Carlisle at home was surely a game for Brendan Rodgers to ease the mounting pressure on his Liverpool managerial career. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan as the reds scraped through via penalties against a side ranked 65 places below them in the football pyramid.
Rodgers joined Liverpool as manager in June 2012 and immediately began installing his passing philosophy into the team. In his first season in charge the reds finished 7th, one place higher than their previous season.
But it was the 2013/14 season where Rodgers and Liverpool saw real improvement. They eventually finished second behind Manchester City after winning eleven straight games and leading the table with three games to go. Unfortunately a 2-0 home defeat to Chelsea followed by a 3-3 draw away at Crystal Palace was enough to gift the title to City. The stars of that season were undoubtedly the forward pairing of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, who between them managed to rack up 52 Premier League goals.
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The start of the 2014/15 season saw Liverpool’s prize asset Luis Suarez sold to Barcelona for a fee in the region of £75million and he wasn’t the only important red’s player to leave that summer, with Pepe Reina leaving for Bayern Munich and Daniel Agger returning to his native Denmark with Brondby. Rodgers, however did spend £117 million on players he thought would replace those who had left, but also players that would further strengthen the Anfield club.
Suarez’s replacement arrived in the shape of extrovert forward Mario Balotelli (£16million) with Agger’s being Southampton centre half Dejan Lovren ($20million). Rodgers also brought in Southampton duo Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana, German international Emre Can and Benfica winger Lazar Markovic, all for a combined total of £59 million.
Rodger’s signings were not making an impact, with Balotelli being more of a hindrance than Suarez’s replacement, Lambert making only 7 Premier League starts and Can, Markovic and Lovren all failing to impress and live up to their hefty price tags. Liverpool stuttered and, once again, finished outside the top four in 6th position. In doing so, Rodger’s picked up the unwanted title as the only Liverpool manager since the 1950’s to not win a trophy in his first three seasons in charge.
At the end of the 2014/15 season, Liverpool’s hero and leader Steven Gerrard left the club to join the growing list of world class names in the MLS. Gerrard had announced that if he had been offered a contract during the summer of 2014 he would have signed for another year at Anfield; that offer did not arrive until November and, with Rodgers monitoring Gerrard’s playing time, the moment had arrived for the famous number 8 to finally end his wonderful Liverpool career. But could Rodgers have done more to keep a player that would surely have still made an impact on and off the pitch?
With Liverpool starting their current Premier League season slowly and currently lying 13th with two wins, two draws and two defeats to their name, the pressure is increasing on Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers appears unsure of his best starting 11 and can be seen regularly changing formation between a 3-4-1-2, a 4-3-3 and a 4-3-1-2, which can only unsettle his players further.
Rodgers has frustrated many with his constant defence of his team in post-match interviews, regardless of their result or performance. Liverpool lost convincingly at fierce rivals Manchester United with Rodgers starting with inexperienced full back Joe Gomez who later gave away a penalty for United’s vital second goal. The young full back had started the season well, but was Rodgers naïve to not start a more experienced defender? Especially with Sakho, Toure and Moreno all on the bench and, especially, given the magnitude of the game.
It certainly will not get any easier for Rodgers as his side entertain fellow strugglers Aston Villa this weekend. They then face a tough trip to local Merseyside rivals Everton, followed by a trip to face an ever improving Tottenham side.
With former Premier League, Seria A and Ligue 1 title winning coach Carlo Ancelotti currently unemployed and being touted as Rodgers’ potential replacement, along with German mastermind Jürgen Klopp, Rodgers will no doubt be feeling the pressure.
A top four finish is again very unlikely this season and Rodgers must focus on bringing some silverware to the Anfield trophy cabinets, or risk being becoming the first Premier League managerial casualty.