Mid-September through October 2014 has been one of the miserable periods in recent memory for Liverpool Football Club.
Defeats to Aston Villa and West Ham and draws against Everton and Hull City in the Premier League on top of defeats to Basel and Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League has only shone further light on the achievements of last season’s futile title chase.
It is not only those poor performances that have seen Liverpool win only four of their last ten games in all competitions, but even in victory Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool have looked exhaustively uninspiring.
Wins over Ludogorets, Middlesbrough and more recently Queens Park Rangers have required last minute winners and more than a side’s fair share of luck. In such games Liverpool have looked a depressed and deflated side, in comparison with last season’s team. The 2013/14 Liverpool team embodied all that is good about fast-paced, driven and attack-minded play.
But now it is slow play. The ball drags sluggishly along the Anfield turf. No creativity. No inventiveness. No Luis Suarez.
No Luis Suarez, but £70 million in replacements.
One man team
Fans tricked themselves into believing that this was Brendan Rodgers’s side. His Liverpool team. But with the enlightenment that has been this season’s results, supporters are now realising that it was no more Rodgers leading Liverpool over the
course of last season than one Uruguayan dragging the Reds along with him as he destroyed Premier League sides on a weekly basis.
Fans believed that it was the strength of the team that saw Liverpool come within touching distance of their first title in twenty-one years. There was the stamina and drive of Jordan Henderson, the speed and agility of Raheem Sterling, the range of passing of Steven Gerrard. But does any of this matter when Luis Suarez could score at a moment’s thought?
When Henderson did not run, Suarez still scored. When Sterling could not dribble,Suarez would still score. When Gerrard could not make the passes, Luis Suarez would still score. It is only after the revelation of life after Luis Suarez that one can truly appreciate what he brought to the table. 31 goals and 12 assists in 33 Premier League appearances.
This season’s frustration
There are so many different layers and perspectives to this season’s poor start. There is the shoddy defending. Daniel Sturrdige’s injury. New signings not making immediate impacts. But the single outstanding aspect is the ultimate replacement of Luis Suarez with Mario Balotelli.
Mario cannot be blamed for this one. Of course, he does have his own personal grapplings and tendencies that make him so frustrating to watch. But one must consider that he is the closest thing to Luis Suarez that Liverpool have brought in. Replacing one world-class striker with another sounds like the most simple and obvious thing to do.
But what happens when the impact of the world-class striker that has left has been tragically under estimated and the expectation of the one coming in has been inflated beyond the realms of the reality. Simply put, Liverpool needed Suarez more than they could possibly imagine, and replacing him with Mario Balotelli, a player who has been labelled a “world-class” striker on the basis of rare performances, will ultimately lead to disaster.
Now it is far too early to deem Liverpool’s start to the 2014/15 season a ‘disaster’, but on the basis of three months, one cannot imagine where the inspiration will come from.
Step in, Brendan Rodgers.
Brendan Rodgers. Last season’s League Managers’ Association’s manager of the year.
Lavished with praise throughout the second half of last season, his Liverpool team went on a sixteen match unbeaten streak, with eleven wins in a row stretching from February until the loss away to Chelsea that ultimately lost them the title.
The dramatic switch from 7th place in his first season to finishing 2nd a year later, from 61 points to 84 points, this is where the praise is found. It is undoubtedly astonishing.
To take the under-achieveing Liverpool that had flopped under Hodgson and (given not as poorly) Dalglish, to within a meer two points and one fatal slip of the studs away from the title, is remarkable. But was it all down to Rodgers?
In need of a leader
To call Brendan Rodgers a fraud is too harsh. To liken him to Shankly is too far. So now, nine games into the new season, we find ourselves caught between the two. For Rodgers and the fans, it is not about playing the blame game and starting a #RodgersOut campaign. No, the dilemma that Liverpool now find themselves in can be viewed as an opportunity. An opporunity for Rodgers to step up.
With no Luis Suarez Liverpool Football Club lack a driving force. A manager can accept the praise when the going is good, but when their club is on the brink of potential crisis, this is where the manager earns his due. The coming months will show the true colours of Brendan Rodgers. A fraud, a future Shankly, his fate lies in his own two hands.
He lost Suarez, but he received over £70 million to spend. He can claim that he built a championship-winning side, and if this is true, then all the better; he must use it. There are no excuses. There is no one to blame. Liverpool brought in the needed defenders. They bought Markovic and Lallana and Balotelli too. This is Brendan Rodgers’s Liverpool. Let’s see what he can do with it. Let’s see what the real Brendan Rodgers is made of.
This is the potential crisis that will show us the true Brendan Rodgers. “In Brendan we trust”, echoed the Liverpool support last season. Now he must justify that faith.