Brendan Rodgers has come under plenty of fire in recent weeks following Liverpool’s poor start to the season and his resting of key players against Real Madrid. He’s paying the price for last season’s success, writes Henry Jackson.
We as football fans can be an extremely fickle bunch, and although Brendan Rodgers has made errors in recent weeks, some of the criticism that has come the Northern Irishman’s way is bordering on ludicrous. Are there actually some people who want him sacked?
This is a man who guided the Reds to within three games of the greatest title win in the history of the Premier League last season. The football being played was extraordinary, even if defensively they were shaky.
Sure, his detractors will claim that Luis Suarez did it all himself, and that Rodgers simply had to stand on the touchline and marvel at the brilliant Uruguayan winning games for his side. That is utter nonsense.
The truth of the matter is that Rodgers has made a rod for his own back. By doing so brilliantly last season, against all expectations- there were many fans and ‘experts’ who felt even a top-four challenge was out of the question- there are those who now expect the Reds to be champions in 2014/15.
As it happens, Rodgers is not really behind schedule. When he arrived in the summer of 2012, Liverpool were way adrift of the top teams in the country. He always said that it would take time to get the Reds back in the Champions League, let alone among the title hopefuls, and although last season was a wonderfully pleasant surprise, it has to be deemed an anomaly for now.
Chelsea have strengthened greatly by signing Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, Manchester City will always be in the mix, Arsenal have shown time and time again that they will finish in the top four and Manchester United, despite another enjoyably poor start to the season, will likely become a force under Louis van Gaal sooner rather than later.
This, therefore, probably means Liverpool are the fifth-best team in the Premier League, and are the outsiders to finish fourth out of their rivals. That is where Rodgers is currently at in terms of his squad, not among the top two like some seem to think.
It’s absolutely vital to stress that Rodgers is far from blameless by any means though. The 41-year-old has to shoulder a huge amount of responsibility for his side’s below-par start to the campaign.
He has chopped and changed his defence far too often, leading to a complete lack of understanding and consistency at the back, he has continued to persevere with the 4-2-3-1 formation that barely benefits a single player in the side, and the way he constantly lauds his players, calling them “outstanding” on the training pitch, as an example, has put extra pressure on them.
Showing faith in your players is one thing, but overdoing it completely can be detrimental and get fans expecting too much. He also makes himself looked stupid when their performances on matchday are completely lacking.
His decision to rest the likes of Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli for Tuesday’s game with Real Madrid has not gone down well with many, and that flame will only be put out if they do well against Chelsea on Saturday with the aforementioned key men playing a starring role.
Despite his critics, there are still many who truly believe that Rodgers is the man who will bring the glory days back to Anfield. He is still a very young manager who is learning week in, week out, and we must accept that he will make errors along the way. Sir Alex Ferguson struggled for half a decade when he arrived at Old Trafford, didn’t he? Rodgers has only been in charge for a little over two years.
There can be no denying that vast improvements are needed, both from the manager and the players, but a bit of perspective is needed. Last season’s brilliance has made some supporters too expectant and impatient of Rodgers, but it’s still very early days for him, and he remains top class.