There’s no question a large portion of Liverpool fans have challenged Rodger’s priorities in cup competitions. Liverpool advanced through to the FA Cup quarter-finals where they will face Blackburn Rovers at home. True Liverpool are in an advantageous position and have a very good chance to win it and it’s a great way for Gerrard to exit the club as well as Rodgers winning his first piece of silverware. But, imagine if he wins The FA Cup and fails to get Liverpool a top four finish? Where does that leave them? Back in Europa League right?
Now, to say I’m not the biggest fan of this competition is an understatement but winning it and automatically qualifying for the Champions League certainly makes it more desirable. I’m a firm believer that Liverpool should be playing Champions League football, It’s what the owners and fans expect and the players are certainly good enough. But is Rodgers good enough to compete with Europe’s elite?
Allow me to refresh your memory, Brendan Rodgers was like a geography teacher on a field trip without a map, his destination was the last sixteen but he took a detour and ended up in Europa. Granted, his star man Sturridge was injured and his team were playing poor but that didn’t mask Brendan’s inexperience in Europe. You only have to look at Borussia Dortmund and Klopp, they were poor in the domestic league and were missing Reus through injury but still managed to advance through the group stages. The key difference between the two clubs was Champions League experience.
This is exactly why Brendan Rodgers must treat the Europa League with importance if he wishes to be taken seriously by players and managers across Europe. Many have said that Liverpool’s ability to track players had decreased not because of the location but because none of the players had heard of the manager. A good Europa League campaign will raise his stock.
Now, there’s no questioning Brendan’s recent turn around at Liverpool and it’s apparent that he can beat the big teams in the Premier League. Where he needs to adapt is Europe, he is a young manager with a young squad and experience in playing in the Europa League could be a step in the right direction for next season should they qualify for Champions League. He lacks the experience of setting up a team and devising tactics to dismantle European teams, lets not forget he only needed 7 points to qualify from the group stages of the Champions League and failed to do so, losing out to Basel. The Swiss side weren’t anything special but again had solid experience in Europe.
Granted the Europa League brings extra fixtures for Liverpool (9 fixtures if they make it to the final), who already have their plates full with the FA cup and the fight for a top four finish in the Premier League. Some would argue that it’s an extra distraction that Liverpool do not need, players will suffer from fatigue or become injured due the amounts of games. Well, if Liverpool were in the knockout stages of The Champions League they’d have 7 fixtures remaining if they were to make it to the final. Two more than desired, and yes Rodgers isn’t a fan of rotation hence why fans are concerned but this competition could be the perfect platform for him to rotate the squad and play players into form rather than playing them for the sake of it because if he doesn’t learn now, he’ll be faced with the same conundrum again and being a manager at a top club has pressures and one of those is games coming thick and fast.
Talking of fixtures, the Premier League presents it’s own challenges with Liverpool facing a very tough fixture list especially when compared to the likes of Southampton and Arsenal. The Europa League therefore is another route to the promised land of the Champions League next year. In the Europa League you can afford to manage a tie as it’s a two legged affair whilst every game in the Premier League is a must-win till the end of the season without much room for manoeuvre.
So Brendan Rodgers must use this opportunity to get the best out of his entire squad and playing players into form will only motivate the starting eleven to improve their game. A positive domino effect if you will. What Brendan must do is trust and have faith in his squad.
If Brendan is the man for the long run and he wants to take Liverpool to the next step by ensuring Champions League football to the club then he must let these young inexperienced players flourish in the Europa League as these baby steps will groom them ready for the challenge of taking on Europe’s top dogs and of course of Brendan Rodgers wants to be a big name in world football, what better way than to win a European trophy?