At 6.30pm on 4th October 2015, Liverpool Football Club confirmed the sacking of Brendan Rodgers. It was a decision that many fans, myself included, had been calling for a long while now. He was informed within an hour of the 1-1 Merseyside derby draw at Goodison Park. My initial reaction was one of relief. The club has failed to progress under Rodgers’ management. I wanted a new manager after the 6-1 defeat to Stoke at the end of last season, but FSG kept faith in Rodgers. 10 games into the new season, there are few signs of improvement despite the owners handing Rodgers another £80 million to spend on his squad during the summer. It was the right call, and it came at a convenient time. With a 2 week international break, there is time to appoint a new manager and there is still time to get this season on track.
Although I feel it was certainly the correct decision to sack Rodgers, I thank him for an incredible season in 2013/14. Under his management we witnessed the best football by a Liverpool team in the Premier League era. Every week, we saw scintillating performances packed with exhilarating attacking football and bags of goals. He was on the brink of winning the Premier League title which would have made him a Liverpool legend. Although the individual brilliance of Luis Suarez played a major part in the success of that season, Rodgers deserves credit for guiding a limited squad to the edge of glory. Rodgers also signed Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho for a combined fee of £20 million- two players who have, under his management, developed into two of the finest players in the Premier League and an integral part of Liverpool’s future.
However, the achilles heel in Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool Football Club has been his failures in the transfer market. He is an intelligent young coach, but a modern day manager at a club of Liverpool’s stature must also be clever with his signings. During his time at the club, Rodgers spent almost £300 million on new players. Only the two mentioned above, Sturridge and Coutinho, have been categoric success stories. Mamadou Sakho is on his way to joining them, whilst the likes of Emre Can, Alberto Moreno and Joe Gomez have shown promising talent and have youth on their side. However, the truth is that Rodgers’ exploits in the transfer market have been an overall failure. In his first season, Fabio Borini was over-priced and never proved to be a Liverpool-quality player. Joe Allen for £15 million was another expensive, sub-standard signing who can consider himself fortunate to have lasted so long at the club. There have been many other failures, such as Victor Moses, Aly Cissokho, Iago Aspas and Rickie Lambert who were clearly nowhere near good enough. Many Rodgers signings have left without ever getting a fair opportunity to prove their worth, such as Luis Alberto, Javier Manquillo and Tiago Ilori (currently on loan at Aston Villa). The loan signing of the talented Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin was a wasted opportunity, as Rodgers persistently deployed him in an advanced number 10 role in which he was clearly not best suited. The loss of Luis Suarez to Barcelona was not Rodgers’ fault, but the way in which the money was scattered in a disorganised fashion on a plethora of new signings turned out to be a disaster. You have to question the judgement of a man who felt it necessary to offload a fan favourite in Daniel Agger to replace him with Dejan Lovren for £20 million, who has proved to be nothing but one giant mistake on Rodgers’ part. The less said about Mario Balotelli the better. The £25 million splashed on Adam Lallana also looks to be a significant overspend, whilst it remains to be seen whether Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino will turn out as successful big-money signings.
Aside from his shortcomings in the transfer market, several other factors have contributed to Rodgers’ downfall. During his time at the club, Rodgers has been unable to coach his team to be a solid defensive unit. Conceding goals has always been a major issue with Rodgers. Even during the 2013/14 season, it was a problem. Once the goals dried up last season, the problem was exposed and it showed in our results, bar a brief period post-Christmas which yielded an impressive six consecutive away clean sheets. Failure to sign a top quality defensive midfielder throughout his entire tenure at Liverpool has been a frustrating mistake by Rodgers. We’ve been lacking an imposing defensive midfielder since Mascherano left, and it has never been addressed, leaving only Lucas Leiva as the club’s single specialist player in this crucial position. The fact that Martin Skrtel has been a permanent fixture in Rodgers’ selections is also an error of judgement in my opinion- a defender who should have been upgraded upon a long time ago.
A notable characteristic of Rodgers as Liverpool manager was his stubborn nature. He’d often keep the same system and personnel when fans could see something needed to change. Last season we saw the same ineffective 4-2-3-1 system with a single isolated striker for several weeks in succession, and yet Rodgers seemed insistent on making it work despite the obvious failings in our performances. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of Rodgers’ management was his tendency to play talented players out of position. We saw it with Lazar Markovic last season, fielded mainly as a wing back despite being a natural wide forward player. On the one occasion when he started in a forward position, he scored (against Tottenham at Anfield). Markovic cost £20 million, and was heralded as one of Europe’s brightest young players. After one season of playing out of position, he was sent out to Fenerbahce on loan, despite Liverpool having only Jordon Ibe as a natural wide player following Raheem Sterling’s departure to Man City. Emre Can is seen as a long term midfield player, but he has regularly played at centre back and right back under Rodgers despite often looking uncomfortable and making mistakes in defensive areas. This season, £29 million signing Roberto Firmino has been fielded in a wide right position, despite being most effective centrally, whilst Nathaniel Clyne has been misused more recently in an advanced right midfield/wing back role following Rodgers’ switch to the 3-5-2 system. I don’t think Liverpool have a bad squad- we have players capable of a top four finish, but Rodgers was unable to get the most out of them. Furthermore, Rodgers’ decision to favour the calamitous Dejan Lovren instead of Mamadou Sakho until recently this season was quite frankly absurd. Sakho’s recent performances have shown why he should have played all along.
Furthermore, Rodgers’ decision to guarantee James Milner a starting berth in central midfield and to be made vice-captain was also an error of judgement. Milner was a sensible signing on a free transfer, but he is by no means a top class player and already this season he has failed to show that he possesses the quality to play in central midfield every week. To make such assurances to a player of Milner’s quality represents a small- time attitude. Milner is a useful player to have in our squad, but to be promoted into a position of such authority at a club like Liverpool was a mistake by Rodgers. We can do better than that.
Ten games into his 4th season at the club, Rodgers reaches the end of the road. FSG gave him another chance, but decided to pull the plug. The season thus far hasn’t been disastrous, but nonetheless the results have not been good enough. Following the 6-1 humiliation at the hands of Stoke City last season, we have already suffered 3-0 and 3-1 defeats to West Ham and Man United. There have been 1-1 draws to Norwich, Sion and Carlisle at home- sides we should be turning over comprehensively. Our inability to hold on to leads has been a major problem and whenever we have gone 1-0 down under Rodgers, comebacks have been a rare occurrence. We started the season with three clean sheets and a 4-3-3 formation. Rodgers has already switched to a 3-5-2 system but we are leaking goals far too easily. When Rodgers arrived at the club, he brought an attractive brand of possession-based, slick-passing football from his days at Swansea. This style reached its magnificent peak during 2013/14 season, but it has long disappeared now. Rodgers has abandoned his philosophy and the team lacks identity.
There was no clear direction in which Rodgers looked to be heading. The FSG plan was that by now, Rodgers would have established Liverpool as a top four club. Instead, after three years Rodgers has no trophies and one failed Champions League campaign to show for his efforts. Our record against the top clubs has been terrible. It isn’t good enough for Liverpool Football Club. Rodgers lost the dressing room and the fans. It showed on the pitch, with a lack of passion and desire from many of the players in recent weeks, and in the stands at Anfield where the atmosphere has been especially subdued in recent months. From that point, there is no way back, hence Rodgers’ sacking was justified. His recent interview comments about the need for ‘constant rebuilding’ and the claim ‘give me the tools and I’ll do the work’ are immensely frustrating to hear. Let alone the endless use of the word ‘character’ over the past three years. If I had to sum up three key reasons why it didn’t work out for Rodgers, I would suggest- failure in the transfer market, players used out of position, and poor defensive organisation. Nonetheless, I do wish Rodgers well and I still think he can have a long and successful career in the sport, but the move to a major club came too soon. He understood what the club meant to the supporters and I wanted him to succeed. It wasn’t to be. What we now need is an experienced manager who can take us forward, attract top players and be able to simultaneously manage our squad in European and domestic competitions. Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti are the two names being spoken about- either would be a fantastic appointment. Although I feel a partial sense of guilt for being happy at a man losing his job, I cannot help but feel a sense of excitement and optimism for the future in this new era of Liverpool Football Club.