After an encouraging first three games of the season, Liverpool’s 2014/15 campaign appears to have ground to a halt. Just two points from their last four games – including a lifeless 1-1 home draw with newly promoted Norwich – have opened the doors for the Brendan Rodgers haters to come flooding back in, and it appears that the pressure is really on the Northern Irishman, who admitted on Friday that his job is not safe.
The shadows of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti loom large in the background, while other candidates such as Garry Monk and Eddie Howe are being spoken about by Reds supporters lusting after change, and unless things turn around pretty quickly they could get their wishes.
Poor results against Aston Villa, FC Sion and Everton – perhaps a final nail in the coffin waiting to happen – may see the axe fall, and any new boss to come in will have a talented squad to work with.
It may not only be the fans hoping for change, as these FIVE Liverpool players might actually be secretly hoping that a new manager comes in to help get the best from their own skillsets…
There’s no doubting Emre Can’s potential, but right now the young German seems a little lost. Shifted between centre-back, right-back, holding midfield and a traditional central-midfield position, the 21-year-old has struggled to find any sort of consistency, which has reflected in his hot and cold showings so far. His bulky frame and neat passing seem well suited to an anchoring role in the centre of the pitch, yet under Rodgers he appears to have too many tasks being thrown at him, which could be a reason for his often erratic showings. A different manager may dedicate more time to settling him into one concrete position, as right now his versatility could grow into his biggest weakness.
A former captain of Paris Saint-Germain and a regular in the France international side, Sakho’s recent exclusions from Rodgers’ plans have been baffling. Dejan Lovren’s injury issues appear to have opened an unchallenged route into the starting XI, but the Kop chief seems to have his doubts about the 25-year-old. In some was such concerns have a foundation – he’s been injured regularly since his 2013 arrival, while his playing style brings the threat of individual errors at the back – but with Lovren and Martin Skrtel both struggling, perhaps the shift to Sakho should have been made a few weeks ago. A new manager may look to build the Reds’ rearguard around the Frenchman, whose power, pace and ability on the ball are the building blocks needed to be a top-class modern centre-back.
Balotelli is still a Liverpool player. His return to AC Milan is only a loan deal, so there’s every chance that he could be heading back to Anfield next year. It’s fair to say that the gamble of 2014 didn’t quite work out, but it was not entirely Balotelli’s fault that his Merseyside career was blighted by disappointment.
Okay, the player’s attitude and work-rate, both in training and on the pitch, are questionable at best, but Rodgers didn’t do much to help his case. The Northern Irishman was intent on playing the same style of football that brought the best from Luis Suarez, despite ‘Balo’ being a very different attacking force, while a lack of chances in a front two also had a negative impact on Balotelli, who is known to be a player at his best when dropping slightly deeper.
Should he return, a different coach could extract the undoubted potential the 25-year-old has.
Although Lovren has become a bit of a joke figure since his move from Southampton to Liverpool, the 26-year-old is by no means a bad footballer. The Croatia international was one of the Premier League’s top centre-backs under Mauricio Pochettino with the Saints, where he was not left overly-exposed and certainly wasn’t given too much responsibility in terms of keeping hold of possession.
Pochettino showed that if Lovren has a good shield in front of him he is a commanding defender, but under Rodgers he’s been forced to work behind an ageing Steven Gerrard, a slowing Lucas Leiva or Joe Allen – none of whom are genuine holding midfielders. A new manager with a greater preference for building a balanced midfield could prise the former Lyon man’s confidence back to the fore.
Benteke has looked pretty good so far in a Liverpool shirt. Two goals, including a wonder-strike at Manchester United, illustrate that he’s getting into the right positions, and the fact his return counts for 50% of the Reds’ goals – although a worrying figure for the team given they have netted just four – is proof that he’s a key influence. However, it seems that Rodgers is almost embarrassed to play to the Belgian’s strengths, with the Merseysiders reluctant to put in crosses from wide and equally hesitant to adopt a more direct approach.