Monday 20 November 2017

Ghosts of Liverpool past continuing to haunt Rodgers

Liverpool 3-2 Aston Villa

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring their third goal
Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge celebrates scoring their third goal
Liverpool's Lucas Leiva lunges in against Aston Villa's Idrissa Gueye
Liverpool's Nathaniel Clyne and Aston Villa's Jack Grealish battle for possession

Chris Bascombe

There are times when you wonder if Stephen King's novel The Shining was inspired by an Anfield trip. A caretaker is handed the keys to a grand institute and succumbs to neurosis and paranoia after seeing ghosts in every corridor. It sounds like the timeline of the past five Liverpool managers.

Following this win, Brendan Rodgers suggested that he was the victim of a campaign to oust him - a conspiracy overseen by unnamed, shadowy forces.

This script is written with a quill and has been recited almost word for word by some of his predecessors. One wonders if Rodgers found it hidden in a cobwebbed box buried under the floorboards of his office.

The remarks evoked images of Gerard Houllier compiling lists of former Liverpool players in the media who, he felt, were not empathising with the peculiar demands upon him.

Rodgers will be mocked by some and have the sympathy of others given the pressure he is under.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of his observations, the evidence is compelling that the idiosyncrasies of this particular job temporarily deprives intelligent, lucid managers of perspective.

The Northern Irishman is entitled to feel besieged by his perceived lack of support - and he is right that plenty did not like the cut of his jib when he was winning so they were never going to tolerate a poor run - but it makes no difference to his job security.

No Liverpool manager has been sacked for anything other than results. Never. This club hate sacking managers.


Plenty like to say they were persecuted - over-exaggerating the impact of negative commentary - but that is just background noise, even if it is often screeching.

The 'hysteria' is fed by deterioration. Play well, win and no crowd deifies its boss like The Kop. Lose and the effigy is in danger of being burnt.

We should not be distracted by claims of 'unrealistic expectations' at Anfield and instead focus on the real source of the critiques.

The ultimate ambition of Liverpool is to win the Premier League and add to those five European Cup triumphs - extreme given the competition.

But, with the greatest respect, the primary causes of disillusionment were a 1-0 defeat to a rancid Hull City team; 3-1 home defeat against Crystal Palace; 6-1 defeat at Stoke City; 3-0 home defeat against West Ham United; and the most limp FA Cup semi-final display in the club's history.

If John W Henry makes a change, it will have nothing to do with the yahoos stalking him and his wife on Twitter. Nor will he care for the thoughts of any ex-player or journalist.

The Liverpool owner, like FSG president Michael Gordon, is a stats man. It's the numbers game that will decide Rodgers' short-term and long-term fate.

Far more pertinent in Rodgers' quest for safety is the return of the player capable of giving the data a polish.

In Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool possess a world-class footballer. His two goals were a joy: clinical, beautiful and so reassuring for a team that cannot score more than once in a game without him.

For the last 45 minutes on Saturday, this was the Liverpool of two seasons ago - marvellous in attack and hopeless at the back, buckling under the mildest pressure.

Aston Villa are terrible but scored twice and, because of that, if he really wanted to get this off his chest, it might have been wiser for Rodgers to pause until after next weekend's Merseyside derby before picking up the axe and swinging at those spooking him.

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