Rodgers dilemma for Liverpool owners

Thumbnail

He was commended for his work, the numbers his players produced during that successful campaign were outstanding and his stock was high. None of that mattered this spring, though, when results and performances were poor. He was sacked earlier this month after the bad start to the season.

That is what tends to happen when Fenway Sports Group (FSG), owners of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC, spot underperformance, which is why it will be intriguing to see how they deal with Brendan Rodgers. For many Liverpudlians, after all, a tipping point has been reached.

The reaction is not kneejerk. Supporters began the season with high hopes but, gradually, the feelgood factor which stemmed from last year’s thrilling title charge has been whittled away to a point where indignation is now the overriding emotion. Losing 6-1 at Stoke on Sunday was a disgrace.

During the past 12 months, Liverpool have made a succession of wrong calls. The consequences of their actions have ensured they have lost the trust of fans and put the club’s reputation on the block. Mike Gordon, who supervises FSG’s football investment, must now start evaluating.

The message from Boston is that Rodgers retains the owners’ support but there is no doubt he will have to face a series of difficult questions from Gordon, who will want an explanation for a campaign which included 18 defeats.

Rodgers, it must be stressed, is not culpable for all that has gone wrong. Others in the hierarchy have underperformed. But if Rodgers had the chance to go back to this time last year, when the ink on his new deal was drying, he would surely do things differently. For a start, would he have given his thumbs up to the signing of Mario Balotelli? Rodgers didn’t want the Italian’s arrival to create a circus but that’s precisely what it did. Balotelli was not central to one positive remark from Rodgers from mid-September onwards and the deal was a waste of £16million.

He would surely, also, reassess how he approached the Champions League game with Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. That was the game, when the draw was made last August, which Liverpudlians seized on as a sign they were back in the big time.

Instead, making wholesale changes gave the impression the trip to Madrid was regarded as big a hindrance as a Capital One Cup trip to Scunthorpe. It made no sense at the time to rest Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling to face Madrid. Looking back, it still doesn’t.

A radical change of system and a few good results around New Year stemmed the tide but in the last couple of months, when things have really mattered, Liverpool have floundered horribly.

The last two months of the campaign should be when a coach comes into his own and squeezes out the last critical results. Yet from March 22, when Liverpool were beaten at Anfield by Manchester United, it is as if they have waved the white towel.

Bullied and bounced out of the FA Cup by Aston Villa and eight points from nine games meant the dream of Champions League qualification became the reality of a Europa League qualifier on July 30. They should be ashamed they never put United, who limped into fourth spot, under any pressure.

Why did Emre Can, who was horribly out of position at right back against Villa, finish the campaign in the same position being tormented at Stoke? Why did they sign three strikers last summer but start none at the Britannia?

It should not have come to this but Liverpool have blown a glorious chance to build for the future.

If Rodgers is at the end of the road, could a manager with the charisma of Jurgen Klopp improve a group perceived to be underachieving? Would the urbane Carlo Ancelotti weave his magic and get Liverpool into contention for the prizes they covet once more?

More pertinently, the big dilemma for many will be who carries the can for the last 12 months? FSG’s history suggests someone will.

In April 2012, when Andy Carroll’s £35m signing wasn’t working, Damien Comolli, the then director of football, was sacked. A month later, Kenny Dalglish paid the price for Premier League results plummeting, even though he had won the League Cup.

This campaign has had eerie similarities — expensive signings, good cup form, a dreadful conclusion — so now all eyes are on Boston.

‘What drives us is winning,’ chairman Tom Werner explained when FSG’s takeover was completed in October 2010. ‘We expect to be very competitive.’

When they are not, action gets taken. Juan Nieves and the Boston Red Sox are proof of that.

Could one of these do better than Rodgers?

Jurgen Klopp

If Liverpool want the German, they’ll have to move fast. Klopp earned an army of admirers at Borussia Dortmund for his attacking style and achieving success on a budget while selling his best players. Says he’s taking a sabbatical but could be tempted by Anfield.

Carlo Ancelotti

The Italian is a triple Champions League winner with AC Milan and Real Madrid, and the 2010 Premier League title at Chelsea shows he can work his magic here. Sacked by Real Madrid and intends to have back surgery. Says he’ll take a year out.

Michael Laudrup

The former Swansea boss’s contract at Qatari side Lekhwiya expires in June, making him a cheap and viable option, and he is keen to return to the Premier League.

Encourages an attractive playing style.

Steve McClaren

One from left-field, but the former England boss has Premier League experience and showed at Middlesbrough and Derby he is keen to promote English talent. Got the most out of Liverpool’s rising star Jordon Ibe in a loan spell at Derby before Christmas. Sacked by the Rams. – Daily Mail

Original source: Rodgers dilemma for Liverpool owners

by