How long until patience with him wears thin at Anfield?
The old adage that the league normally sorts itself out after ten games is one which usually stands up to close inspection and certainly does so this season, but with Liverpool languishing down in 12th under new manager Brendan Rodgers, there are legitimate reasons for the club’s fans to be concerned. Should results fail to live up to expectations and the side continue to flounder inconsistently, how long until patience begins to wear thin about the man at the helm’s vision?
Firstly, let me just say that I find all the talk involving the word ‘philosophy’ absolutely farcical. It seems along the way, in an attempt to make yourself sound more intelligent, that this word has been confused with ‘style’. Liverpool have a clearly defined style, there’s no doubt about that, but let’s not pretend it encompasses more than one principle, which is keeping hold of the ball and using possession as both a means of attack and defence.
Capitalism, Anarchism, Darwinism, these are philosophies, these are schools of thought cultivated over years of work, debate and ideas. Passing a football well, something most teams would aim to do given they have the right resources and players available, most certainly is not.
There’s also the fact that Rodgers has shown a worrying lack of flexibility in adapting to new players. His two summer purchases of Joe Allen and Fabio Borini were both targeted because they were familiar with the new manager’s style of play and methods, with the thinking being that it would take them less time than usually associated with a new player to settle into fresh surroundings. It’s proved the case with Allen, who has been superb thus far, but for Borini, the jury is still well and truly out over whether he’s up to the task.
This also applies to the players that Rodgers has marginalised at the club and shipped out. Andy Carroll was allowed to depart simply because he’s incapable of playing the sweeping, counter-attacking, one-touch football the club has adopted. Meanwhile, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson have been reduced to Europa League outings for the most part on occasions when the squad is rotated.
This hasn’t stopped Rodgers from complaining of a ‘thin’ squad repeatedly, but when you alienate some of the only senior players that you have, then it’s no wonder that results have been erratic. Is a new manager’s job not to solve problems, particularly in light of the club’s reduced budget and belt-tightening? At every turn so far, Rodgers has taken the easy option out. To paraphrase a well-known saying, it really is his way or the highway.
It sounds as if he’s already pleading for more time too, hailing the Newcastle draw as a dominant performance and stating last week: “I have signed a three-year deal here and the process will go on beyond that. Hopefully I can be here to keep building it. I am loving every minute here. I came for the challenge, but it is easier said than done. I just look at the stats over the last three years and it has been going the other way. Our job was to spin that around and, through a lot of hard work, get us on an upward spiral.”
He’s argued that there’s ‘no quick fix’ and while I wouldn’t disagree, for the club has lacked stability for quite some time at every level which has only served to hasten the downward spiral that Rodgers talked about, the side wasn’t that bad last term under Kenny Dalglish.
It was unquestionably a cup side, capable of beating anyone on their day in the league and they did reach the FA Cup and Carling Cup finals, going on to win one with largely the same side. Ask yourself this, could you see the team doing that this season under Rodgers?
This is not to cast a wistful look back at Dalglish’s time in charge, because it became clear by the end of the campaign that the players had long since checked out mentally and gone on their holidays and some of the performances down the back straight were embarrassing, but they looked far more fluid, dangerous and intuitive going forward earlier on than anything we’ve seen so far this term.
Liverpool fans are often mocked for being paranoid and have an almost irrational sense of loyalty towards their club, rejecting even the faintest whiff of reasoned criticism. Of course, it’s a parody for the most part and there’s been a distinct lack of pressure placed on Rodgers so far from the fans. It seems they are willing to be patient for now just so long as it looks as if progress is being made.
Integrating young players such as the exciting crop of Andre Wisdom, Raheem Sterling and Suso into the starting eleven is the sort of move that the fans want to see and it’s a commendable approach which has bought him time, but should the club finish in the bottom half of the table by the end of the season, something not out of the realms of possibility at the moment, then where do the club go next?
That in itself is the real crux of the issue here – just how long to you give Rodgers to implement his ideas on the squad if results aren’t improving on a consistent enough basis? Is one season enough? Two? Three? Most managers get a honeymoon period, and Rodgers has made all the right noises about the culture and tradition of the club which means he’s well-liked by most, but when that gives way, is the football really all that much better than what they were capable of producing under Dalglish? The fact that these questions have been glossed over so far remains troubling and provides food for thought in the future.
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