Wednesday 21 February 2018

Liverpool insist Brendan Rodgers is safe - for now

Anfield manager's position remains unchanged despite Stoke defeat

Brendan Rodgers position remains unchanged despite Stoke defeat
Brendan Rodgers position remains unchanged despite Stoke defeat
Jon Walters scores for Stoke during their 6-1 win against Liverpool which has increased the pressure on manager Brendan Rodgers

Chris Bascombe

Liverpool are adamant that their hammering by Stoke City on Sunday will have no impact on the future of Brendan Rodgers as he prepares for talks on how to revive the club next season.

Anfield officials have indicated that Rodgers's position is unchanged regardless of the severity of the 6-1 defeat on the final day of the Premier League campaign.

The Liverpool manager suggested that he would leave if the club's American owners, Fenway Sports Group, had lost faith in him, but privately it is evident that the Northern Irishman does not think that is the case.

Although he still faces a critical meeting with the FSG president, Mike Gordon, the suggestion from within the club is that the manager's position will not be on the agenda in those talks.

It now remains to be seen how those conversations go to establish how Rodgers can fix what has gone so wrong since last August. He will still have plenty of explaining to do for finishing in a poor sixth and having missed all the pre-season targets.


Rodgers has held preliminary conversations with Gordon in the past seven days, although that was prior to the debacle at the Britannia Stadium.

The manager felt emboldened enough to state that he was "150pc" sure he would remain in charge before the weekend.

Such was the ineptitude of the display at Stoke, however, that he accepted after the game that his position would be questioned.

John W Henry, Liverpool's principal owner, has effectively deferred all the major strategic decisions at Anfield to Gordon over recent years. The strong working relationship Rodgers enjoys with Gordon will give him the confidence that he will have the opportunity to correct the errors of the past eight months.

Liverpool accept that something must change ahead of next season. Precisely what will be established in what is being described as a "thorough and robust" review.

It would seem, however, that plenty has already been predetermined. They certainly need new players and have already started the recruitment process, with Rodgers central to those discussions.

Danny Ings and James Milner should be the first new arrivals, after seeing out their contracts at Burnley and Manchester City respectively.

The club are also ruling out appointing a director of football so the only visible alterations of note could be to Rodgers's backroom team.

There remains a degree of sympathy for Rodgers for the problems he has encountered this season, but equally the speed with which performances have deteriorated since a home defeat by Manchester United in March has put him in an extremely vulnerable position.

If he needs to retain the trust of the club's owners, it is a case of regaining it from the supporters, especially those who witnessed the first-half capitulation on Sunday. It was Liverpool's worst defeat since a 7-2 loss to Spurs in 1963, but it was the timing of it - the culmination of a miserable series of results and performances - that has corroded faith in the Anfield set-up.

Rodgers has plenty of mitigating factors at his disposal. He has alluded to the loss of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge throughout the campaign, and recently spoke about the "distractions" with which he has had to contend. This was a reference to the ongoing saga surrounding Raheem Sterling's contract.

Rodgers also had to deal with the imminent departure of Steven Gerrard - although that was ultimately presented as a mutual decision after Liverpool delayed attempts to keep their captain - while the introduction and assimilation of so many new signings last summer affected performances. Rodgers shares the responsibility for those deals with other members of the recruitment team.

Where opinion will be divided is whether Rodgers has got the best out of those at his disposal, regardless of the loss of his strikers.

Liverpool defeated Manchester City playing exciting football, but were outplayed by Aston Villa, a side fighting relegation, in the FA Cup. They also took just one point from a possible 12 against Hull, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Stoke.

It remains to be seen whether Liverpool's steadfast defence of Rodgers extends beyond his meeting with Gordon. He suggested last week that the meeting was no different to any other yearly appraisal.

That is clearly not the case given such conversations are far more desirable when you have just finished second - coming as close as any manager in 25 years to winning the title - rather than sixth with a team who have just delivered the club's worst result in 52 years.

(© Daily Telegraph, London)

Read more: Liverpool season review: five things we learned

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