Si Steers

Columnist

Brendan Rodgers: stick or twist?

Si Steers takes a look at the first half-season of Brendan Rodgers‘ reign as Liverpool manager.

rodgers_4

It has been an inconsistent and underwhelming first half of the season for Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers. There have been good performances and glimpses of what Rodgers is trying to achieve at the club; but there have also been some really poor efforts against West Brom, Arsenal, Villa and Stoke.

It is difficult to judge Rodgers at this point. He has inherited a core of very good players, and in Luis Suarez a genuine world class talent. But he has also inherited an overpriced and overpaid squad; despite a wage bill that topped out at almost £130m a year (70% of total revenue) we haven’t finished in the top four since 2009.

Liverpool FC still generates top four revenue; and with zero debt that means a top four wage bill and a top four transfer budget is realistic. But it has to be spent wisely. Far too many mistakes have been made in recent windows; and that has meant Rodgers has had to manage within short term constraints as a realignment of quality vs. value has had to be at the heart of our transfer strategy since his arrival. It has been a painful process and left the squad short in some key areas.

If you compare our season to United we have conceded two less goals and lost three more games. The key difference is we have drawn 7 games; and United have scored 23 more goals than us. A Robin Van Persie sized difference. Turning those draws into wins has to be the focus for us in the second half of the season.

Reliance on youth

Despite having a core group of very good players Rodgers has had to integrate a group of promising youngsters to fill gaps in the squad. We have had to rely on Wisdom, Suso and Sterling to come in and fill key roles in the side. Both Suso and Sterling have had to contribute at the top end of the pitch; a tough initiation against experienced Premier League defenders.

Rodgers Suso

One of our biggest issues this season has been a lack of goals. We have created more chances than any side in the Premier League, yet we have only converted 31. If you look at the games against Everton and Newcastle that were both draws – in both of those games Sterling had a clear cut scoring chance.

With experience will come composure; and in 2-3 years time you would expect that Sterling will be burying those kind of chances. But the fact we have had a 17 year old in key scoring positions is symptomatic of the constraints Rodgers has been working under.

Sterling has featured in almost every game this season. He has been sensational; but along with Suso will struggle to find consistency so early in his career.

Leaking goals

One of the biggest disappointments has been the amount of goals we have been leaking. Our back 6 (including Reina and Lucas) is strong on paper. We have conceded 26 goals this season: compared to a total of 40 conceded last year.

We seem to be missing the influence of Steve Clarke; although a number of goals we have conceded have been from individual mistakes.

There seems to be a role open on the coaching staff for a defensive coach. That role is made for Jamie Carragher. His organisation and positional play are outstanding.

If Rodgers’ blueprint for Liverpool is to succeed then it has to be built on a solid base. We have the right players in the defensive half of the pitch; but we need better organisation and we need to find a way to deal with the ball in the air better than we are doing at the moment. Against Stoke and West Ham we looked lost against the aerial bombardment.

Rodgers’ singings

Rodgers’ big summer signing, Joe Allen, started the season well. But he has since struggled to find his role in the team and failed to establish himself. Fabio Borini has been injured for a large part of the season; so it is impossible to make a judgement on him at this point.

The biggest issue with Allen right now is the team is not playing to his strengths. Rodgers likes to play a fluid 4-3-3 but right now he doesn’t have the players that are an ideal fit into that system. So the team’s identity is a hybrid of Rodgers preferred system with a hint of 4-2-3-1. That means Allen is playing as part of a 2 rather than further up the pitch; an area where both he and Rodgers know he is more effective.

Joe Allen

Joe Allen is a technically gifted footballer; and he is only 22 years old. The time to judge Allen is when Rodgers has his chess pieces in place; and Allen is given the role in the team for which he was recruited.

With the imminent arrival of Daniel Sturridge we will have a more potent looking front line. If Sturridge can reproduce the form he showed for Chelsea under AVB (in a similar kind of role and system) he can be a great foil for Suarez. There will also be more arrivals in the January window as Rodgers reshapes his squad.

The key period for Rodgers will be this summer. I expect a competitive transfer budget; and with both Cole and Carragher off the wage bill that will free up £180k a week (3-4 potentially good players). There maybe more that leave as well giving more flex on wages.

The transfer committee

It is critical that Liverpool avoid future mistakes in the transfer market. In the self sustainability model; minimising risk is one of the foundations to success. That is why there is now a ‘transfer committee’ in place at the club.

That committee will minimise the ‘gut feel’ and base decisions on fact and data. It will source players based on attributes; not name or profile. It will also place a value on players that will guide the club’s negotiations.

There is no way of completely minimising the risk on transfers; and it will be Rodgers role to add the ‘gut feel’ to the decision making process. A player’s mentality and personality are as important as technical attributes; and they have to be a consideration when scouting players.

The transfer committee wasn’t in place over the summer; and it will need at least two windows to determine if it is a success. If pieces fall into place by the end of the summer window we should have 5-6 new players.

So it will not be until this time next year that you can accurately judge the impact of the transfer committee.

Backing from the owners

By introducing the transfer committee FSG have devolved the power of player recruitment away from the boardroom to the football people. This should mean that the only role of the owners is to sign off on budgets.

The budget for players will be dependant on how the club performs commercially. With the new commercial deals coming into play this season; and a sustainable wage bill that should mean there are resources available.

The biggest resource Rodgers needs from the owners is time. Floating around 10th place will never be good enough for Liverpool Football Club. But this is a starting point – not an end point. Whether or not Rodgers can get us to the end point is unknown; but he has to be allowed the time to build.

It isn’t about anybody connected with Liverpool FC accepting or embracing mediocrity. It is about accepting that circumstances have combined to set the club back. It is also about accepting that in a world without sugar daddy ownership; balancing the books is a necessary part of football – whether supporters like it or not!

Learning points

It has been a turbulent few months for the club under Rodgers; and despite circumstances being difficult, he has also made some errors in judgement that have not helped him during the difficult moments.

Brendan Rodgers

As Paul Tomkins talked about recently, we do not yet know whether Rodgers is good enough. He has a thin CV but a huge amount of confidence / borderline arrogance to back up his impressive rhetoric.

Rodgers biggest mistake was his insistence that he would not work under a Sporting Director. He only had to look as far as Barcelona to see how Guardiola was guided under the wing of Txiki Begiristain. If Rodgers has ambitions to succeed at the top of the game; he will have to accept that the Sporting Director model is now employed at most of the big clubs.

I hope that at the end of the season Rodgers takes stock and recognises that a Sporting Director will take some of the politics and administration out of his role, and the owners bring in an experienced senior footballing administrator.

Rodgers also has to show a bit more pragmatism at times. He lets idealism guide his decision making on occasion; believing that his way will always win. But the realism is that sometimes you have to adapt; he is still in his development phase as a manager and needs to listen and learn. He has shown glimpses in game that he does react, but sometimes he can set his team up from the off without the need to change it early on.

Rodgers is an excellent communicator; he is convincing and talks with authority. But perhaps now is the time to rein that in slightly. He has sold himself to the media and the fan base, but some supporters will remain unconvinced until results match the talk.

Should Rodgers stay or go?

If there is one thing Rodgers has been guilty of in his time at Liverpool, it has been naivety at times. But he isn’t alone. There is a lack of experience at all levels of the club; and that has to be rectified. He has had no senior figure to guide him – and at times the job has looked too big.

But he has done well in difficult circumstances. Despite results not matching performances, when things click, there is a making of a team coming together. With new additions we will see that team get stronger over the next 12-18 months.

Rodgers has a three year deal at Liverpool; and I think the owners will judge his work at the end of year two. That will be the time they ‘stick or twist’.

This season is not about embracing mediocrity; it is about finding a starting point under a new manager and moving forward from that. At the start of the season most realistic supporters recognised top 4 this season would be a stretch; and that top 6 was a more realistic ambition. In reality it doesn’t matter if we finish 6th or 10th this season; but if we are not competing for the top 4 next season then is the time to start the discussions about whether Rodgers is the right long term answer.

I think Rodgers is the right personality fit for the club; he talks the language of Liverpool, he ‘gets’ the culture. He needs to prove he has the ability to take the club forward – but he will only prove that one way or the other with time.

If we get to a point where managers have six months to a year to build a side we will find ourselves in a position where every year becomes ‘year zero’. That is fine if you are Chelsea and you can throw money at new managers – but if you need to build, constantly changing managers will only send you one way – and that is backwards.

Some supporters are disillusioned (rightly so) by the sacking of Dalglish, others want the return of Benitez. Those two factors influence opinion of Rodgers. But Dalglish has now gone, and Benitez will not be coming back to Liverpool under FSG (they have appointed one club legend before and seen the fall out, they will not make the same mistake again).

Brendan Rodgers is our manager – he needs supporters behind him if he is going to be a success at the club.

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Professional communicator and fanatical Liverpool fan. I write for This is Anfield, Paul Tomkins (The Tomkins Times) and Liverpool FC.
All posts are reactively-moderated and must obey the comment policy.
  • daveni50

    great read and very true… this season was always going to be about finding our feet and putting in place a longer term blueprint.. with an overpaid under performing squad, a minimum of 3 transfer windows are needed to allow the manager time to mould his own team. keep the faith with BR and he will lead us to the promised land.

  • GBH

    Excellent.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bill-Ward/1467560966 Bill Ward

    I wish we would stop buying Italians not one has ever been any good, and not always their fault.

  • Ginge

    Great artical really good read.
    I dont think we should judge the team this or next season but the season after there should be no excuses for not being there or there abouts for the top four or even winning it(fingers crossed)Rogers does need to get rid of dead wood(wont mention names)
    Anyway again good read

    • Batman

      I do think getting rid of dead wood is something he has shown he is definitely willing to do. He’s already shown Carrol the door and Cole is on his way out quality but unfortunately aging players such as Kuyt and Maxi have already moved on. And clearly he’s had a sit down with downing and said perform or leave which has inspired Downing to be productive.That’s why the summer market will be the most important because he will finally have the wage room to bring in top players.

  • JOHNBARRETT

    Very good write up. We have to be patient, whilst it is frustrating that at present the team is inconsisitent, still in my opinion, we are still the greatest football club in the world, great fans, great history, not like some certain Utd team, who I will admit are way beyond LFC at present but lets hope that Rodgers is the man to turn things around, it will not be this season but next season I pray the team gets a right balance of youth and experience and pushes not just for top 4 but to bring the league title back to anfield where it belongs and it we get a good FA cup run this season and can return to Anfield South once more….

  • Craig Galligan

    This is the best “summing up of where we are at” article I have seen and I advise our fans to get this posted around the Internet so that others can read it and say to themselves “yeah, I can accept were we are as a club so I am willing to support the manager!”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daren-Greville/756284631 Daren Greville

    so so true,great read.

  • munyuktae

    ‘It isn’t about anybody connected with Liverpool FC accepting or embracing mediocrity. It is about accepting that circumstances have combined to set the club back. It is also about accepting that in a world without sugar daddy ownership; balancing the books is a necessary part of football – whether supporters like it or not!’
    spot on!
    mature supporters will agree and understand.

  • MH

    Absolute rubbish in that the ‘gist’ of this is to lay off the owners and let Brendan have more time. How much did you get paid for writing this Si? Who has influenced your ‘feelings’? – Owners are cheap – Fact. Brendan is way out of his depth – Fact. Players don’t play for weak or no-name managers – FACT.
    Get it right, or shut up.

    • eskimo

      so you’re just gonna piss on everything and everyone but not give any solutions? real usefull

    • Kostakop

      Oh..! You seem to know “your” facts, but how about a solution? A proposal? I guess I can talk for you: “BR out, Mourinho, Ronaldo, Neymar, Erikssen and Iniesta in..! YEAH! How on earth don’t they see THIS is the way! FSG out! BRAVO…

    • RaveDave001

      You really are a moron and the sort of supporter who should go and support Chelsea or Man City, continually saying FACT doesn’t actually make something a fact, FSG bought us when no-one else would, the debt on the club is gone, they put around £30 million pounds into the club for transfers, its not there fault if that money plus the £50 million generated by Kenny & Commoli was wasted on poor players, how is Brendan out of his depth any examples??? players don’t play for weak or no name managers well what was the players reason for not playing for Rafa or Kenny. Do yourself a favour and go and support someone else, supporters like you are destroying Liverpool.

    • PAS

      Poorly written comment with absolutely no substance, MH. To be credible you need to take the time to explain why you disagree with the article, which i think is very well balanced, and put forward alternative proposals.
      “Get it right or shut up”

  • Ross

    Personally I believe putting BR in charge is a gamble that will put Liverpool back a few years more.

    There is no evidence to suggest BR can handle such a job as Liverpool. Surely with where Liverpool are currently at, and with the real danger of Liverpool becoming just a mid table club, we should have a man with experience a man that knows how to win, a man that can attract top players and a man that can truly build Liverpool into a top four team once again.

    It does not matter how long you give a manager, if he is not good enough then he is not good enough.

    BR is out of his depth and sadly it will be Liverpool that will suffer the consequences.

  • Doggie

    It’s a reasoned and balanced article, so not sure why it needs to ask the question on whether Rodgers should stay or go.

  • AK

    BR has a lot on his plate and needs to be given time. It’s good to see youth being given a chance and he is working under greater restrictions financially than previous managers. If there is one area we really need to improve it’s the transfer market. We’ve wasted alot of money on dross and we really need to improve in identifying quality value for money players. Spending almost 40 mil on Allen, Borini and Sturridge doesnt inspire me with confidence though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bchipev Bozhan Chipev

    What a great article! I cannot find a single point I disagree with. Maybe one thing that is absent from the analysis is the (failed) attempt of filling gaps in the squad through the loan system. You cannot possibly hope that a season-long loanee will make an impact at this level. Look at Sahin – his qualities are well documented, yet his performances were mediocre at best. Now there is talk of getting Wesley Sneijder on loan. The club also attempted to lure in David Villa on loan. This is just bad business, and what is worse, it makes Liverpool look like an inferior club.

  • Robin Crimes

    Very accurate article and without prejudice. I agree with all your points.

  • Gray

    Good article. Just one or two points that I dont agree with. Firstly, I dont think it was a bad move for Brendan to not work under a sporting director. You only have to look to our rivals down at OT. Fergie has never worked with one before nor did Benitez. They in my opinion only dilute things in a bad way.We only have to look at Damien Comolli and the majority of players he negotiated with, apart from Suarez have not worked out.

    I also dont believe that he lacks experience to manage a big club such as Liverpool. Some of our greatest ever managers had never even managed, nevermind managed a big club before joining the reds. (Shanks, Paisley, Dalglish, Fagan). I find that some comments about Brendan totally under estimate his achievements at Swansea. It was he after all who took Swansea into the Premier League, not Martinez or Sousa. It was he that made Swansea look like they had been in the premier league for years, and on a very limited budget. Before he took over Swansea, they were never looking like promotion candidates.

    Of course there are things that have happened this season that have not gone well, but I think as fans, we should look at the glass half full and not half empty. He has managed to get performances out of over payed players such as Downing, Cole and Henderson. He has transformed Jose Enrique into a goal threat. Promoted and intergrated our top academy players into our 1st team, saving money there. Not to mention our fixtures at the start of the season couldnt have been more unkind. Also being the victims of shocking refereeing, (against MU).
    Sure the guys gonna make mistakes hes only human. But I believe hes the right man for the job. He gets Liverpool, hes a humble man and hes only gonna make LFC better. He needs the support of all of us. Sacking him after 5 months in the season does not work. If we win tonight and Everton lose, we will be 3 points off 5th. Still in the europa league too and hopefully a good FA Cup run again.

    • junior galtieri

      ‘Firstly, I dont think it was a bad move for Brendan to not work under a
      sporting director. You only have to look to our rivals down at OT.
      Fergie has never worked with one before nor did Benitez. They in my
      opinion only dilute things in a bad way.We only have to look at Damien
      Comolli and the majority of players he negotiated with, apart from
      Suarez have not worked out.’

      The players signed by Dalglish and Comoli have left a millstone round oitr neck – there ois bo argument aboit that – but I think Rodgers was very naive to refuse to work with a sporting director

      You can’t compare him to Ferguson or Benitez – champions-league winning, heavyweight managers who have been in the game for a good couple of decades and have an extensive network of contacts.

      Rodgers doesn’t have that yet – and his stubborness to work alongside someone who does can only be detrimental to the team

      I’m still not sure about Rodgers. I thought it was too risky a gamble due to his inexperience when he was first appointed – but he deserves untol the end of this season at the very least so we can get a better understanding

      If we captitulate like we did towards the end of last season abd given our worst start thgis season, I can’t see the owners not pulling the trigger

      Hopefully that won’t happen – but we weren’t in that better of a position at this stage of the season durng Rafa’ or Houllier’s first seasons at the club, so we’ll see

  • SalingerNo

    Great article!

    We are definitely heading in the right direction, and with a little more fair refereeing we could easily have had 6-8 points extra. In general the performances are good and we create lots of chances. If we weren’t creating chances I would be much more concerned.

  • NS

    Was employing Kenny Dalglish as manager a mistake? We won our first trophy in 6 years and almost won another one. The much lauded Arsene Wenger hasn’t won a trophy in 7 years!!! Kenny should still be the manager and in 3 years time at the end of his contract Steve Clark could have been promoted ensuring a smooth transition that would cause minimum disruption to the club. Having BR at the helm is like going for open heart surgery at your local hospital and finding a rookie untried surgeon waiting for you who hasn’t actually operated before but has read a few textbooks. Sadly the patient will suffer and LFC is the patient.

  • http://twitter.com/queenrocksred Barrie Caulcutt

    Never rated Rodgers,slightly better record in charge of LFC than Roy Hodgson had. Not one of his signings has made an impact at the club which is VERY worrying and as a Welshman i can tell you that there would be no “welcome in the hillside” for this Northern Irishman back at Swansea,in fact Swansea have done a Newcastle on us and invested the Joe Allen fee and compensation payment for Rodgers very wisely on decent players whilst Saint Brendan has spent over £40 million on average ones. I say we should TWIST!!

  • vince

    Great article. Balanced, well argued and accurate analysis of LFC’s current situation.
    I believe we have to put our faith in BR and give him time and resources to build his vision.

  • Jdmec

    Would all those eeeediots complaining about Brendans lack of experience button it.
    AVB is some 3-4 years younger than RB but looking at the teams he’s managed previously with little top flight experience coupled with the fact Tottenham are currently sitting third in the EPL should tell you something. I’m sure if LFC were currently sitting third in the EPL we would not be debating his lack of experience. And before anyone spouts “Championms League winner” I’m not talking cup comps because being a C/L winner doesn’t change the fact that both managers have had around 4-5 yrs experience managing clubs. Get off RB’s back and at the very least give him the season.