04 October 2015

On Brendan Rodgers

Can something be completely expected and wholly unexpected at the same time? Decisive and indecisive?

Brendan Rodgers has felt like a dead man walking since Liverpool hit its first stutter in August. Brendan Rodgers probably should have been fired last May, after that abysmal season hit it lowest low at Stoke. But FSG gave him a chance to make amends, for whatever reason, and when amends didn't seem like coming, FSG pulled the rug out. Feel free to pick your narrative: whether it shows FSG acting at long last or whether it's FSG scrambling for answers. I honestly don't know.

You all suffered through the last 16 months, same as I. The dire, depressing football. Repeated mistakes regardless of opposition or tactics. Little evidence of improvement, little evidence of any grand tactical plan to fix the failings. The transfer debacles, even if it's still unclear who's to blame for each purchase.

I have a theory why Brendan Rodgers was fired.

The short version: Suarez left, Sturridge got injured, Liverpool stopped scoring. I know, it's radical.

Every now and then, Liverpool would put a decent defensive run together. The end of 2012-13 through the start of 2013-14. Midway through last season. The first three matches this season, even if they were bracketed by 1-3 Palace, 1-6 Stoke and then 0-3 West Ham, 1-3 United. But Liverpool consistently let in at least one goal, if not more, throughout the course of Rodgers' tenure.

No matter who Liverpool signed, no matter who Liverpool played, no matter what formation Rodgers tried. Liverpool have not been able to score for more than a season, let alone come anywhere near the free-scoring tumult which nearly led to the title two seasons ago.

2012-13 showed promise, a plan. 2013-14 was unbelievable. 2014-15 was an abomination. And 2015-16 was cut short because it looked far too much like the previous season rather than the first or second.

It was only 16 short or long months ago that Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool nearly won the title, the only good season in five years, scoring a record 101 goals in the process.

I suspect you remember the issues. That lack of goals. Consistent failings in big games, in the league, cups, and Europe, especially away from home. A scattershot approach to tactics and formations over the last calendar year, sometimes deploying three in the same match, which Liverpool inevitably drew or lost. Since the beginning of last season, Liverpool won just one (1) league match after going behind: 3-1 at Leicester in December. Since the beginning of last season, Liverpool lost or drew eight league matches after taking a lead, including this most recent.

This had to happen. And since it didn't happen last May, that it's happening before an international break, giving Liverpool time to make the hire before fast and furious league, Europe, and cup campaigns resume is at least small consolation. It wasn't the right time, but it's a right time.

It is hard to reconcile 2013-14 with what followed, especially now, at the end. I've been following Liverpool for nearly 15 years. I've been doing this blog for nine. There were seasons with better reward – 2001, 2005, even 2006 – but the 2013-14 version of Liverpool was the most fun I've ever had watching football. It was exhilarating, it was non-stop, it was a Tasmanian Devil wrecking machine, until it came up against Chelsea's anti-football, and the slip, and the decline, and the descent into madness. This, by The Anfield Wrap's Neil Atkinson, is absolutely required reading, probably the best Rodgers eulogy you'll see.

Sure, a lot of credit for that season goes to Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge, especially considering what came after, but Rodgers at least put Liverpool in the position for them to succeed, for Liverpool to succeed. You could say similar about 2008-09, that Gerrard and Torres carried Liverpool to that almost. But, like with Benitez, that success gets you approximately one season. You're only as good as your best players, and only as good as your manager gets out of those players. And you're only as good as your last season.

At the end, you remember the good times. And you expect the next man up to be better.

Good luck with whatever follows, Brendan. It's sad that won't be at Liverpool, but it had to happen.

1 comment :

winstonoyy said...

I'm hesitant to give Rodgers too much credit for season 13/14; I can't help thinking if a more resilient manager could have won us that title given the free-scoring talent we had in that awesome SASAS team. In fact, as you have pointed out, he is mediocre as can be (13/14 being an outlier, statistically). Comparatively, he would rank higher in my books than Roy Hodgson but we need to recognise that he had more resources at his disposal as well. All the best to his next stint.