“What do Liverpool seriously expect? They haven’t won the league for over 20 years. I think there’s an agenda there, and I think there’s certain people driving it.”
That’s an excerpt from veteran BBC commentator John Motson’s comments on Monday Night Club. The focus of it? Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and the scrutiny that he’s supposedly under following an indifferent start to this season.
The assertion that the speculation about the Northern Irishman’s future as Liverpool gaffer is being driven by a biased “agenda” is simply his opinion. However, he isn’t wrong about the frequency of the calls for Rodgers’ head on a plate. There is an online campaign doing the rounds, where Liverpool supporters by their own claims, have been looking to raise money.
The idea being, somehow it’ll facilitate Rodgers’ exit from Anfield. It’s not clear how that’ll work. Perhaps they mean the compensation he would be owed if his contract is terminated. It hardly seems though that the Liverpool board have kept him in the job purely because they can’t afford to pay him to leave.
Carlo Ancelotti’s reportedly been contacted by Liverpool, with a view to becoming the next Liverpool manager. A claim, that has now been denied by Liverpool, according to reports at least.
Throughout the summer break, there was a strong wave of suggestion that Jurgen Klopp was Anfield-bound before this season began. The season that has seen a mediocre start, by results, if not by performance.
It’s hard to argue with anyone criticising Liverpool at the moment. Performances have been sluggish. When they have shown a spark, it’s been quickly subdued by a defensive lapse, ultimately resulting in points being dropped, away and at home.
The Norwich draw at home seems to have sparked an out-pour of backlash that up until then had seemed like normal reactions from unhappy fans who just want to see their side win. The close shave against Carlisle in the League Cup will have hardly done Rodgers any favours either. It was a win purely in the academic sense. If a Premier League side requires penalties to beat a side several leagues below them, something’s awry.
Gary McAllister has put a rather positive spin on criticism surrounding the team’s performances and results by saying it would be worrying if the criticism was absent. But has a Liverpool first team coach come out in the past and made statements claiming the unhappiness from fans will end up inspiring the team?
How worried are the Liverpool managing staff and the players though? Is Motson right in saying the expectations are too high to begin with? Then again it can’t be argued that expecting to beat Norwich at home and then Carlisle is expecting the moon.
The scrutiny on Rodgers’ future at the club has been compared with that faced by his predecessors and opinions in certain sections seem to suggest Rodgers is receiving harsher criticism than those before him. That list includes Rafael Benitez, Kenny Dalglish, and even Roy Hodgson.
While it has been argued, and it could be said justifiably so, that Rafa Benitez’s tenure towards the end was marred by unrest throughout the club due to the owners at the time – Tom Hicks and George Gillett. That in turn could explain the comparatively less agitation, as claimed by some, among the supporters towards Benitez himself.
Kenny Dalglish however is a stronger example of receiving much less criticism from fans and pundits in his second stint at the helm. He enjoyed a brilliant start, replacing Roy Hodgson in the second half of the 2010-11 season. There were some fantastic performances and results including a win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first meeting between the sides after Fernando Torres’ infamous £50 Million switch.
There was also a scintillating performance against Birmingham which saw Maxi Rodriguez begin the start of his short-lived time as Liverpool’s man in form.
Not to forget Luis Suarez announcing himself to all and sundry, against Manchester United, by dribbling circles around their defence and assisting the first goal in Dirk Kuyt’s hat-trick.
The Uruguayan had already made his debut for Liverpool a while back but the 10 seconds or so it took for him to go past 3 United defenders made everyone sit up and take notice.
The next season however saw some mediocre results all the way through the season. Including a goalless affair at home, against a Swansea side managed by the current gaffer, Rodgers.
Criticisms of Dalglish, for not bringing on a substitute until the 86th minute or so, or not having enough men attacking crosses in the box, were by and large met with disdain. Dalglish was and remains ‘God’ as far as Liverpool Football Club is concerned and at the time, criticising him was akin to treason in the eyes of many.
A born and bred Liverpool supporter said to me at the time, “King Kenny knows mate…” That was all he felt he needed to say in response to my query of what could be changed to change the results. Rightly or wrongly, Kenny Dalglish’s history as a player and his first managerial stint mean he will always be loved by anyone supporting Liverpool, irrespective of whatever else happens. This includes yours truly by the way.
But is John Motson right to say there’s a feeling of a biased push for Rodgers to be sacked?
Especially when others in the recent past have perhaps delivered worse patches of bad form and not faced as many calls for their head on a plate?
This is still a manager who nearly, in his second season in charge, did what the club hasn’t done in 25 years.
In the last decade the only other instance of such a serious title challenge was under Rafa Benitez in 2008-09 when Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres were in the form of their careers, for Liverpool at least.
Even that ‘Nearly’ season was followed by an abysmal showing, much like last season was under Rodgers. Now there are suggestions that Rafa Benitez be brought back, implying that in hindsight, maybe he should never have had to leave in the first place. So, is it a fair thought, to suggest Rodgers be given what Benitez wasn’t, and some now wish he was?
It may be argued that the 2013-14 title challenge was only due to the unbelievable form of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge. It could, and has been argued that those two ultimately overshadowed the problems caused by Rodgers’ tactics. Despite the league being nearly won then, Liverpool were woeful at the back, which ultimately ended up costing them the title.
But it’s also true that the following season saw one of the deadly SAS duo leave for Barcelona, while the other one spent most of the season on the treatment table and Raheem Sterling was the only hope last year until Philippe Coutinho started mesmerizing with some excellent performances.
Mario Balotelli was signed at the last minute as Suarez’s replacement. The move was acknowledged by Rodgers at the time as a major gamble and ultimately didn’t pay off. There have been many reports however suggesting Rodgers had no choice but to get Balotelli because no one else wanted to come to Liverpool.
Either way, if it is decided Rodgers has had his chance and is sacked, what is to be expected of his successor?
This current Liverpool side is almost exclusively made up of players either bought or brought up through the youth system under Brendan Rodgers’ watch.
With modern day opinions emphasising on compatibility and suitability of players to individual managers and their tactics, what if the new manager’s game plans are incomprehensible to the players?
If the response to that is to say professional footballers should be able to adapt to different tactics and ultimately it is up to them to perform. Couldn’t that also be said in relation to Liverpool’s current plight?
Following the Norwich draw, many suggested Rodgers was playing to defend a 1-0 lead and/or playing for a draw.
Yet there were some rather close chances Liverpool had which, if they’d been taken, could’ve seen a 2-1 or even a 3-1 win. How much can be attributed to tactics that led to those chances created in the first place? If the tactics are resulting in chances, then surely it’s up to the players to convert those chances.
Can Jurgen Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti ensure those chances are taken by Liverpool players? Or that the opposition keepers don’t manage to save them?