Liverpool's 1-1 draw to Norwich at Anfield on Sunday was far from the result Brendan Rodgers desired and left Liverpool winless in their last three Premier League matches.
Rodgers spent over £70 million on new recruits in the summer and pressure is mounting on the Northern Irishman. There were scattered boos at Anfield at full-time against the Canaries. They were difficult to pick up, but Rodgers would have heard them loud and clearly.
The ex-Swansea City boss knows there is an incredible amount of pressure on his shoulders and there is a significant fan following who want him replaced at the helm. Jurgen Klopp is patiently sitting in the waiting wings and he is many Kopites' ideal candidate to take over.
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Rodgers has, and is, in his most important period as Liverpool manager.
Including the Norwich match, the Reds have four consecutive home games. Four wins was the absolute minimum expected and that chance has now scuppered.
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Not good enough
It was obvious that Rodgers knew that four wins was required. Liverpool had a mid-season revival last campaign when they switched to playing three at the back. It wasn't the prettiest, it was by no means a permanent transition; however, it was one that, in the circumstances, worked successfully.
The three-man defence was, eventually, exposed and contributed to the Reds' end of season collapse. The arrival of Nathaniel Clyne for £12 million from Southampton was to fill the void of right-back that Rodgers desperately lacked last term. The 43-year-old was forced to temporarily employ Emre Can there who could not adapt and was unmasked on the right-hand side of defence.
Rodgers went back to three in defence mid-week away at Bordeaux in the Europa League and, although there was a bit more coherence about the team, the performance was still not all that convincing.
It came as a surprise to that the Liverpool manager stuck to the three in defence system against Norwich. Based on the team-sheet it looked like four at the back was going to be deployed.
However, the pressure which Rodgers is feeling oozed out and his tactics spoke volumes. He knows it has worked in the past and it acted as somewhat of a safety net to his job. "We've got results like that before under the cosh and it could work again" he probably thought to himself.
Although Liverpool's overall performance was an improvement to the league losses against West Ham United and Manchester United, it was by no means a display that fans deemed acceptable against a newly promoted side.
Danny Ings grabbed his first Liverpool goal just minutes after replacing Christian Benteke - who went off with a hamstring injury at half-time - and some of Rodgers' summer transfer business looks justified.
Nonetheless, it would have been a much smarter move to have started the match with the former Burnley striker. He performed admirably as a substitute against West Ham United and was unfairly stuck out wide at Old Trafford.
Ings looked a breath of fresh air coming on against the Canaries. He's had limited opportunities thus far at Anfield but took his chance with both hands. He was lively, bubbly and looked to expose the visitors back-four and took his goal sublimely after controlling Alberto Moreno's cross well and fired past John Ruddy.
Ings' performance suggested that he should have started the game ahead of Daniel Sturridge.
Sturridge had not stepped on a football field in five months and underwent a heavy rehabilitation programme for his ongoing hip injury during the summer.
Much like opting for three in defence, Rodgers chose Sturridge to start because it is what has worked previously. The England international was top-class throughout the season when Liverpool came within a whisker of winning the title in 2014.
Sturridge brought his manager arguably the greatest success of hos career and Rodgers was relying on the former Chelsea man for glory once again.
The 26-year-old's performance was how many expected him to perform. His usual flair, movement, speed and zest was not there and he was well short of match practice.
Sturridge had a chance in the first-half when played in by Lucas. The striker had time and space to take the ball on but chose to hit his shot first time and allowed John Ruddy to make a comfortable save.
If a fit Sturridge from two years ago was in that situation there's no doubt he would have taken the ball into the box and looked to have a one-on-one chance against the Norwich goalkeeper.
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