Tuesday 19 November 2019

Brendan Rodgers sees full extent of Anfield frailties

Liverpool 0
Arsenal 2

Upon his unveiling, Brendan Rodgers set the long-term ambition of making trips to Anfield 'the longest 90 minutes of the lives' of those who set foot in the place.

He meant the opposition, but after an insipid defeat to Arsenal it may be the home supporters who suffer most torment in the short-term, with the club's owners complicit in creating another unwanted record -- the worst start to a season for 50 years.

Short of attacking options after being denied a deadline-day deal for Clint Dempsey, Rodgers is now considering re-signing free agent Michael Owen, who is 32 -- too old but cheap -- and said he would 'ask the question' of Didier Drogba, who is 34 -- too old and expensive.

It is desperate, but these are already chastening times for a manager let down by what he diplomatically referred to as 'operational issues.'

"Any player that I believe can improve the squad, I will look at -- there is absolutely no question about that," said Rodgers, who admitted he would not have let Andy Carroll go had he known there wouldn't be a replacement.

Interest

"We have got a very small group here. I cannot say no to anything. I have to look at ways to change the group. We need a reinforcement, that's obvious."

Rodgers will struggle to convince his board to sign Owen, who has a two-year deal with Stoke under consideration, but the ex-Liverpool striker would undoubtedly welcome the interest.

Arsenal exposed Liverpool's frailties, bereft not only of the firepower Rodgers craved, but also enough of the technically gifted personnel to play the high-tempo, penetrative football he idealises.

The defence is guilty of weekly aberrations too, Pepe Reina again culpable for Arsenal's second by the outstanding Santi Cazorla. In many respects, Rodgers needed this wake-up call last week, as the encouraging signs against Manchester City created a false impression.

The lunacy of not allowing the new manager to reinvest funds was evident as every home attack ended in the futility of a sole attacker challenging for a ball surrounded by six defenders.

Luis Suarez was isolated and erratic. He often is. Too much is expected too soon of 17-year-old Raheem Sterling. Nuri Sahin ran out of breath early on his debut, and, although Joe Allen was a stand-out performer again, Steven Gerrard is yet to find his form.

What was apparent in Rodgers' post-match inquest is that the problem is not simply the new financial reality at Anfield, essential if the club is to abide by the fair play regulations John W Henry champions. It is the contradictory messages that are exasperating.

Liverpool continue to behave and present themselves on the same level as Barcelona or Real Madrid, issuing statements about possessing resources to compete with anyone when they are years behind and cannot possibly guarantee the vast economic gap can ever be bridged. They knew they had to cut wages. The pay-offs to the outgoing management team also impacted on Rodgers' budget, so why didn't they say so publicly?

Rodgers will also be seeking assurances that his player recommendations are not being vetted and counter-assessed by others. He did, after all, take the job having negotiated the absence of a director of football.

FSG laud their now mythical 'advisers' -- supposedly highly respected names within football but presumably too shy to be identified. It would be helpful to know who they are, just to be reassured (as some fans fear) they are not internet nerds who sit at laptops downloading football manager software and telling Henry and chairman Tom Werner who they should and should not buy.

What was clear on Friday is that even managing director Ian Ayre did not have the clearance to conclude the Dempsey deal. There are others at Anfield who, privately, were insisting a month ago it would never happen. Contradictory messages again. Rodgers was evidently working on a false premise but he has no intention of walking away already. "It's been a big learning curve for the owners as well," said Rodgers.

"They have come in and invested over £100m. They have made big changes for whatever reason and one of the most iconic figures in Liverpool's history has left. They have made a commitment to have me here for the long term.

"I have a group of people that I work very well with. The owners are very honest and up-front with me. I have got no problem with that. There are one or two things that we have to iron out, but I don't feel they have misled me in any way."

"There are just one or two operational things that we need to organise. If we do that, it will certainly help us in the next window and the window after that. I have spoken to the people back in America. I have laid out my thoughts. We had a couple of brief conversations about what might happen in January and will reflect on that again next week."

If Liverpool's results and performances deteriorate, what the club's American owners consider prudence and pragmatism, others will see as negligence. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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