It was the most surprising bit of unsurprising news of the season – Brendan Rodgers was sacked by club owner John W Henry’s Fenway Sports Group (FSG).
We are told that the result away to Everton had no bearing on his sacking, that Rodgers was out on his ear no matter what happened. FSG just didn’t want to rock the boat before such a huge game.
It seems Rodgers has paid the price for poor performances so far this season. After all the money he has spent, the board thought he should’ve done better with the start to the campaign.
Well, Rodgers and the mysterious ‘transfer committee’, presumably a hooded and robed-up group of club elders who convene in secret, under cover of darkness, to discuss the club’s transfer policy and OK deals. In this case, though, it was Brendan Rodgers who was sacrificed before the altar of form, an effort to appease the Gods of performances and set Liverpool free of the curse of under-performance.
Instead, the club will appoint someone else. Klopp? De Boer? Ancelotti? Big Sam Allardyce?
What you have to wonder is if any new manager can do any better than Rodgers just at the moment. If FSG are of the opinion that Rodgers should have done better with the squad available, then they must be of the opinion that whichever manager they do decide to bring in will do better with the squad they have available.
Yet, sacking a manager is usually admitting a mistake. It’s not to say that it was a mistake to appoint Rodgers, but it is to say that if you sack someone you must think you’ve made a mistake somewhere along the line. FSG may be admitting some sort of mistake here, but the next step to admitting the mistake is doing something to rectify it. Once you appoint a new manager, you have to back him with the cash to take the club in a new direction – a direction that doesn’t lead into yet another mistake.
So what can a new manager do to turn the tide? At least, what can they do differently? And the answer, for the moment, must be very little.
Brendan Rodgers tried everything – he came into the club trying to play a sophisticated passing game, moved on to the counter attack in order to utilise the pace of Sterling, Sturridge and Suarez, then tried to play with three defenders, starting attacks from deep using Emre Can as a centre back.
Rodgers has chopped and changed more than any other manager in the league. In fact, in buying versatile, team-oriented players like James Milner and Roberto Firmino to add to the likes of Emre Can and Adam Lallana, Rodgers seems to have actively planned to chop and change.
So a new manager can do very little in terms of changing tack, at least until January. And in January there’s another question – will the board back the new man to spend money?
Brendan Rodgers was given almost £300m to spend during his tenure at Liverpool, and although a lot of money was received from the sales of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, that’s significant backing to give to a manager.
To sack him now is either to say he didn’t use it wisely – and then, surely the buck stops with the ‘transfer committee’ at least as much as it does with the manager – or it’s to say that he should get the team performing better than they have done given the resources used. It looks like the latter, and if it is, will FSG be reluctant to give the new manager more funds? Will they tell him his job isn’t to bring in new players and build a team in his image, but rather to mould this particular group into a team that can compete for Champions League football?
Tom Werner, Aug 2015: “A Champions League spot is always the target." Rodgers, Oct 2015: “I have never been asked or told to deliver that."
— This Is Anfield (@thisisanfield) October 4, 2015
The decision to appoint a new manager is critical – you have to get it right. But in this case, I wonder if the bigger decision is the direction the American owners choose for the club. If they back a new manager with funds and admit their mistake in hiring Rodgers, or if they simply admit that Rodgers wasn’t the right man for the job at the right time.
If they don’t own up to a mistake in policy, a new manager is going to come into the club and find the same problems, and he’ll have to turn to the same old methods to fix it. This is a crucial time for the club, but I’m not convinced that the owners know what they’re doing.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015