Dan Holland has a look at the baffling case of our manager who seems to have gone backwards rather than building on last season’s incredible performances.
I don’t want to dwell too much on the result and performance from Tuesday, let just sum it up – an abhorrent first 45 minutes, shocking refereeing, and a stiff fight back when down to 10 men. The damage unfortunately had already been done in the previous 5 ties.
What I want to focus on is a man I revered last season, sitting in close proximity to the dugout I was often in awe of his attention to detail, his relationship with the players, his small tactical tweaks during and before a game but ultimately sticking to his principles and his seemingly calm demeanour. That man is obviously Brendan Rodgers, this season he looks the same (maybe a few pounds lighter) but is a million miles away from the man I and many others saw as the new Bill Shankly.
This isn’t a witch hunt or a call for his head because you don’t become a bad manager over night, I know he won’t read this but it is a request to go back to what you believe Brendan, stop panicking, stop changing things around and stop being so bloody stubborn!
Let’s start with the system that we play. Last season our best performances were unarguably when we adopted the diamond shape in midfield with two centre forwards who were constantly on the move, pulling defences left right and centre and creating a wealth of space and opportunity for those in and around them.
This season we have barely seen this tried and trusted formation. Yet last season when at home to Chelsea it called for a change of tactics, Rodgers refused to and stuck to his principles, possibly costing us the title.
Why the change this season? Yes we have lost one centre forward and are missing the other but that doesn’t mean it won’t work.
Can Lambert create the space and make these runs for 90 minutes? No. Will Balotelli do this? No. Borini can and will (to a far lesser degree) and so might, even, youngster Sheyi Ojo. Surely we are far better fitting round pegs in round holes despite one being no more than a youth player and the other being no more than a Sunderland standard player – at least until the window opens again and Sturridge is back.
The midfield four, who, where and why?
Last season the holding role went to the skipper, he did ok, nobody earmarked him as an issue last season. Yes in the last few games he’s proved his worth in a more attacking role so it’s debateable at which point of the diamond he fits.
The ‘wide’ options in the diamond are Hendo, Coutinho, Lallana and Allen. I personally would rule Allen out of that on the basis he has rarely impressed in a Liverpool shirt, good squad player but no more than that.
Hendo is a shoe in due to his energy and passion, a must when pressing constantly as we used to do. Coutinho is my choice as he has the ability to unlock any team at any moment but Lallana is a more than worthy replacement.
Raheem Sterling needs to operate in the hole, outside he is wasted and often finds himself crowded out. That leaves Stevie back in the holding role with Emre Can a very willing and able back up. Lucas? He’s had his day, constantly giving away free kicks and far too slow when going forward.
This leaves us with our nervous looking defence.
Johnson – I have never witnessed such a sharp decline in form. Skrtel – looks excellent when the rest of the defence is on their game, if one is slightly off colour he gets dragged down with them. Sakho – looked brilliant in the summer for France never reached that level with us. Toure – surely just a back up, born winner and a leader, good to have in a dressing room.
Lovren – was impressive for Southampton last season and look steady in the World Cup, a bad defender over night? I don’t think so. Manquillo and Moreno – brought in as huge prospects, seen only glimpses of that promise so far. Enrique – Before last night I would have said a steady performer but everyone has an off day. Flanno – badly missed.
These are all defenders with potential and ability to perform at the top level, is Brendan capable enough in the defensive department? I would suggest not as there seems no other reason for these list of players to all perform so under par. Brendan, swallow your pride and get in some help, somebody who can coach the defensive side of the game.
Rodgers has also lost his calm persona, seemingly panicking during games with his substitutions. Yes Lambert had a ‘mare on Tuesday but playing a false nine when you needed two goals to go through? Would Lambert not have had a better chance of converting that late chance than Martin Skrtel? Of course he would. There are other examples but I think you get my point.
The players are also appearing to question him, when he whistled from the touch line last season the players hung on his every word and would sprint to take further instructions. Just recently they are arguing back and questioning his judgement.
His signings also smack of desperation. Is, whatever you think of him, Balotelli a Rodgers kind of player? No he isn’t, this isn’t even up for debate. He doesn’t track back, he doesn’t press, and he doesn’t even move with his man from set pieces, he doesn’t subscribe to the team ethic – he is an individual. A baffling decision!
In summary, take a deep breath Brendan, look at your notes from last season, pick eleven players that best suit ‘our’ system, not our best eleven players and fit them into a system. Go back to basics and get someone in to help our defence, as without Suarez and Sturridge we are not going to score four a game so one or two a game will have to do so obviously need to concede less.