Brendan Rodgers – success or failure? It’s a debate that’s raged long and hard so far this season and will undoubtedly continue long after he has brought his first trophy back to Anfield – that’s the pressure which comes with a top job.
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Rodgers will return to where it all began this Saturday, as he takes his Liverpool side to the Hawthorns for his 150th game in charge. It was at the same ground where he made his managerial bow for the Reds, losing 3-0.
A lot has changed since then. Pepe Reina, Daniel Agger, Martin Kelly and Stewart Downing – all starters that day – have since departed, as have substitutes Joe Cole, Charlie Adam, Jonjo Shelvey and Andy Carroll.
We’d finish that first season under Rodgers in seventh place, one spot higher than the previous year, while we also scored 24 more goals, won two more games and suffered five fewer defeats.
Last year, the progression catapulted. We finished second, coming agonisingly close to the Premier League title, while the likes of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge helped us bag over 100 goals.
Ultimately, Rodgers has partly been a victim of his own success. If our levels of performance had not risen so dramatically then he would not have come into our current campaign with expectation levels raised unrealistically high.
There is no doubting the fact that this season has seen us fall below-par. We’ve missed two golden opportunities to pick up a piece of silverware, with back-to-back semi-final defeats in both the FA Cup and the Capital One Cup, while our unsatisfactory return to European football has also been heavily criticised.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, little has fallen in his favour this season. The loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona last summer, followed swiftly by the start of a year of injury problems for Daniel Sturridge has left too big a hole to fill.
What looked a positive collection of summer signings have since been exposed, leading to further scrutiny of Rodgers, who has only utilised Emre Can and Alberto Moreno on a regular basis so far this season.
He’s got things wrong in the short-term, but Rodgers is right when he says that two or three bad results don’t make you a bad manager overnight. And he’s also correct when he claims to still the right man for the job (via The Guardian).
Look at where we were five years ago, in a complete mess. This project Rodgers and our American owners are on is not an overnight job – there are going to be ups and downs. While missing out on a top four finish this season might feel like going back to square one, our array of talent says otherwise.
Look at the core of our team – Philippe Coutinho, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Sturridge – all top level players. Then add in the young talent we’ve got at our disposal – Can, Moreno, Jordon Ibe.
Rodgers did a lot to fix the issue of squad depth last summer – adding Lazar Markovic, Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren – all providing strong competition for places, and while we undoubtedly paid over the odds for some of those players, we’re really not as far away as you might think from a successful 2016.
The jury remains out on Brendan Rodgers’ long-term future but he’s done more than enough to suggest that he deserves to be around come the start of next season, ideally without this constant media furore surround him.
Here’s to another 150, Brendan!