Rodgers at Liverpool – club at the crossroads

Dynasty: A rich history of success or a soap opera that beggars belief?

Following his unveiling at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers described Liverpool Football Club as “a dynasty”. Which begs the question did he mean the club had with an established, rich history of class and success, or was he likening it to a preposterous soap opera with storylines that beggar belief.

Liverpool’s current predicament is the result of two decades of mismanagement, neglect and short sightedness, leaving the scale of Rodgers’ task much greater than the seventeen points that the team finished off the coveted fourth Champions League place.

On the footballing side, Rodgers has inherited a squad that, despite the truck load of cash thrown at it over the last eighteen months, will need a great deal of work before it can emulate the high tempo possession game that has already become his hallmark.

The midfield in particular, is staffed by players who either lack the technical ability (Spearing, Shelvey), favour the ‘Hollywood Ball’ (Gerrard, Adam) or have simply been non-descript in their Anfield careers so far (Downing, Henderson). The only players who seem ready-made for the ‘tiki taka’ keep-ball style are Lucas and Bellamy, the latter at the wrong end of his career.

There’s then the Andy Carroll conundrum. Given how he was used, or misused, last season, his critics have been overly harsh as he has shown the potential to be an intimidating force in attack. Yet you don’t need Andy Townsend’s tactic truck to tell you that Carroll is not a player suited to a short passing game. Rodgers will either need time to work with him to refine his game (he is still only 23), find a tactical style that suits him or employ him in some other creative option (scarecrow, coat stand, hired goon – answers on a postcard please).

Lastly, there’s the ‘Gerrard problem’. Those who criticise Gerrard are usually labelled as heretics and madmen. Yet, dare I say it, some Liverpool fans have been whispering for awhile that for all his heroics and swashbuckling drive, he has never developed the all round technique and tactical discipline required to dominate a midfield, and the tempo of a game. Whilst others would just come straight out and say that the team plays better, more incisive football without him.

These might seem harsh criticisms given the years when, at his peak, Gerrard seemingly dragged Liverpool to heights that seemed beyond them. That was in the past though – and a past that heavily relied on Xabi Alonso. One-man Roy Race midfields are not a viable long-term plan in the Premier League or Europe, and it is now undeniable, even for fanatics, that Gerrard is way past his best.

Trouble is, as the club captain, local hero, living legend, and crucially, the top-earner in the squad, he poses a big challenge for Rodgers. One possible option is to gradually deploy him as a centre-back, thus adding some technique and passing ability in defence.

All of the above, however, requires time and patience – two virtues that Liverpool are, with some justification, short of. On the cusp of a fourth season without Champions League football, conservative estimates of the revenue lost over this period fall somewhere around the £100m mark.

With the stadium saga ongoing, the club still playing catch-up with their commercial operations, and Financial Fair Play regulations preventing random cash injections, the longer Liverpool are outside the Champions League the more elusive ever returning there will become.

Rodgers and Fenway Sports Group face big challenges on every front. The club have made a brave and well suited appointment but another period of failure will likely mean that the LFC dynasty may go the same way as the TV programme which disappeared from our screen in 1989 – the same year as Liverpool’s last title triumph.

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6 Comments on “Rodgers at Liverpool – club at the crossroads

  1. You say Gerrard lacks the technique to be a playmaker in midfield….and yet you go on to say he should play as a centre back to provide “technique and passing ability”…….hmmmm

  2. You make one assumption of which you can have no experience. I am not a fan of Carroll BUT as he has never been employed in the “tiki-taka” style of football you cannot simply dismiss him out of hand. Like all the players he is entitled to have the benefit of any doubt until it is SHOWN that he cannot adapt his game to this. He will have the talented expertise of Aquilani to aid him and possibly Sigurdsson should he come. If an astute buy of Boudebouz from Sochaux is made he also has the talent to exploit such tactics ( and can do this playing anywhere from wing to wing in midfield!).

  3. You can always tell when someone doesn’t know anything about football and writes a pointless article. Gerrard as a centre-back smh..

  4. Load of rubbish. Liverpools squad is not as bad as you, and the media, like to think. Shearer was spot on when he claimed Liverpool had played most teams of the park and the performances were largely good enough for top 4 last season. And this pathetic claim by the media that Liverpool are rapidly in decline is pure wishful thinking, A return to Champions league football will catapult Liverpool back to the very top, as all the worlds top players would be attracted to Playing champions league football at a true world powerhouse (which Liverpool will always be, despite what the media like to believe) Difference between liverpool getting champions league football in a few years compared to the ‘Hicks and Gillet’ era, is Liverpool will have the funds to actually buy the top players they will attract. So Liverpool will not end up like the Dinasty TV series like you like to believe.

  5. What a poor article by someone who obviously did not watch Liverpool much last season. In over 80% of their games last season they totally outplayed the opposition and were only let down by very poor finishing.

    They out-played teams with passing football and KK hadn’t got rid of the passing midfielders they probably would have won a lot more games.

    Several of the players were mismanaged by KK by not being played regularly or played out of position.

    The issue that BR will have is getting a good response from the senior players

    If they are that bad why are there SIX in the English squad.

  6. Well, I’ve clearly touched a nerve here. First things first – I’m a Liverpool fan, and have been my entire life (34 years and counting).
     
    Secondly, this isn’t a hatchet job on the team. If you read the blog again, I’m pointing out that Rodgers’ challenge is bigger than we think and he needs to be given time. I think he’s the right option as manager, but that doesn’t automatically mean success – 17 points is a big gap to close in one season. If that doesn’t happen, that’ll be a 5th season without Champions League football and, more importantly, income.
     
    I did watch most of the games last season. Yes, we played well in some games but were wretched in others. And I don’t buy bad luck as an excuse for performance over a season. After 38 league games, you can’t blame luck. Our best hope is to give Rodgers at least 5 years to implement a club structure that actually develops players, playing the same system from youth team to first team, rather than buy established ‘big names’ who, on the whole, we can neither attract or afford.
     
    Gerrard is always a touchy subject, it seems it’s impossible to say anything critical about him. My Liverpool supporting mates and my brother think I’m crazy to say anything other than positive about Gerrard but I don’t go for hero worship. He was a great player, now he’s not as good and he’s only getting older.
     
    Lastly, the other main point of the blog is the financial and structural challenges the club face, which are quite stark. It’s simple economics – sadly, that’s what the top flight in any country is driven by. If you do the maths, Man United make roughly £30m more than Liverpool on ticket sales alone each season. Throw in the additional sponsorship deals, TV money and kit sales, and we’re way behind. How did a club like Chelsea (with a smaller stadium, fewer fans and less worldwide recognition) overtake Liverpool in terms of income? They’ve generated significantly more revenue than us in every season since 2003/04, even in the season that we won the Champions League.

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