AFTER what can only be described as a hard fought, gratifying win for Liverpool FC against Tottenham on Sunday, it would be difficult not to envision a late surge from the red men of Merseyside for a Champions League place.
However, haven’t we seen this before somewhere? Didn’t a lot of Liverpool supporters feel at the start of this season that we could genuinely challenge for the top four and get back in the Champions League?
There was an air of optimism at the start of the season that a new style of play and a relatively young, ambitious manager could possibly be what Liverpool needed to force their way back into their rightful position amongst Europe’s elite. Unfortunately, too often this season, Liverpool’s good results have been bought to a sudden halt with a staggeringly bad result, often against so called lesser opposition.
The games against Manchester United (where we were the better side in the second-half), Manchester City and Arsenal illustrated that we could comfortably stand toe to toe with the Premier Leagues best were overshadowed by losses to West Bromwich Albion twice, Aston Villa and Oldham Athletic in the FA Cup. I can’t help but feel that this could be another false dawn for Liverpool where we beat Spurs by playing with guile and determination then go back to being our inconsistent best with mediocre draws against Southampton and Aston Villa.
Call me a pessimist but I’ve seen this many times before and have always seen the optimism drain away after another underwhelming performance against a “lesser” side, so as much as I want Liverpool to progress I feel they won’t yet and that is because they have yet to address the single biggest problem of this campaign: Brendan Rodgers’ style of management.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Rodgers has many endearing qualities, he’s good with the media, he’s an advocate of the Barcelona style of playing and he’s made some good signings. Unfortunately I feel he lacks the necessary qualities we need in a manager to really progress as a club and the major issues I have outlined below:
Rodgers isn’t lacking in management experience exactly, but he is lacking in big club management experience. Having managed Watford then Reading, and subsequently being sacked by the latter, then going into management with Swansea can hardly be called big club experience. Regardless of Rodgers’ success at Swansea, I feel he hasn’t had enough experience to handle the pressure that comes from managing a big club like Liverpool.
All too often this year I personally have been disappointed when looking at a team sheet and seeing the likes of Downing, Henderson, Allen and Borini starting games. Now admittedly Downing and Henderson have improved within recent weeks but even with the improvement they have to be firmly slotted into the average category alongside Joe Allen and Fabio Borini.
Another problem is the defensive selections that Rodgers seems to favour. I’m all for sentimentality but playing Carragher over the 6’6” Coates (regardless of Coates performance at Oldham) just seems like an attempt to curry favour with the fans when the smarter move would be playing the tall Uruguayan international in an attempt to make him integral to the team. Skrtel and Agger would also benefit from some competition from Coates.
3. In-game Management
This is where Rodgers really falls down in my opinion. During games he seems to wait for the game to slip away before making changes to shape or personnel in order to influence the outcome.
The successful managers in the league aren’t afraid to change personnel at half-time if the game isn’t going to plan and Rodgers too often seems to be content that the team will turn the result around before he needs to make changes. Sometimes the team needs help and guidance during a match and they need a manager who is reactive in a positive way, Rodgers has shown consistently this season that he actually prefers to take off certain players during the game, much to the annoyance of the fans, leaving Liverpool’s creative lifeline stifled.
It was only through Lloris’s clanger on Sunday that Liverpool turned the game round and this was after Coutinho was hauled off severing Suarez’s supply. Goodness knows how the game would have turned out had Spurs not had such a shocker in the second-half and this win can certainly not be attributed to Rodgers’ in game management.
£10 million for Fabio Borini. £15 million for Joe Allen. Enough said. Seriously, I wish that I could heap praise on these players but unfortunately Borini has been so eye wateringly poor in front of goal and Joe Allen’s inability to pass forward has only highlighted Rodgers’ ineptitude in the transfer market.
People also point to the Andy Carroll loan deal as one that wasn’t really Rodgers’ fault, but he was the one who wanted the player out and also wanted to replace him with a forward who hasn’t exactly been prolific at Spurs this year. All this points to a bad eye in the market, and although he signed Sturridge and Coutinho, I fear we are in for another Benitez style summer of one great player bought, alongside three awful ones.
Of course this is only an opinion and I truly hope Rodgers can push the team on from here to try and snatch a Champions League place. However at the risk of sounding harsh, I feel that this could yet be another false dawn and Brendan Rodgers isn’t the right man at the helm therefore we would be better off with the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Jurgen Klopp or Diego Simeone in order to forge a new dynamic at Liverpool FC. Agree?