Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool reign came to an end after failing to beat Everton in the Merseyside derby on Sunday afternoon.
Fenway Sports Group did not wait long to wield the axe, with Rodgers’ departure being confirmed only hours after the game. Rodgers was in truth a dead man walking, with Liverpool’s recent win against Aston Villa merely providing the Northern Irishman with a stay of execution.
The final nail in the coffin was most likely struggling past League 2 Carlisle United in the League Cup only on penalty kicks. So how had it happened that the 2013/14 LMA Manager of the Year had fallen from grace so spectacularly, and descended to a figure of ridicule across social media?
Steven Gerrard’s slip
A now infamous moment from one of Liverpool’s greatest ever performers, Liverpool had won 11 consecutive games before hosting Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Had he not fallen at such an inopportune moment, and allowed Demba Ba to give Chelsea the lead just before half-time on 27 April 2014, Liverpool may well have clinched their first League title of the Premier League era. It cannot be considered a defining moment in my opinion, as title winning sides react to and overcome adversity, and Liverpool still had the title in their own hands.
Those 11 minutes at Selhurst Park
In the game after the 2-0 defeat to Chelsea, Liverpool were 3-0 up away at Crystal Palace, with only 11 minutes of the regulation 90 remaining. Then came a collapse of epic proportions, with a deflected long range strike from Damien Delaney, and two goals from Dwight Gayle sealing a 3-3 draw for the home side. This put the title race back into the hands of Manchester City, and they did not falter. Failure to clinch the title from such a commanding position would inevitably have ramifications.
Suarez’s bite and subsequent departure
Luis Suarez had been the inspiration behind Liverpool’s title charge, scoring 31 goals in 33 Premier League games, and generally lifting his team mates. At the 2014 World Cup Finals, the Uruguayan forward lost his cool and bit Italian centre back Giorgio Chiellini. His subsequent suspension and public outcry in England meant Suarez was off to Barcelona, and Brendan Rodgers had lost a genuine world class player, one he would not be able to replace.
Daniel Sturridge’s injury woes
Sturridge had linked so well with Suarez throughout the 2013/14 season, and had scored 21 goals in 29 league games. Sturridge would have been expected to step up to the plate and become the main man after the loss of Suarez, but a succession of injuries meant he only played 12 games in the Premier League during 2014/15, scoring on just four occasions. Perhaps one of the biggest reasons in the demise of Brendan Rodgers.
Falling out with Mr Liverpool
Falling out with the sweetheart of the Kop is never going to aid a Liverpool manager. Rodgers oversaw Steven Gerrard’s departure for LA Galaxy in June 2015, something that would have seemed laughable only a year previously. Gerrard was not performing as he had, but there was an element of the Anfield faithful that thought Gerrard had been forced out, and that Liverpool FC was not a club that would treat ‘one of their own’ in such a way. It may be that Rodgers was trying to stamp his authority on the dressing room, or perhaps he just felt Stevie G’s legs had gone, either way treating a club legend in such a fashion did not reflect well on the boss.
Whether the blame can actually be put at the hands of Rodgers is debatable, but whoever was at fault, Liverpool’s signings have generally flopped. Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Javier Manquillo and Lazar Markovic just did not work at all. Alberto Moreno, Mamadou Sakho, Simon Mignolet, Joe Allen, Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino have not set the world alight, and while some may still come good, Rodgers would have expected more. Christian Benteke, who regularly scored goals for struggling Aston Villa, is a battering ram centre forward who does not flourish playing in a patient passing game. So why spend £32.5 million on him?
While Rodgers had some bad luck, and may have been a victim of his own success by almost delivering Liverpool the title, he has shown himself to be inflexible on occasion. Liverpool have been hard to watch at times, particularly this season, and have passed the ball for passing’s sake it seems. By trying to fit square pegs in round holes (Markovic at left wing back?) and refusing to play to players’ strengths (Lambert, Balotelli and Benteke for example), he definitely contributed to his own downfall.
While the new Liverpool boss remains unknown, the Reds’ fans are having high hopes that a former Borussia Dortmund coach, Jurgen Klopp could be the one to raise their team to the top, where it belongs. According to the bookies, Klopp stands as the biggest favourite for the Reds’ bench..