It’s dominated the news this week that Liverpool have parted ways with manager Brendan Rodgers and are set to replace him with ex-Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp.
I’d written a piece a few months prior to this stating that Rodgers was inept and would be sacked before Christmas yet even I still have sympathy with the Northern Irishman. In my opinion, it wasn’t very moral to dismiss him at such a moment, on the back of a hard fought point in the Merseyside derby. It was a game many expected the Toffees to take yet their rivals managed to snatch a point despite being under the cosh for large period. Admittedly it was timely for the club ahead of the international break but I just felt it lacked a bit of class and respect to dismiss him hours after a decent result at a tough arena.
Equally, I’m not a fan of the transfer committee malarkey behind the scenes. The good old days when managers alone signed the players are seemingly a thing of the past with many clubs now having deployed interferers who generally do more harm than good. I had lambasted the signings of Rodgers in my previous article but perhaps now a rethink would be needed for how can we be sure who and who are not his desired players? He might have asked for Phillipe Coutinho’s services and been pressured into buying Lazar Markovic or vice versa which leaves so much ambiguity on this front. Yes one could argue he was part of that four man committee but if three of those are insistent on the purchase of one player, it would be very difficult to ignore those nagging background voices for too long.
One big burning question of course if whether Rodgers has actually done a poor job or whether ambitions for the club are unrealistic. By the law of averages, if you continue to sell your best players year-on-year you’re bound to hinder progression. It’s alright saying sign a like-for-like replacement but factor in that the wages you were paying for that superstar you’ve just lost, Luis Suarez for example, are probably half of what someone such as Karim Benzema would have been earning at Anfield. So while incoming players during his tenure may have largely flattered to deceive, people must realise the difficulty of bringing in unknown foreigners or academy based players and getting them to meet the standard almost immediately to prevent unrest. So to balance the fact that Liverpool are ultimately a selling club with the expectation of them challenging with the elite is a hard act to get right – except for during one thrilling campaign in which many of the pieces of the jigsaw were in place.
The 2013-14 season really does polarise opinions. On the one hand, people will hail him for pivoting Liverpool’s best season in many years while others will criticise that he should have handed them the title with the opportunity that he had. In all honesty, I’m in the latter camp as with forward-thinking players such as Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Steven Gerrard, Jordon Henderson and Coutinho, they only needed to work on their defence and they’d have stormed to the top of the league – and stayed there. Yet Rodgers’ managerial naivety here was quite clear in that he felt if the opposition scored one or two, his team could get three or four and out-blitz them. Inevitably it was his defence that cost him the title and people could see it a mile away yet little was done in January, or on the training ground, to work on that department. That frail defence has been a common denominator throughout his time as manager of the Reds and this was partly down to the stubbornness in playing his passing philosophy and refusal to tinker it, which in a way links to his overall mantra and persona.
He was often seemingly laid back and lacking that passion and drive that the watching faithful would have liked to see. Recently in that narrow penalty shootout win over lowly Carlisle, Rodgers barely moved from his dugout seat to try and spur his troops on and this was perhaps testament of his mood, particularly during the latter stages of his tenure. Right now Liverpool aren’t a top four club and don’t really have the players to make the Champions League spots but someone with the energy and charisma of Klopp will help energise every layer of the club from the players, to the fan base. Ultimately you can’t change his domineer which was starting to become rather stale but it’s not quite as clear cut as to say he was a bad manager. It was right for him to leave and perhaps I’ve mellowed over these past few months but that job is an incredibly difficult one to take on, regardless of the personnel, and Rodgers should move on to other projects with that great self belief still intact.