Losing fear factor and quality over quantity - Five issues Brendan Rodgers needs to address
The knives are being sharpened for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers once again after his side’s limp display in their 3-1 defeat against Manchester United on Saturday evening.
As the #rodgersout campaigners made a predictable return to the Twittersphere after United’s rout of a Liverpool side that barely got out of first gear, it was not just agitated supporters that went public in their criticism of the Reds boss.
Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness and John Aldridge were among the former Anfield heroes who didn’t hold back as they questioned the tactics Rodgers deployed at Old Trafford and the clock may now be ticking on the 42-year-old tactician's increasingly tenuous grip on power at Anfield.
Here is your Independent.ie guide to the survival guide Rodgers now needs to deploy if he is to remain in his post for the rest of this season.
SHED THE FEAR FACTOR
“Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers showed too much fear with the negative tactics he deployed at Old Trafford last night and he will get plenty of criticism in the next few days as a result.” John Aldridge.
The words of Liverpool goal scoring Aldridge in his Sunday World column echoed the views of so many of the club’s supporters on an evening that was seen as a defining test of the new team Rodgers has been allowed to build.
Few would have been surprised if the Anfield hierarchy had dispensed of the services of their Irish manager at the end of last season, with the 6-1 defeat at Stoke on the final day of last season the kind of result that ends many a managerial reign.
Read more: Liverpool legends turn on Brendan Rodgers
However, Liverpool decided to back Rodgers and instead shake up his backroom staff in a summer when a host of new faces arrived to revitalize a squad that finished sixth last season.
The trouble for Rodgers must be that the hangover that lingers from last season is undermining his efforts now.
He knew he was under pressure from the first game of this campaign and the fear of losing has encouraged him to deploy negative tactics that has diluted the spark his team once had.
Liverpool fans will tolerate defeats if progress can be seen. Saturday night’s performance offered no points and very little hope either.
USING CHRISTIAN BENTEKE
“At this moment the creativity hasn’t been coming from Liverpool and they certainly haven't given him enough service.” Jamie Carragher.
Why did Rodgers sanction the £32.5m purchase of Benteke if he was not willing to adapt his tactics to get the best out of the big Belgian striker?
Benteke is more than just a powerhouse target man and his wonderfully acrobatic goal against United confirmed as much, but his best assets are his body strength and his aerial threat, which Liverpool are not using at this moment.
A glance at the statistics for the first five games of this Premier League season confirmed that Liverpool have put less crosses into the box than any other team (15) and without the threat from the flank, their attacking potency is blunted.
Playing striker Danny Ings in a wide role at Old Trafford was hardly likely to solve that issue and once again Benteke was isolated up front. When he did get a cross he could work with, he finished in style and yet he was not given enough to feed of.
QUANTITY OVER QUALITY
“I look at the signings made by the club last summer and they can't have all been bad. However, not one of them showed any signs of fulfilling their potential, and at that point, I would look at the coaching staff and ask whether they were doing something wrong.” Former Liverpool keeper David James.
Liverpool have spent around £291.5m on 31 players since Rodgers took over at Anfield in the summer of 2012 and in truth, it is hard to name more than three of those that can be hailed as major success stories.
Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge are often hailed as his success stories, but the other 29 players have either joined the ranks of former Liverpool players or are still trying to prove they are up to the job of making a mark in Rodgers’ first team. That is a lot of mistakes for any club to make.
The debate over who has the final say on signings at Liverpool has raged for some time as the mysterious transfer committee takes a collective role in recruitment, but it falls to Rodgers to get the best out of the players he is working with.
A lack of balance has been an issue in the Liverpool team for far too long and Rodgers has failed to ensure the players the club are signing fit into the formation he wants to play.
While he is trying to be inventive in the way he uses new boys Ings and Roberto Firmino, playing them in positions that are alien to them is doing little to boost Liverpool’s hopes.
HEARD IT ALL BEFORE
“We had a number of outstanding performances, but we didn’t create enough. We need to be technically better.” Brendan Rodgers after his side’s defeat at Old Trafford on Saturday.
Has Rodgers ever got through an interview without claiming his side were outstanding? It is old news now Brendan, you need to change the script.
Read more: Liverpool undone by lack of ambition
Using the word outstanding appears to be the a requirement for the coach who is a different personality when the cameras are switched off and he can display his true colours.
It is almost as if Rodgers has invented a character that he feels he needs to be to fulfill his role as Liverpool manager. It has helped to ensure that he has long since been transformed into a figure of fun on social media and you wonder whether he players are tiring of his increasingly discredited excuses.
Every front man needs to be positive about the product he is promoting, but Rodgers’ desperation to play the statesman role has meant that some of his public declaration in the last year have been little short of ridiculous.
More and more Liverpool fans want to hear a new voice speaking on behalf of their club.
WILL RODGERS SURVIVE?
“I’ll be back to train a team. It must be somewhere in the world that is not an absolute top club, there are other good projects that are exciting who need help.” Jurgen Klopp
A manager tends to be secure in his position so long as there is not an obvious replacement waiting in the wings, but Rodgers’ discomfort at Liverpool comes at a time when one of the world’s most respected managers is eyeing up his job.
While former Borussia Dortmund coach Jurgen Klopp has not stated publicly that he would jump at the chance to take over at Liverpool, his comments earlier this week suggesting his return to the game does not need to be with a side competing in the Champions League was seen as a hint that he could replace Rodgers at Anfield.
Klopp’s love of English football and his previous comments referring to his admiration of Liverpool’s history are all part of a narrative that could see the coach who led Dortmund to the 2013 Champions League final arriving at Anfield before the end of this season.
Rodgers may be one heavy defeat away from seeing his Liverpool dream snatched away as another hammering to compare to the humiliation his side suffered at Stoke last May will not be tolerated.
When managers reach this precarious state of employment Rodgers is in right now and survival mode has kicked in in, it tends to be a matter of time before their time is up.
NEXT LIVERPOOL MANAGER
Jurgen Klopp 6/5
Frank De Boer 4/1
Ronald Koeman 8/1
Carlo Ancelotti 10/1