As Liverpool prepare to enter into a difficult period of fixtures, the general discussion centres around Brendan Rodgers and the cynicism behind his team selection. To describe it as ‘favouritism’ would be underplaying the predicament – it runs much deeper; more so than the previously affiliated perception of ‘stubbornness’.
This is Liverpool’s manager reacting to the connotations of ‘weakness’ and ‘vulnerability’ that lingered around him during the months that befell the start of the 2015/16 campaign. Brendan Rodgers is asserting the security of his position and doing so in the most ruthless of mannerisms.
What he should remember, above anything else, is the security and status of his job may not be what it is today, if not for those he previously cast aside before being reinstated at the back end of last season. The same players hailed as catalysts in Liverpool’s rejuvenation have had the same fate befall them at the start of this season, as last.
It could be contextualised into a logical phase of progression if those he brought into the fold were transparently or even promisingly better fits than those who previously occupied a selection slot. However, Brendan Rodgers has once more turned to those who failed him and the club last time around, to such an extent many doubted he would make it to May – never mind achieve a fourth campaign at the helm.
That said, even Brendan Rodgers has his limits when it comes to persevering in a bid of optimism. The imminent departure of Fabio Borini – whom Brendan Rodgers’ was instrumental in recruiting shortly after his appointment in 2013 – and Joe Allen’s name no-longer being a certainty on Liverpool’s team-sheet are markers that the line of preserving does have an end.
In the meantime, there is a risk of isolating more talented players under false pretences. Dejan Lovren’s competence and compatibility to play alongside Martin Škrtel are under rigorous criticism. An element of concern is the limitation both players share when it comes to stepping out too quickly and leaving aches of space behind for opposition attackers to exploit. With neither able to compensate for each other in that specific area of weakness, the notion that both could form a successful alliance becomes increasingly unrealistic.
As the tilde wave of unbalance awaits to unfold, the demand for an established and current France international draws more and more appealing to potential suitors and the player himself. At 25 – and having already found himself in the same position last season – one would judge it unlikely that Mamadou Sakho is content to continuously have to prove himself to a club that, if the shoe were on the other foot, cannot offer him the European status of football that many of the parties interested in him could.
Brendan Rodgers appears content to deploy Jordan Henderson as the deepest of his midfield players at present, in the absence of Lucas Leiva on professional grounds. The question marks will arise when the calibre of opposition increases and the competency of Jordan Henderson’s ability to adapt to a demanding role – where experience is pivotal and understanding is essential – becomes more scrutinised. That is perhaps the point where Brendan Rodgers bestows his outcast, Lucas Leiva (should he still be at the club) with the task of nullifying talented threat.
Promisingly, Brendan Rodgers recognises the need to replace Lucas Leiva should the Brazilian depart in search of regular football. The important aspect is Liverpool bring in an experienced, established defensive midfield player. This is not the season for schooling a player in the art of that specific role, as tried and tested with Steven Gerrard. The leaky and unsure nature of Liverpool’s back line means the need for a commanding and domineering holder – not necessarily in physique, but more critically positionally – is born out of necessity now more than ever under Brendan Rodgers.