting a proper look-in. It’s time to cast out the cards with no value and play the one’s you’ve been reluctant to put on the table. The supporters know who they are. The ex-players, press and pundits know who they are. The world and his wife know who they are. The only person who seems to not know is the one that matters most.
Stoke are a weakened side due to a bug and illness spreading through their side. With that in mind you’d think Liverpool have a chance of getting a good result. Shame is, I can’t remember the last time we had to rely on the opposition having the shits to get something out of a game.
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