Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool – The Pressure Is On
With the new Premier League season under way, Damien Kelly looks at how this is a huge year for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after last years title tilt.
With the new Premier League season under way, Damien Kelly looks at how this is a huge year for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
The first thing anyone thinks about when they consider Liverpool’s title chances this season is ‘well they’ve lost Suarez haven’t they?’. Before taking into account the rebuilding job Rodgers has done this summer, it is impossible to ignore that Liverpool’s foundations were rocked before this rebuilding began.
Granted, Rickie Lambert had already signed and the talk was well underway that Lallana, Lovren and others would join the reds; but losing Luis Suarez was the most notable transfer dealing, and possibly the most crucial to Liverpool’s title chances this summer. Rodgers may have known 6 months ago or even a year ago that the day was coming when Suarez would move on to greener pastures but no matter how much time he had to plan for this situation, Suarez is undoubtedly one of a small group of players in the world that are not replaceable.
Liverpool were the over-achievers of the season last time round, nobody saw a 2 nd place finish coming, let alone the title push they gave. Brendan Rodgers was the most crucial cog in Liverpool’s attacking machine during the 2013/14 season. Suarez was the star of the show, but even having a striker of his quality doesn’t get you to 2 nd place in the league. Rodgers brought the best out of players many had given up on, Jordan Henderson and Danny Sturridge being perfect examples. He brought through one of the country’s most exciting attacking stars in Raheem Sterling. He also made the best out of a squad which was seriously lacking in strength and depth.
Rodgers would be the first to admit that some of his signings were below par; Aspas, Alberto, Borini and Assaidi come to mind. Had Liverpool finish 7 th again, these names would be thrown at Rodgers at press conferences with the accusation that Liverpool failed to improve because the man at the helm had failed to improve the squad. Each of these players has or is likely to leave this summer and will be quickly forgotten because Rodgers succeeded with a group which was part inherited and part inspired by himself.
Rodgers has been the manager for two years now but for the first time, the transfer window will make the difference between Liverpool pushing for the Premier League again or falling back into the darkness of Europa league football, or worse. Luis Suarez is impossible to replace as an individual, however, given the funds available from Suarez’s sale, Rodgers has the opportunity to improve the squad which will need to have the quality and man power to deal with the Premier League and Champions League this season.
It needs to have the players to make up for the loss of Suarez’s goals, assists and the fear he put into the minds of opposition defenders. While the likes of Sterling, Coutinho and Sturridge performed brilliantly last season, they do not have their star man by their side anymore, it is time for them to step up another level and Markovic and Lallana will need to do the same.
It may be extremely optimistic to question, but perhaps there are positives to take from Suarez’s exit from Anfield. He was of course, un-droppable, the system had to fit Suarez. Rodgers created a fantastic partnership in Suarez and Sturridge last season and they combined brilliantly for Liverpool again and again. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it was the best option for the team. Playing two strikers became rather unfashionable over recent years with 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 systems dominating European football. With Suarez and Sturridge playing as a duo up top, Rodgers tried 3-5-2, a 4-4-2 diamond shape and a 4-4-2 playing two wingers high up the pitch. The team successfully adapted to Rodger’s various systems but perhaps now is the time to perfect 4-2-3-1 with Sturridge as the main striker. Lallana, Sterling and Markovic all fit the role of supporting Sturridge in attack. Coutinho is the ideal number 10 to play in behind, with Gerrard, Henderson, Can, Allen or Lucas taking up two midfield spots.
The options are now available to Rodgers. Where last year, the attacking options from the bench were Victor Moses or Iago Aspas, Rodgers now has players he believes in who have come through the youth system like Suso and Ibe or players he has spent big money on like Markovic and Lallana. In defence, Lovren is a man Rodgers expects to be a big presence, Manquillo and Moreno offer more solidity at full back positions. Had Rodgers failed last year, it would have been based on signing players who weren’t good enough, but nobody could say he overspent. This year, the club have backed him with a lot of money on players who are expected to perform. If they do not, Rodgers could fall rapidly.
Like Benitez before him, a 2 nd place finish means nothing if it is followed by failure. Liverpool may be a club whose tradition is based on past glories. However, its owners and its fans are determined to bring back those glories. Rodgers is about to face his toughest task yet. He took over a team which finished 8th in the Premier League. He exceeded expectations and led the team to its first title challenge in 5 years last year in a season where Liverpool fans dreamt of a Champions League spot but nothing more.
He now begins the season with expectations to excel in the champions league, to finish in the top 4 and to fight once again for the Premier League crown. It’s a massive task for Rodgers and this could be the season which defines his future as a manager.
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