Brendan Rodgers is now consigned to Liverpool FC history. Based on this season, and the last, some would say about time, others would say a summer too late. How has it failed for Rodgers? Why could he not build upon a successful if not painful 2013/14?
Slew of Negatives
The main recurring theme of Rodgers’ entire three and a something year career at Anfield was how his sides could never properly defend. Whether it was memories of a certain Matt Smith bullying Sebastian Coates and Liverpool out of the League Cup, or Marco Arnautovic absolutely outplaying midfielder Emre Can at right-back during Steven Gerrard’s farewell 6-1 defeat at the Britannia, Rodgers just could not sort of his defence.
Perhaps he could have called upon the defensive expertise of ex-greats Jamie Carragher or Sami Hyypia. He chose to do it his way, and tried to replace Carragher’s leadership with Kolo Toure for the title-challenging season, and then Dejan Lovren for the start of the 2014/15 campaign. Though Toure managed a decent impression, Lovren never settled, and between their arrivals was actually the signing of ex-PSG captain Mamadou Sakho.
they could not even keep out champions league newcomers ludogorets
Rodgers used the Frenchman sparingly and reluctantly, even though Sakho was clearly the more talented and confident defender, compared to Lovren. He just could not achieve defensive solidarity at the club, and somehow his side simply could not defend set-pieces. The way Liverpool have leaked goals over the past three years was epitomised in that 2013/14 season, whereby the Reds arguably lost the title due to their concession of 51 goals in the league.
The next great criticism of the Northern Irishman is his dismal transfer record. Fabio Borini, Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Tiago Ilori, Victor Moses (loan), Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli, Javier Manquillo and Lovren have all come and gone, failing to inspire nor impress. Many of these signings may not be his – considering the shadowy transfer committee – but Rodgers will ultimately have to take responsibility for these players not settling into whatever system he deployed.
Only Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Simon Mignolet, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne are deemed good enough for a club like Liverpool. What probably angers Liverpool fans more is how Rodgers ushered out experienced internationals, even club greats. In his first season alone, he let go of Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez and Craig Bellamy, in a supposed attempt to reduce the wage bill. Then in his second season, he froze Pepe Reina out and let rising star Jonjo Shelvey go for a small sum.
key players kept leaving and were never properly replaced
His third campaign was probably the last straw, with then-vice captain Daniel Agger leaving for a nominal fee as well as hot prospect Suso leaving for AC Milan in search of first-team opportunities. The end of that season eventually saw Steven Gerrard also leave the club, most notably after he was left out for the Champions League group stage game at the Bernabeu.
There will also be many fans that question Rodgers’ lack of tactical finesse. Admittedly, those same fans praised Rodgers for the improbable title challenge of 2013/14, before hindsight eventually showed how it was instead the powers of Luis Suarez who almost dragged the Reds across the finishing line.
The former Swansea manager came in with a supposed philosophy of playing 4-3-3, and did so in his first season up until the arrival of Sturridge. Having to accommodate both Suarez and Sturridge, Rodgers switched between a diamond midfield and then three at the back. Simply put, Rodgers totally deviated from his core strategy.
To be fair, such criticism may be unjust as some may argue a manager should utilise his best players in their best positions. But Rodgers have always been going against that school of thought ever since his arrival at Anfield. From playing Stewart Downing at left-back and Jose Enrique on the wing, to having young winger Lazar Markovic deployed at an uncomfortable right wing position, and then persisting with Emre Can on the right of a three men central defence, Rodgers kept tinkering and never saw the need to use players according to their natural positions. Unfortunately, this led to many players failing to shine at the club, and eventually ushered out by the man who brought them to Anfield in the first place.
the reds let slip the chance for gerrard’s fairytale ending
Rodgers’ failure to negotiate a relatively easy Champions League group, bar Real Madrid, and inability to win any of his cup semifinals in 2014 also highlighted deficiencies in his tactical management. Besides the numerous blitz in that exhilarating 2013/14 season, Rodgers could never find a win against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, and struggled against Manchester City and at the Emirates. He only seemed to have the upper hand over Tottenham Hotspurs, and his record against rivals Manchester United and Everton are decent at best.
Positives & What-Ifs?
In arguing Rodgers’ case, there were a few factors which went against him and his Anfield career. Rodgers almost won the title for Liverpool, and though most would emphasise Luis Suarez’s role in that near-achievement, it must be highlighted that it was Rodgers who got Suarez to stay and then got the best out of him by building the team around the Uruguayan.
perhaps the defining image of rodgers’ era
The effect of having a transfer committee imposed on him must have hindered his decision-making as well. Having had several players signed without his full blessing, Rodgers would not have envied the situation between picking his players and those of the transfer committee. Meritocracy dictates the best players play, but had Rodgers had complete control over transfers, he would most definitely had a less biased view towards all of his players and their progress and form.
Ultimately, in assessing Rodgers’ reign at Anfield, there were too many negatives among that one thrilling season in 2013/14. The players seemed to stop responding to his methods, and things had gone stale at Anfield. Change was always going to happen, and Rodgers will leave Anfield regrettably knowing he was almost a legend.