Join me, as I swiftly get in on the act of passing comment on Brendan Rodgers’ eventual demise as Liverpool boss. The writing’s been on the wall hasn’t it? I was starting to get the feeling they would never get rid of him and years from now we’d be wondering when was the exact point Liverpool settled for mid-table mediocrity and ‘tremendous character’ over success. But alas, the powers that be in Anfield have finally bitten the bullet and rid their dugout of what at one point appeared to be the clubs’ beacon of hope for returning them to the heights they used to visit so frequently. When did it all go wrong for Rodgers? From being one of the hottest commodities in football management, to being handed his jotters only 8 games into the new season. How did it come to this?
Rodgers initial appointment was met with great optimism from the Anfield faithful. The clubs decline had reached a point where fans where willing to accept a long term re-building process with a young and promising manager at the helm, over frantically chasing instant success and trophies. Realism took over and everyone knew there was a long road ahead for Liverpool. Rodgers had gained a reputation as a positive and attacking manager after taking his Swansea City side to the Premier League for the first time in their history. The side’s football was impressive and as such Rodgers earned his plaudits as one the leagues most promising young managerial talents. Liverpool were buying into this potential when they handed the Northern Irishman the reigns to the first team. One of Rodgers’ biggest problems though ended up being his initial, unprecedented, success.
When Luis Suarez decided he wanted to win the Premier League pretty much on his own, he nearly secured Rodgers ultimate legendary status and basically tenure at Liverpool. But, when Steven Gerrard decided to have a lie down during that famous Chelsea game he cost Rodgers that luxury. Nobody expected Liverpool to nearly win the league that season. Nobody really considered them top four contenders to be honest. The unbelievable success of ‘that’ season threw the long term rebuilding process out of the window. Rodgers was well ahead of schedule and now the criteria for the job had changed. The board, the fans, they had all had a taste of the promise land. Now Rodgers had to regularly satiate the hunger for Premier League glory and consistent Champions League football. This is where he was found out. He showed he wasn’t capable of achieving those lofty heights. Once he lost his talisman the team went straight back to where they were in Rodgers’ first season.
His inability to build a team of any quality after that amazing season truly exposed him and showed us that he isn’t the super coach he believed himself to be. “Oh, but he has the transfer committee. It’s not his fault the players they signed are rubbish.” I do not buy into that for a second. Firstly, Rodgers brought up the transfer committee only when he was getting stick for his team being poor. Isn’t that convenient that he is ready to throw this committee under the bus when its all going wrong? I didn’t see him bringing up the transfer committee when they finished second, did you? No mention of the players they had brought in helping him achieve such a league position. If he was willing to take all the plaudits when everything was rosy, then sorry Brendan you have to be willing to take all the flack when it turns out you aren’t capable pf managing a team to compete for top 4. Also, he would’ve known there was a transfer committee when he took the job in the first place. I had a very specific conversation with a Liverpool fan about that very committee around the time of his appointment. So the board hardly blind-sighted him with the committee. You therefore can’t wait till the tail end of your 3rd season to start rhyming it off as an excuse.
Also, what even were his tactics? When Liverpool nearly won the league they were blowing teams away in the first 20 minutes. Suarez, Sturridge and Sterling would defend from the front and hound teams into conceding possession and eventually a goal. I know Suarez’s pitbull like approach was a key component to that tactic. But, even when Suarez left why did they stop doing that? I mean, I know Rickie Lambert and Balotelli are hardly the most mobile strikers. But, there was options there to apply the same approach and he never used them. The formula that had nearly won them the league was thrown away and never revisited. Instead, he went on a campaign of playing good players well out of position and switching up his formation near weekly. Completely over-complicating things. An approach that eventually alienated the clubs premier young talent in Raheem Sterling.
A big question about him when he took the job was could he handle the media as a manager of a big club. We now have a bounty of examples to show why that was an extremely legitimate concern: “I will leave no stone unturned in my quest – and that quest will be relentless”; “My biggest mentor is myself because I’ve had to study and that’s been my biggest influence.” … What? There are very few managers that can have a chip on their shoulder the size of the one Rodgers had and back it up. Ultimately, his own confidence, arrogance even, helped his own demise. Believing in yourself is a good thing, you need to be confident and thick skinned to succeed in football, but there needs to be some grounds to base that confidence on.
I believe Rodgers was a good coach that got lucky. His biggest successes in management have been getting Swansea City to the Premier League and finishing second in the Premier League with Liverpool. Roberto Martinez laid the foundations for that Swansea side. He built them up from League One and had them threatening promotion. For me, Rodgers was like, to quote Friends, a ‘lurker’ lingering around a fruit machine you’ve pumped 20 quid into and not even got a nudge. Then when you give up he turns up and hits the jackpot on first go. Maybe he didn’t intentionally hang around waiting but it fell into his lap. The Liverpool season of success goes down to Suarez. He was just so good, and in being so good brought the best out of everyone around him, particularly Raheem Sterling. The inability to get anywhere near the same kind of success without Suarez highlights that point for me. Rodgers recently said that usually their great attacking options helped to make up for their defensive deficiencies. That was readily apparent the year they finished second. So, if he knew that was an issue why did he never remedy it? Why couldn’t the super coach in all his seasons with the side not come up with a solution for their obvious defensive issues? Maybe because he isn’t a super coach after all?
This was a long time coming for Rodgers. He had been exposed long before his eventual sacking. Liverpool’s reluctance to get rid of him may have been down to the worry of getting caught in another manager merry go round, especially after Rodgers was the appointment to bring stability and longevity to the managers position. He arrived at Anfield with a promising reputation, he soon became one of the top names in the game and then was swiftly figured out and brought back to reality. I would say I look forward to Rodgers inevitable punditry work in the interim while he waits for something like the Newcastle job to become available, but I’m not. Although, I would enjoy the look on the likes of Graeme Souness’ face as Rodgers mumbles constantly about “tremendous character” during half time of the evening kick off. With Brendan Rodgers sacking on October 4th 2015, the myth of the super coach has been put to bed.