Just a year ago, Liverpool were in rampant, exhilarating form. The attack of Luis Suárez and Daniel Sturridge scored a multitude of goals between them, very nearly firing Liverpool to the title. It was a year of excitement for Liverpool fans until the very end as their club, a club who for so long languished outside the top four, finally made a title challenge.
A year on, and things no longer look so enticing any more. Liverpool find themselves back outside the Champions League qualification spots and bereft of any confidence. Brendan Rodgers had previously brought about Liverpool’s rise but has now overseen its return to the norm. His unique tactical set-up, among other key decisions, were pivotal for Liverpool. However, everything he worked for seemed to backfire on him during last season. So has the Brendan Rodgers, one time Kop hero, turned villain for Liverpool?
There are always two sides to every story and we will begin in defence of the former Swansea manager. In Liverpool’s title chasing season, one cannot underestimate the importance Luis Suárez held for the team. Suárez was the best striker in the Premier League, scoring goal after goal. Not only was he Liverpool’s pivotal goalscorer (he scored 31 goals) but he was the chief creator of goals as well.
Suárez was heavily involved in the build up play leading to most of Liverpool’s goals. The Uruguayan would drop off the front, finding space to exploit. In turn, Suárez alleviated the pressure from players playing other positions.
So in his defence, last summer Brendan Rodgers had to contend with losing one of the best strikers on the planet! Those who argue that Rodgers was at fault for Liverpool’s fall must cut him a little slack. It is not easy to replace a player who almost single-handedly took your club to success, just ask Tottenham Hotspur. Some might point out that Brendan Rodgers still had the other half of his prolific strike force, Daniel Sturridge at his disposal, however Sturridge failed to keep himself fit for any where near a substantial amount of time last season. As a result, the Liverpool manager had his entire front-line from the previous season out of action. This absence is further pronounced considering the fact that that attack consistently bailed Liverpool out in the last season. The defence continued to concede goals, only to be saved by Suárez and Sturridge.
Now, still keeping this in mind, it has to be said that some of the blame has to fall on Rodgers and the famed Liverpool transfer committee. The Irish manager’s transfer dealings following the departure of Suárez were unsatisfactory – out of all the signings Rodgers made, only one in Adam Lallana paid any sort of dividends. The rest rendered virtually zero results.
First, Rodgers attempted to strengthen his back-line with Dejan Lovren. Lovren is a good player, but if Liverpool had any ambitions of consistent Champions League football, their defence needed an overhaul. Lovren is one tier above many of the defenders at Liverpool, but Liverpool’s defence is so weak that Rodgers needed a world class defender, or multiple players at Lovren’s level. Things were made worse by the way the former Southampton defender performed.
A barren hole was left in the forward line for Liverpool that the recent signing of Roberto Firmino will only begin to patch. This was the most important and vital area in which Liverpool had become severely weakened. At the very least, Liverpool needed a 10 goal a season striker. However, Rodgers signings did not fulfil even the most lenient of requirements. He brought in an already ageing Rickie Lambert, who was struggling to even a score a single goal for large chunks of the season.
As with Lovren, Lambert is a good player, but nowhere near the level of a forward Liverpool need to earn Champions League qualification.
Rodgers proceeded to sign Mario Balotelli, a huge gamble that did not pay off in the slightest. The manager should have the hindsight to notice that Balotelli, at 24 is no longer young in the footballing world, and he has continued to fail in producing goals. Not only does he struggle to produce decent stats, but his petulance and destructive nature hurt the team.
Think back to the penalty incident when Balotelli stole the penalty from Jordan Henderson, the captain and designated penalty taker. It is accepted to take huge gambles on players of the highest or higher pedigree, but Balotelli, for all of his fanfare, has never consistently delivered goals season after season.
Rodgers should not have put the fate of Liverpool football club, on immature and irresponsible shoulders. Luis Suárez was always going to be irreplaceable, however, Brendan Rodgers could have signed at least two much better strikers than he did. Tactically, Rodgers’ game plan was also heavily affected by his non-existent attack.
Playing three at the back highlighted Liverpool’s weakness in defence as the likes of Kolo Touré among others failed to keep up. The underwhelming attack could not bail the defence out like Suárez and Sturridge had previously.
In the end, Luis Suárez’ departure to Barcelona, as expected, had a large impact on the club. It has to be said that finding another player like Suárez was never possible for Brendan Rodgers. However, the manager could have done much more with the money he was given. Liverpool’s fall from grace was inevitable, however, Brendan may have doused more oil, on an already fiery flame.