Rewind to the first Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool Football Club press conference. The press, naturally, were gathered and Liverpool’s eighteenth manager was introduced. Tom Werner, the introducing board member, labelled Rodgers as a “forward thinking coach” who would bring a style of “relentless, attacking football”. Fast forward back to the present and the reality is much different. Liverpool are four years into Brendan Rodgers’ tenure and have scored three goals in five games at the start of the 2015/2016 Premier League season – post Manchester United meeting. Liverpool had, apparently, signed one of the best young managers in Europe, a manager who had taken Swansea City to the next level following the progress made under former manager Roberto Martinez – and who could say otherwise? Rodgers had won the Playoffs with Swansea and had led them to mid-table safety in their debut voyage into the Premier League.
The start was promising and a style and vision was evident throughout the 12/13 and 13/14 seasons – seasons when progress was made exponentially, culminating in the swashbuckling football inspired by Luis Suarez and co. The difference between then and now couldn’t be more stark. FSG’s vision, and the vision of all well run clubs, is one where a player can be sold and a similar replacement signed which gives Liverpool the smallest degree of disruption. Like for like replacements would ensure the style remained the same and new signings did not, necessarily, mean a complete revamp or rebuild. This leads me to the first and most powerful argument against Brendan Rodgers, namely, where has the philosophy gone? Where has the style gone? Death by football was the mantra and press, press, press was the calling card. I fell in love with this football, slow in possession at times but pulling the opposition from side to side and then, with a flaming cut and thrust, the ball someone sped up and ended up nestled in the bottom corner. I loved it. But this varying style isn’t all that was promised and is now invisible. The promotion and progression of youth is another promise that is now contorted and warped with players such as Emre Can, Lazar Markovic and Tiago Ilori cast aside or substituted when others deserved to be removed – as if not worthy of the Northern Irishman. Whilst Jon Flanagan, a brave and committed player but a plainly limited squad filler nonetheless continues to be talked up during every press conference as if his scouse presence would somehow fire Liverpool back towards the summit of English football.
These broken promises are one thing but the mentioning of Markovic, Can and Ilori deliberately leads me to the next point – favouritism. We know the score, in the first three seasons of Rodgers’ tenure there was a committee which helped to identify targets. Rodgers had the final say but he clearly felt that some players were forced upon him. 2015 saw a change, Rodgers had more autonomy. Live and die by your signings, no more excuses. This is a very old style of management. Many managers now serve alongside a Director of Football – a partner Rodgers famously refused to work with if he was to take the Anfield helm. Now, this all led to the wishy, washy system I’ve spoken about – who’s signed who? Who did Rodgers actually want? Inevitably, this has led to Rodgers trusting and playing his favourites despite performances which endear them to opposition supporters rather than the Kop. Dejan Lovren continues to be afforded chance after chance despite regularly making calamitous mistakes, Mamadou Sakho is ignored. Lallana fails to impose himself time after time, without injury to the England international, would Roberto Firmino, one of the Bundesliga’s best foreign imports, start? Where was Tiago Ilori’s first team chance? Why is Markovic being forced out on loan to a foreign side, when Liverpool have four competitions to face, one of which (the Europa League) is a speciality of Markovic’s? Why did Markovic deserve to be subbed at half-time so many times last season, when there were far worse performers on the pitch (namely Steven Gerrard in the FA Cup semi-final)? I apologise for the bombardment of rhetorical questions but what is the point of having these talented players if we don’t have a manager who will use them in the their correct positions for any length of time? It’s baffling because Ilori, Can, Sakho, Markovic and Firmino are all highly regarded across Europe. Bigger teams could have signed them, they really could – and they will. Rodgers is wasting this talent and often humiliating them in public.
What do I mean by “in public”? Obviously, in public is not down the local boozer in Bootle or Huyton – I mean either on camera at the game or in the press conferences. Brendan’s media presence is wearing very, very thin. At first, I think we all loved Rodgers’ media darling status. We lapped it up and enjoyed the positive talk but the defending of certain players and performances has seen Rodgers’ credibility disappear. Claims that his side’s defensive solidity will always be the start point of his attacking football. The figures don’t add up and averaging fourteen clean sheets per season doesn’t mean you’re a good defensive outfit, especially not when you concede one goal you concede another most of the time. Everton supporters often cite the most annoying factor facet of Martinez is his overly positive outlook on the performances when evidence points in another direction – the same applies here, there’s a time and a place for mindless positivity and the end of last season, alongside the last two performances, was not the time.
This might seem like a completely agenda riddled rant from a very disgruntled fan but it isn’t. I’m not the kind of supporter to wish a manager to fail and I can more than acknowledge the fact that Rodgers has had some great moments as a Liverpool manager. He improved certain players but it must also be said that some have deeply regressed. Markovic, Jordon Ibe, Firmino, even Lovren with his lack of shielding and babysitting that he so badly needs (the midfield was his guardian angel down south). The best case scenario is one where Rodgers succeeds and we can all live happily ever after but it isn’t going to happen. It’s gone too far. Rodgers should have been removed in the summer because with the fanbase so split, what was the point? New seasons are supposed to met by a roaring Anfield and a new wave of hopeless optimism, the fanbase feels dead and tired. Who knows who we’ll lose next summer whilst we’re still searching for a new manager or a new philosophy for Brendan to sink his teeth into? I will never not support Liverpool in a match so I hope Rodgers is here forever and somehow pulls himself out of this mire but I can’t see it happening and for now, I simply support the club and the players, not Brendan Rodgers.