As Stoke City prepare for their trip to Anfield, Brendan Rodgers is in the midst of the biggest challenge of his managerial career to date – trying to end his side’s poor run of three straight league defeats
Today the Liverpool manager put on another brave face, but still acknowledged he was potentially “favourite for the sack.”
In his pre-match press conference Rodgers also said “for me, it’s about working with the players, providing even more clarity in their roles and the function of the team.”
Even the most positive Reds’ supporter must look on these latest comments with suspicion. There is a general resignation amongst fans on social media that the preparation the manager refers to will just result in more of the same at Anfield tomorrow.
The same names appearing on the team sheet, the same issues manifesting themselves on the pitch and, as a consequence, the same poor performance with a result to match.
Rodgers’ continues to baffle and frustrate in equal measures with his selection of underperforming members of the squad. This blind loyalty is the manager’s Achilles heel and he may eventually pay for it with his job if things don’t improve soon.
There is something not quite right. There is something that continues to bind the boss to his trusted lieutenants regardless of the ongoing problems the team face. The manager continues to select players showing anything but the qualities to suggest they can be called ‘trusted’ at the moment.
Stubborn. Single-minded. Arrogant. Brendan Rodgers has been called it all this season with his refusal to mix things up.
Dejan Lovren and Martin Skrtel will never be a centre back pairing to rely on and the only defender who can add something they lack cannot nail down a place in the team. Kolo Toure has been much maligned in his time at the club but offers organisation and a safety first mentality whenever called upon.
The annual Steven Gerrard debate is not going away this time round. There is none of last season’s swashbuckling forward play ahead of him to hide his obvious flaws when playing deeper, especially against a physically superior midfield, and he does not appear to have come close to mentally recovering from slipping against Chelsea.
Questions have to be asked about the skipper’s strong relationship with the manager. Is this contributing to the fact Gerrard plays every game without fail, despite being 34 and barely warranting his place.
The captain is being visibly targeted by the opposition. At a time the manager should be looking to get back to basics and become harder to beat, it is clear for all Liverpool fans to see that the defence doesn’t need a static playmaker being bypassed by onrushing attackers but a defensive shield to adequately protect the exposed backline.
In what could be his last season at the club, Gerrard deserves so much more than his manager is currently giving him. Along with a rest, a role as an impact substitute where his qualities can be used more effectively would suit all parties.
The stand out performers over the last few weeks have confusingly either been dropped or substituted when chasing the game. Emre Can and Phillip Coutinho against Chelsea and Joe Allen at Crystal Palace all deserved longer in those matches, but it was the players who have continually disappointed who were left on for their performances to deteriorate further.
Rodgers is setting a dangerous precedent. Good performances are not being rewarded and the places are not under threat for those continually not playing to the level expected. Lucas Leiva and Alberto Moreno have both certainly deserved to start more games during Liverpool’s bad run of form. If only to become less predictable to the opposition there has been a complete reluctance to change things.
Loyalty is often seen as a throwaway trait in football these days. Players are no longer loyal to their clubs and fans are criticised for their lack of it during a bad patch of form. Loyalty to his favourite players could see Brendan Rodgers pay the ultimate price, becoming just another in the long line of Liverpool managers who left having failed to return the club to the top of the English game.
It would be a sad end considering the entertainment Rodgers’ side gave the league last season, but if he isn’t careful it will prove those who said it was a fluke entirely correct.