Has Brendan The Bluffer Been Found Out?
This season was always going to be more of a struggle for Brendan Rodgers.
There were, of course, opinions to the contrary – he’d bought well; the squad was stronger, etc. – but beyond the bravado, there was the sense that losing such a fundamental player in Luis Suarez would hurt performances – at least in the short term. What has transpired is probably worse than any Liverpool fan thought possible.
Daniel Sturridge’s injury problems obviously haven’t helped, but aside from that, so far, Liverpool have really struggled to replicate last season’s devastating goal gluts that blew so many teams away before they could even get going.
The simple and most obvious reason for that is the loss of Suarez: his goals and his anarchic, ultra-energy style of play fused so beautifully with how Rodgers loves to play football.
The Suarez Effect
Herein lies what could be the lie regarding the Antrim man. Many have lauded Rodgers as one of the finest young coaches in European football and, on the surface, there is some merit to that assertion but dig a little deeper and we could just have a bit of a bluffer in our midst.
Have the incredible goal-scoring and goal-making exploits of a Uruguayan wizard embellished his coaches’ actual ability?
From 108 matches at Liverpool, Rodgers has taken, on average, 1.87 points per game – fairly impressive by anyone’s standards. They’ve averaged 2.21 goals a game and conceded 1.37 in return. Whatever way you slice it, though, it cannot be denied that a large percentage of these figures are down to the brilliance of Suarez and the heights he scaled whilst at Anfield. His absence this year, as mentioned previously, is now being sorely felt.
Rodgers’ reputation was forged at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, and whilst his stint there was largely impressive, the foundation for the club’s success was really laid by Roberto Martinez a few seasons before the now Liverpool boss had taken over.
Rodgers had arrived at the right club at the right time, merely supplementing a philosophy that was already ingrained within a group of good players. In essence, it would have taken a particularly bad coach to undo all the hard work Martinez (and, to a degree, Paolo Sousa) had accomplished.
At his other two previous clubs, the Antrim man had iffy records. His first managerial job at Watford started particularly poorly before eventually turning it round whilst his spell at Reading was nothing short of disastrous: one win in ten before being sacked.
Few can argue his style of play is easy on the eye and generally very entertaining at both ends but a major failing, along with his inability to drill a defence, seems to be in the transfer market.
Whilst at Anfield, Rodgers has bought 25 players for combined fees of just under £212.5 million; Daniel Sturridge, Philipe Coutinho and Joe Allen are the only players who could be qualified as successes so far and even the latter two have been hit and miss. That is not good enough, frankly.
Rodgers’ oft odd, philosophical meanderings also lends a hint of caricature to his personality and when things aren’t going particularly well this tends to be used as a stick to beat him with in terms of: ‘Does he actually know what he’s doing or just talking complete bobbins?’.
As a former assistant to Jose Mourinho, acclaimed in the past by his Portuguese mentor, Rodgers has been given a leg-up in the managerial ladder and whilst his record at Swansea and Liverpool seem impressive from a distance, there are definitely mitigating circumstances to both chapters. The loss of such a pivotal player in Suarez, and how he deals with his absence could be the making of the Carnlough man or the breaking of him.
At present, there are major doubts surrounding his capacity to guide Liverpool to a Top 4 finished never mind recreating last year’s anomaly-like title challenge.