When Brendan Rodgers became the manager of Liverpool, he was tasked with only one job: to get them back into the top four.
Usually, not a lot of top football clubs would appoint a manager with just a years’ experience in top flight football. Manager that come from the Championship usually find it difficult to stay in the Premier League and make a name for themselves. However, Rodgers made sure his first season in the Premier League would be a one to remember. In his first season in the Premier League, he finished 11th with Swansea and also defeated the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City in the process.
First season as Liverpool manager
In his first season with Liverpool, they finished 7th in the league and were eliminated in the 4th round of the FA Cup and the League Cup. They struggled to keep pace with the top clubs and during the first half of the season it looked like they would not finish in top half of the league. There was a point where Liverpool had lost hope completely because they were losing to lowly teams despite having a decent squad.
Among all the negativity, Liverpool’s season did take a turn in the right direction when they signed Sturridge and Coutinho in January. Both these players were key in helping Liverpool finish 7th, especially Sturridge as he scored 11 goals by the end of the season. Despite Liverpool not qualifying for Europe the board and the fans were content as they understood that Rodgers needed time to make Liverpool a top club again. For a manager who was just in his second season in the Premier League and having managed Championship teams in the past, I feel Rodgers did a decent job.
Rodgers excellent second season
In his second season, I personally felt Rodgers deserved the Manager of the year award. In just one season he made Liverpool into a title challenging club. Not a lot of people expected Liverpool to perform so well under Rodgers, who was just in his third season as a Premier League manager. It usually takes a manager with such little experience a lot more time to cope with the pressures of the Premier League. Liverpool were never out of top four for the whole season and they managed to score a record 101 goals that season.
Of course, they had the benefit of not playing in any European competition but still Liverpool were outstanding that season. Liverpool’s aim that season was to challenge for a top four spot, and Rodgers almost won them the title. That season Steven Gerard described Rodgers' as the best manager he has had.
Liverpool’s current struggle
Everyone expected Liverpool to take last season's momentum and challenge for a top four spot this season. Those hopes were shattered when Luis Suarez was sold to Barcelona. Despite his biting incident at the World Cup, Liverpool should not have given up so easily on them. Suarez’s sale is a key factor as to why they are performing badly this season. A team will obviously feel weak mentally after their best player is sold.
To make things worse, Agger who was a key player at the heart of Liverpool’s defence was sold too. Liverpool spent around €117 million on new players, but none of them have performed well up until now especially Mario Balotelli from whom a lot was expected. Liverpool started this season in a horrible form as they managed to win only six games until mid-December. They also failed to progress to the next round of the Champions League for which they worked so hard last season.
Transfer mistakes and what they should have done
Despite buying players to replace Suarez and Agger Liverpool have still been struggling at both ends of the pitch. In defence, Dejan Lovren has been struggling for form this season, and they were forced to play Emre Can in a more central defensive role something he is not used to. Sakho too has been finding life at Liverpool difficult because of injuries forcing them to rely on Kolo Toure.
In attack, they got Balotelli to replace Suarez and to partner Struddige up front, but things did not work out for them as Balotelli was just not able to gel with team and things got worse when Struddige got injured. After Suarez left Liverpool bought a lot of unknown players because of the pressure from the fans and to meet expectations. It’s clear that they did that because most of the players they bought over the summer are either injured or not at the top of their game. Liverpool should have spent money on experienced players rather than buying young unknown players in bulk. Personally, I feel they did not have to buy so many players. They should have just invested in two good central defenders and two world-class striker.
Rodgers bad team selection
With Balotelli not performing and Sturridge’s injury Liverpool had no recognised striker to play upfront with Borini out injured as well. They had to rely on Raheem Sterling who is known for his pace and crossing abilities to play upfront as a striker.
Because of the number of injuries Liverpool have had to play a lot of players in positions they are not comfortable with. At the moment, they are relying on Kolo Toure in defence. Not to insult him but I feel Kolo is not the best defensive player to have in your starting line up if you are challenging for a top four spot. Last season Liverpool signed a young defender by the name of Tiago Ilori, and I feel he would any day be a better defender to have than Kolo.
Also, Rodgers should have known that if you buy a player like Balotelli, its risky business and given that Struddige has a history of injury problems he should have invested in another striker. Rodgers does have a lot of depth in his squad, but he chooses not to use all his players. For the last few games, he has been using Jorden Henderson as a wing back despite having Glen Johnson. Furthermore, Liverpool spent £10 million on Rickie Lambert, who just sits on the bench every game.
What was the point of buying him if you are not going to play him? Rodgers needs to trust his players more. Liverpool have been struggling to get goals this season because of Rodger's errors. They have just managed to score 47 goals this season, which is so less compared to 101 goals they scored last season.
Rodgers is the kind of manager who likes the passing game. He does not like his team slowing down the pace of the game, he likes to keep the ball moving. Defensively he likes to put a lot of pressure on the opposition attackers and likes to win the ball back quickly. He has a set of tactics that he believes in. However, when you come to the Premier League, you cannot stick to only a certain set of tactics.
This has been the case for Liverpool this season. He kept of believing in his tactics, and it backfired at him as Liverpool struggled in the first half of this season. Then in December, he finally switched to a 3-4-3 formation. Because of this, he has garnered a lot of praise for his tactical flexibility and getting his sides out of tough situations. His new formation and change in tactics has helped Liverpool climb from 12th to 5th in just three months. Despite all the injuries, the players playing out of position and all the failed transfers, he has still managed to form a decent squad.
Silver lining for Liverpool
Rodgers has been tasked with rebuilding Liverpool now after Steven Gerrard announced that he too would be leaving the club at the end of the season. Liverpool have a fairly young squad with a lot of talent and potential, and now that they have been eliminated from the FA Cup, they need a 5th place finish considering the standards set by Rodgers last season. Being such a young and inexperienced manager he still has a lot to learn, and these mistakes will certainly make him a better manager.
This is just his third season in the Premier League and for a manager with such little experience, he has already proven himself. Looking at what he achieved last season with Liverpool, no doubt he is a great manager it’s just that he needs time to get Liverpool back on top and the fans need to support him in this task. The rebuilding process will take time, and Liverpool cannot sell anymore of their players, especially Sterling. Even if they do they should not buy players like they did last time.
When Rodgers took over Swansea in a years time he got them promoted and a year later he cemented their place in the premier league. Not a lot of managers can do that. He did the same with Liverpool, in just two years he almost won them the title. There is no doubt in my mind that one day Brendan Rodgers will be the first manager to lift the Premier League trophy with Liverpool.