Brendan Rodgers since the start of the season.
1. Score more goals – This isn’t a new one, granted, with the team’s profligacy in front of goal last term under Kenny Dalglish also hampering a stuttering Premier League campaign. With just 18 goals to their name in 14 league games, 10 other teams in the top flight have scored more, so it’s no coincidence that the side are sat as low as 12th at the moment. Goals win you games, and with only Luis Suarez really contributing in any substantial way, with 10 of those 18, then the side will continue to struggle. They need more cutting edge in and around the box, and for all the pretty passing, there’s very little in the way of penetration at the moment. Purchasing an out-and-out finisher in January may not be the answer to all of the team’s problems, but it would be a start and a step in the right direction.
2. How small the squad is – The summer saw the club radically reduce the wage bill with Andy Carroll (loan), Charlie Adam, Dirk Kuyt, Craig Bellamy and Maxi Rodriguez all allowed to depart after being on hefty sums, and the likes of Joe Allen, Fabio Borini and Oussama Assaidi won’t be on anywhere near as much. This has robbed Rodgers of the depth needed to sustain both a European and league campaign at the same time and youngsters such as Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Jonjo Shelvey and Suso have had to pad out a threadbare squad. January should not only be seen as a time to invest in quality, but numbers too should the budget allow it.
3. Complaining about officials – Nobody in their right mind would try to claim that Liverpool have had a fair rub of the green when it comes to decisions so far this term, and that they’ve still yet to receive a penalty is unfathomable considering the incidents on show. From the last-minute disallowed goal in the Merseyside derby for the wrong reason, the assault on Suarez from Leon Barnett to numerous other penalty calls, while some will even still try and argue that Jonjo Shelvey was harshly done by with his red card against Manchester United. Nevertheless, Rodgers has already complained to refereeing chief Mike Riley and to hear him go on about ‘embarrassing’ officiating in the aftermath of the Tottenham defeat is tiresome and fuels a sense of injustice which the fans are bound to buy into, but the extent to which you can keep making the same point over and over again does only serve to highlight that Rodgers needs to get over it and get on with the task in hand. Deflecting attention is a commonly used trait by most managers after poor results, but at least try and mix it up a bit, eh?
4. Over the top praise – Rodgers appears to have fallen into the trap of continually praising defeats as ‘magnificent’ or draws as ‘outstanding’ as he did during the quite forgettable home draw against Newcastle last month. We are not all idiots, we can use our own eyes to see what is unfolding before us and how to accurately judge how a team has performed, and the praise the manager is lauding on his players for mediocrity is getting laughable now. We all know a manager has to support his players, particularly in public and especially when some of them are so young and learning their trade, but can we do it without the fawning rhetoric, please? It would at least be more believable then.
5. Tactical flexibility – A plus point of Rodgers’ reign has been his willingness to shift between systems mid-game and make intelligent tactical changes. During the Merseyside derby, while the withdrawal of Kevin Mirallas through injury at the interval may have helped to curb Everton’s attacking threat somewhat, his switch to a 3-5-2 system to close down the channels made a big difference on the game. Like Jose Mourinho before him, he’s also started making tactical substitutions, often in the first half, with Suso taken off in the 36th minute for Jordan Henderson against Wigan, inverting the balance in midfield to have two holding and it had an impact on winning the battle in the middle of the park and ultimately the match. That he can spot where to change things on the pitch during the game, admit his mistakes and then fixing the problems points to a coach of some intellect. There’s a plan B on show, it just simply doesn’t involve hoofing the ball up to a big man like Carroll.
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