After Liverpool struggled to a laboured penalty shoot-out victory against Carlisle in the Carling Cup, Brendan Rodgers could be forgiven for thinking that history was repeating itself. This time last season, Rodgers had lost his talisman in Luis Suarez, while his investment of the Uruguayan’s £75 million had drawn huge criticism from fans. The club had also struggled for form in the early weeks of the season and even been knocked out of the Champions League group stage.
Just 12 months on and little has changed. Firstly, Liverpool lost Raheem Sterling in the summer, while his summer signings have yet to convince either fans or pundits alike. Similarly, the club has failed to win in its last five games, with disappointing defeats to West Ham and Manchester United preceding a frustrating draw at home to Norwich. The poor performance against Carlisle reflected the lack of confidence affecting the Reds, and it may serve as either a turning or a tipping point for Rodgers.
Incredibly, it was less than 18 months ago that Liverpool were favourites for the EPL title, after a staggering run of form and a 3-2 victory at home against Manchester City left them clear at the top with just three games to play. Inspired by a staggeringly talented front three of Raheem Sterling, Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, only a dramatic defeat against Chelsea and a disappointing 3-3 draw at Crystal Palace prevented them from claiming their first title in 24 years.
The departure of Suarez has triggered a downward spiral, however, and a quick glance at Liverpool’s line-up in the defeat against United highlighted the issues facing Rodgers. Not have the departures of Suarez, Sterling and Steven Gerrard decimated his previously fluid front six, but injury to Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge (along with the suspension of the influential Phillippe Coutinho) have highlighted a lack of strength in depth. Without quality or diversity at his disposal, Rodgers faces an uphill task to retain the job.
Sturridge and Coutinho returned against Norwich, while Rodgers’ return to his default 3-4-3 formation seemed to galvanise the Reds to some degree. If he can keep Sturridge fit and enable to forge a partnership with the powerful but out-of-form Christian Benteke, the Reds will have a chance of replicating the successful run of form they enjoyed last winter.
Whether this will be enough to save Rodgers has yet to be seen. Given that experienced managers such as Carlo Ancelotti and Jurgen Klopp are available and the fact that some of the best gamblers are from Liverpool, the smart money would be on Rodgers being dismissed before the end of the season.