A fast start is a must for Brendan Rodgers

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If revenge was on Brendan Rodgers' mind it could not come any sooner.

Liverpool's 6-1 defeat against Stoke City on the final game of the 2014/15 campaign - their biggest loss for 52 years - was nothing but a disgrace.

There was to be no perfect ending to Steven Gerrard's 17 year career at the Reds and instead he left for Los Angeles Galaxy feeling as low as he ever has on a football field.


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There is no other word to describe the performance except embarrassing.

For what Gerrard had done for Liverpool down the years, carrying through them thick and thin, resisting the beaming lights of the Santiago Bernabeau and other top European clubs to remain at his boyhood club, he was ultimately let down. Instead of him having the perfect swansong, the 35-year-old probably left the Britannia not being as devastated to be leaving Liverpool as he should have been.

Naturally, the finger was immediately placed at Rodgers - and not for the first time.

Last season's woes

Just weeks earlier his poorly judged tactics seen Liverpool beaten by Aston Villa 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final. It was not losing that hurt but the manner of defeat. The Reds were never at the races from the first whistle; even when Adam Lallana gave them the lead it was against the run of play. 

Throughout the first-half, Rodgers changed his tactics at least three times. They were not subtle switches but significant turn-around's that disrupted all balance in the team and left players confused of what there role actually was. After so much promise reaching Wembley, the performance under pressure was well below par.

Things were to get lower for the ex-Swansea City manager. On Gerarrd's final Anfield appearance against Crystal Palace there was a lack of motivation from the Liverpool players. If that is an occasion not to go the extra mile then it is difficult to see what would be.

Again, the Reds failed to show the commitment and passion to mirror the occasion. Alan Pardew outwitted Rodgers and Palace cruised to a 3-1 victory. Yannick Bolasie terrorised the Liverpool back-four and continuously had Dejan Lovren on his backside. Emre Can looked uncomfortable after right-back and the Eagles exposed the Germany Under-21's international.

Rodgers was once again blamed for the defeat. Can, by no means, is or ever will be a full-back. He filled in successfully as a centre-back for a chunk of the season but there has never been any indication he would thrive playing right-back. In fact, Can had shown he can rashly dive into challenges and get caught out of position when playing as centre-back and was always going to struggle on the right-hand side of defence.

It was not like Rodgers was short of right-backs, either. Both Glen Johnson and Javier Manquillo were available for selection; however, Rodgers had already made his mind up that the pair were leaving in the summer and did not want to offer them false hope. To an extent that is understandable but they would have do a much better job that Can who's future firmly remains in the heart of midfield.

As for choosing to play Lovren, that was a different argument. The Croatia international had struggled already in the early stages of the season and made six defensive errors by December 15. To put him back in the line-up was a baffling scenario as he was desperately short of confidence heading into the game.

Stoke was a chance to at least redeem some credit. However, the build-up to the game was dominated by Raheem Sterling's contract situation and whether he would play in the Midlands. There was little actually little talk about the dreadful performance the week earlier and paper-talk only surrounded Sterling's situation.

Whether that had an effect on performance or not, the result at Stoke was nothing but a disgrace. Mark Hughes' men walked through a Liverpool side who looked as if they had one eye on their summer holidays.

The result angered Kopites - infuriated them in fact. 5-0 down at half-time was well beyond belief and many wanted to see Rodgers replaced. There was a feeling that things had gotten increasingly stale at Anfield as well as the off-field reports of senior players falling out with the manager that had been leaked.

Following the Stoke loss, Rodgers admitted his job was in jeopardy and there were fans who wanted to see the back of him. Rodges met with club owners Fenway Sports Group for a post-season review and there was speculation he was going to get his P45. Instead, the Northern Irishman kept his role as Liverpool boss but lost his assistant manager Colin Pascoe and head coach Mike Marsh. By all accounts, however, that was Rodgers' decision as much as it was Fenway's.

Rodgers has changed his backroom completely and everything will be on his terms. Sean O'Driscoll and Gary McAllister are both part of the 42-year-old's coaching staff and will work instinctively through his instructions.

Rodgers has spent big money

He's too been handed a significant amount of money this summer. The transfer comity have seemingly to a back-stage role and given the Liverpool manager most of the responsibility buying new recruits. 

Christian Benteke's £32.5 million move from Aston Villa took a few weeks to finalise. Rodgers had always been a keen admirer of the Belgium international and was the Ulsterman's top target for the summer. What was a factor in the transfer was the price. Seemingly, the transfer comity were reluctant to pay Benteke's £32.5 million buy-out clause and believed the fee was too high. However, with the move eventually happening, it suggests that Rodgers had the final say on the situation.

Throughout the summer the 6-1 loss would have been in Rodgers' mind and eagerly awaited the next time Liverpool meet Stoke. Lucky for Rodgers, he hasn't had to wait as long as expected. 

The Merseyside outfit travel to Britannia on Sunday to kick-off their season. There's no doubt Rodgers will plan his tactics thoroughly, much more than he would for a normal game. 

The ex-Swansea City manager's every move will be being carefully watched by Fenway Sports Group this season and each decision will be assessed. After spending over £100 million on new faces last summer, Rodgers has again been handed a large amount of cash.

Many fans weren't aware of Lazar Markovic when he joined for £20 million from Benfica last summer. His maiden season at Anfield wasn't the most inspiring and Kopites are sceptical £29.5 million signing Roberto Firmino could be the same.

What Rodgers needs is a fast start - a lightning fast start in fact. Liverpool managed just 14 points from their first ten games last campaign and always had their backs against the wall to make up lost ground.

In the three years being in charge of the Reds, Rodgers has yet to add a piece of silverware to the Anfield trophy cabinet. He's first first manager in over 50 years to do so. Fans want to see their side win things; it's part of Liverpool tradition.

A top-four finish will be Fenway Sports Group's main priority this term. Being in the Champions League reaps unthinkable financial benefits and makes club's much more attractive in terms of buying new recruits.

Pressure on Rodgers

There is an incredible amount of pressure on Rodgers to perform from the word go and please all parties. He's been backed by the owners and they have changed their policies to suit him.. He's has been allowed to dictate transfer and coaching decisions. Everything has been tailor-made around Rodgers and almost everything is his philosophy.

What is needed now is results, starting at Stoke on Sunday. The 6-1 loss still burns in the minds of Fenway Sports Group and the fans, and avenging that loss is Rodgers' first task of many. 

Failure to win at Stoke will immediately set alarm bells ringing; a defeat could even place the writing on the wall for Rodgers' departure.

Liverpool have a difficult string of away fixtures in the early stages of the campaign and have to meet Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton and Tottenham Hotspur on the road by the end of October. The Reds' form against top club's last term was not good enough; they managed just four points against those who finished in the top-four from a possible 24.

Winning every game against those team's is not exactly expected but improvements certainly are.

Failure to improve will no doubt see the end of Rodgers' reign at Anfield. Jurgen Klopp worked wonders at Borrusia Dortmund and he's expressed that he would like to work in the Premier League. Klopp witnessed the roar and passion of Anfield when Dortmund played a friendly against Liverpool last summer and admitted it was something beyond belief.

With Klopp sitting in the unemployed lounge there is a very quick and suitable replacement if Rodgers does not provide immediate results.

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Christian Benteke
Premier League
Brendan Rodgers

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