Brendan Rodgers - The man who tried to make Liverpool 'great' again
Let us begin from the first day of July 2010 when ill-matched Roy Hodgson joined Liverpool Football Club. The day can be marked as the beginning of a perpetual demise of the club over the years up until now after a period of 5 years which has seen Liverpool change managers in the middle of the season from Hodgson to the iconic Dalglish who went on to lift the Carling Cup to his credit. Moving forward, 2012 saw the appointment of the Swansea boss who led them from the Championship to the Premier League and someone who is credited for the possession based football he had introduced at Swansea. His stint at Swansea saw him being highly regarded within the management fraternity which eventually saw him claim the chair at Liverpool which had been emptied by the former Reds legend Kenny Dalglish.
Rise and Rise of Mediocrity:
Great clubs are made of great players and even greater fans with the manager at its helm. But with the introduction of Roy Hodgson, the Anfield faithful saw an influx of mediocre players within their ranks in the form of Paul Konchesky, Christian Paulsen, Danny Wilson among others who never possessed the pedigree or talent to play as a Liverpool player coupled with the fact that players like Alonso and Mascherano had just made their move to the so-called ‘bigger clubs’. The two players who stood out amongst Roy Hodgson’s signing were Joe Cole who started his career with a red card and then there was Raul Meireles who showed glimpses of class every now and then before being eventually sold to Chelsea which further cemented argument of Liverpool’s inability to attract world class players in conjunction with the fact that the club had become a selling club over the years.
With the era of Roy Hodgson coming to an abrupt end, Kenny Dalglish took over to stabilize the club as Liverpool languished just above the relegation position after ten games into the season. But the tainted recruitment policy failed to deliver again with players like Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing notably amongst others joined the ranks of Liverpool. Mediocrity, like a disease, had infected Liverpool through and through over the period of time and it had spread to different spheres of the club.
By the time this mediocrity was realized, it was too late to act upon it and rectify the mistakes which had occurred over the past few seasons. Steven Gerrard still carried the mantel as the captain of the club albeit shrouded by a blanket of mediocre players and the dearth of calibre within Liverpool was astonishing as Liverpool dropped from the second position the League from the year Rafa left to languishing in the sixth and seventh positions, only being able to challenge for the top 4 spots. The gradual decline in ambition and capacity to challenge for the title was a result of such mediocrity which had infected Liverpool like a parasite which refused to perish.
Onset of the BR:
The sacking of Brendan Rodgers amidst the 2015-16 season, just after a hard earned draw in the derby away from home was met with mixed reactions. The sacking came as a surprise to few but also to the jubilance of many who had subjected BR to vituperative outbursts over the last two seasons.
They believed that BR was just another projection, an extension of the above-mentioned mediocrity which Liverpool had unwillingly become subject to but I believe otherwise. Yes, I agree with the contention that Suarez and Gerrard had might have had a bigger hand to uplifting Liverpool to the 2nd place during the 2013-14 season but one has to contemplate the fact that Suarez who was signed by Dalglish did not initially flourish under him.
During the 2013-14, Gerrard had been dropped back to a deep-lying mid position which saw him play long balls and dictate the play for Liverpool. Now, to BR’s credit, he had identified the fact that Gerrard no more possessed the legs to cover the entire pitch as he had previously and further, he could not risk him to injuries. People often, do not take note of the other players who had made remarkable improvements during the tenure of BR.
Raheem Sterling, Coutinho and Henderson primarily performed remarkably and that was purely down to the man-management of BR which Gerrard had often praised during a number of his interviews. Of course, I do not disagree to the fact that BR himself had made some alarming blunders in his recruitment process but that has already been debated upon and decided upon.
The BR Philosophy:
With the demise of Liverpool as a top club with great players but with the lack of capacity to challenge top teams, difficult times gathered upon the horizon like dark storm clouds and yet, the Anfield fans sang, ‘at the end of the storm, there’s a golden lark’. Amongst all these challenges, BR had been able to introduce a philosophy of passing and possession based football which partially implemented by his predecessor Kenny Dalglish in his second-coming.
This is was an expected change because BR had become popular for the style of play which he had implemented at Swansea and something everyone expected him to carry over to Liverpool. This change in the style of play and mentality is often under-estimated by on-lookers who crave for trophies and trophies only. The apparent change in the style of play managed to attract a large crowd of neutrals during the 2013-14 season.
It seemed the only way Liverpool knew how to win was by out-scoring the opponents. The defensive aspect of the game had perished as the Reds shipped in 50 odd goals while they scored over 100 goals that season. But, this weakness was exposed and exploited in the match against Chelsea where the opposition sat deep and waited for a slip and a slip is exactly what they got.
Brendan Rodgers has always been criticised by the critics and fans alike for making the team over-play in the defensive third. The lack of effective ball-playing defenders after the retirement of Hyypia and the gradual demise of Agger made it difficult to build-up play from the back but BR adamantly chose to stick to his methods and consequently the team suffered and even collapsed on occasions.
But we shall focus on the aspects of the game which BR was able to get right during his tenure at the club. As I’ve already discussed in this article before, Liverpool was suffering from a influenza called mediocrity. The lack of technical players coupled with the physical nature of the premier league meant that without the spark of Luis Suarez, Liverpool just could not cope with the intense pass and move strategies. The lack of incisive passing and weaving through the opposition defence by playing in between the lines was no longer possible. The team lacked wingers and wide players which made it easy for opposition teams to predict the style of play and deal with the situation accordingly.
Liverpool FC, Europe, and BR:
Liverpool FC is a name which is synonymous with European competition and primarily, European trophies. The outstanding performances by LFC during the 80’s and the incredible comeback at Istanbul had immortalized Liverpool in the hearts of all football fans, expect for a few AC Milan fans perhaps. But under BR, Liverpool had performed dreadfully in both tiers of European football.
The Europa League did not provide enough joy to the trio (the fans, the manager and the players) and nor did the Champions League. This failure of BR was marked by stark criticism and contempt. Liverpool had dug themselves out of a slump but notwithstanding the fact that Liverpool had not been able to win a trophy after the Carling Cup win under Dalglish, which is astonishing as well as pitiful as the same time. His failure to deliver a trophy in three seasons underlined his own mediocrity and lack of his ability to effectively deliver results.
Just as I mentioned before, with the mediocrity problem with the players solved to a certain degree, it was time to focus on the manager of the club because Liverpool fans could never be incriminated for being mediocre and thus, the manager remained the last element of the trio that needed an upgrade and so it turned out to be. No club can aspire to be the best with mediocre players if the club wants to be the best it must either buy or develop better players than Liverpool did prior to BR.
In this regard, the much-maligned transfer committee in Liverpool also deserves a mention. Even during the last few days of BR’s tenure, there were debates as to which of the players were really of BR’s choice and which of them were bought by the committee. Nevertheless, by now Liverpool had certainly recovered a bit from the time when Roy Hodgson had taken over.
But even under BR, in the post-Suarez period, the team performed miserably and suffered heavy losses away from home towards the end of the season notwithstanding the fact that Liverpool had come 2nd in the league in the previous year and missed out on the premiership by a point. Liverpool sacked BR at the initial stages of the 2015-16 season and was replaced by the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp. The rest is mostly blank pages of paper which are yet to be filled just like this article itself.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not necessarily represent the views of Sportskeeda.