So at last, the Brendan Rodgers experiment at Anfield is over.
After the Northern Irishman was sacked by the club’s hierarchy following the draw against local rivals Everton at Goodison Park yesterday, thoughts naturally turned to who will succeed him in the Liverpool hot-seat.
The options at the moment seem to be either Jurgen Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti, with the former favourite at the present time. Whoever is chosen, the fact remains that this is a huge call from Fenway Sports Group (the club’s owners), who clearly thought that Rodgers had failed to get the best out of the talented squad he had been given to work with.
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So what will Rodgers’ legacy at Liverpool be? This is one of those instances where things are by no means black and white. Rafa Benitez will mostly be considered a success at Liverpool due to cup glory, and Roy Hodgson will be considered an ignominious failure due to his appalling record and the fact that fans were staying away from games in their droves.
This case is much less clear cut. Rodgers had a first season where Liverpool finished in the same position they had the year before, seventh, and fans were generally accepting that with a makeshift team, the manager would need more than one year to impose his preferred style and philosophy on the team. The next year was possibly the most exciting, engaging Premier League season for Liverpool in 20-odd years, and ended with Rodgers and his troops coming agonisingly close to securing the title.
One Steven Gerrard slip and one abysmal 12 minutes at Crystal Palace cost them the league, but fans were pleased that their team had finally, after so long, mounted a sustained title challenge that lasted until the final weekend. They had the SSS forward line, Gerrard pulling the strings in midfield, and a young, up and coming manager whose attacking style of play was generating support from neutrals all over the country. Next year was the year, they said. But then Luis Suarez was sold.
I believe that selling the brilliant Uruguayan knocked the stuffing out of Liverpool. Deprived of their best player and with their other main asset Daniel Sturridge enduring a miserable season dogged by persistent injuries, Liverpool looked a shadow of the side that had pushed Manchester City all the way in the title race just a few months earlier.
They scored basically half as many goals, and still showed the same defensive frailties, with their carefree, swashbuckling style now looking reckless and capable of exposing their defensive players. While a good run in the middle of the season did ease matters somewhat, the painful way they finished the campaign (that 6-1 defeat at Stoke and the defeat to Crystal Palace at home in Gerrard’s last game, for example) heaped more and more pressure on their manager going into the summer break.
Many thought he should have simply been told to leave then. They argued he’d had his chances, and better to get the upheaval out of the way before the new season started than wait for more poor results and things to get out of hand. Did they have a point? We’ll never know, but what we do know is that Rodgers’ last few months at Anfield were not happy ones.
Humiliating home games against West Ham, Carlisle and Sion were bad enough for the Anfield faithful, but it was the performances against West Ham at home and Manchester United away – lethargic, bereft of creativity and defensively shambolic – that surely will have convinced the owners that now was the time to part company with the manager.
Right decision but want to wish him all the best for the future. He will become a top manager just not with us. Good luck Brendan. #lfc
— Anfield HQ (@AnfieldHQ) October 4, 2015
In the end, Rodgers failed. He failed to deliver the Champions League in his first season, he failed to deliver the title when expertly placed in his second year (which, it must be said, was still a glorious time for the club), and he failed to stop the rot near the end of his tenure.
This is not to say he was a bad manager or that he was in the Hodgson bracket of failure. Put simply, he did not win enough big games at big times. The record against United and against the other title-chasing sides did not help him out, and neither did some of the defensive collapses he presided over.
Injuries also played their part, but great managers don’t let those become excuses. He came very close indeed to being a brilliant manager for Liverpool – just not quite close enough.
— Titanbet (@TitanBet) September 30, 2015