Reds’ Revival Confirms Rodgers Credentials
Whatever happens come May 24th this season should be seen as a relative success for Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers. That may not sit well with some fans or a portion of the media should they fail to finish in the Top Four but the way he has turned this squad around despite pretty big obstacles throughout the season deserves huge credit.
A couple of months into the campaign this writer questioned Rodgers’ credentials as one of the best young managers in European football. There was compelling logic in that in the sense that Luis Suarez, such a totemic figure for the side, had skewed just how good the manager actually was.
Added to that the feeling his success at Swansea was mostly based on others’ work there and a cogent picture was forming of a bit of a bluffer in our midst; we’d see just how good he was without the genius of Suarez, the added pressures of a Champions League campaign and a surprising title challenge that had now swelled fans’ expectations.
Realistically, after such a stellar campaign the previous season, the only way was down – it was just a matter of how far they would fall and how quickly he could steady the ship.
Things started well. Despite the loss of his Uruguayan genius, the £75 million was put to relatively good use. In came a number of rough diamonds for Rodgers to polish alongside a couple of more established Premier League names. Two wins in the first three Premier League games – including an impressive 3-0 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane – had set Reds’ hearts fluttering. Then, disaster struck.
An injury to Daniel Sturridge on international duty in early September threw Rodgers’ plans into disarray. An initial prognosis of three weeks out would somehow turn into a five month absence for the England striker. The Antrim man would have to turn to the enigmatic Mario Balotelli and an ageing Rickie Lambert to lead the line. It was a catastrophe. The Italian would fail to score a single Premier League goal until February and Lambert’s immobility proved troublesome.
An inconsistent run of results, coupled with a terribly disappointing Champions League campaign, had Rodgers in the mire. He was taking a kicking from all angles. Some would argue the nadir came during the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United but, in truth, the European exit at the hands of Basel was as low as the club had sunk this season.
In many regards, the performance at Old Trafford would signal Rodgers and his side’s uprising. David De Gea’s performance warped the score line. A semi-miraculous display from the Spaniard kept Liverpool at bay as Rooney and co. picked them off but the change in formation to a 3-4-3 would see Rodgers bravely alter his philosophy and, in turn, recalibrate the club’s ascent back up the table.
With the rapid Raheem Sterling as the spearhead of a mobile attack the full-press returned; Emre Can’s switch to centre-back also added mobility and technical ability to the defence with Markovic and Moreno adding thrust and width on the wing. The swagger returned and the side would go on a remarkable 13-game unbeaten run until they succumbed to defeat against a Manchester United side undergoing their own revival with Louis Van Gaal.
While that defeat could see Liverpool missing out on Champions League football come season’s end, all is not lost. With a possible FA Cup semi-final to look forward to, hope remains of one last push and some luck coming their way. One would argue, after all he’s had to endure this season, Rodgers deserves it.
He has shown remarkable fortitude to remain calm in the face of some furious opposition and displayed tremendous tactical nous to transform a flailing campaign. If there were doubts over Rodgers’ reputation, they have now been removed.