Win Or Bust Sacking Rodgers Is Wrong
Qualifying for the Champions League for the first time in four long years, Liverpool Football Club are very much on the verge of being knocked out at the group stage – quite a kick in the special area for one of European football’s biggest clubs amidst high expectactions.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Even without Luis Suarez. The squad had been strengthened in other areas. They still had the likes of Sterling and Sturridge. Brendan Rodgers was heralded as one of the best managers on the continent.
Only a few months later and to say things have gone pear-shaped would be an understatement. Of course, most people expected some kind of acclimatisation to the post-Suarez era but such a disastrous spell was beyond comprehension.
There are now huge doubts as to whether Rodgers is up to the task of steering such a massive ship without the genius of a certain Uruguayan. Whether that’s fair or not is arguable but either way, fate has dealt the Liverpool manager a cruel hand since the opening weeks of the season.
The continued injury problems of Daniel Sturridge and the effect his and Suarez’s absences have had on Steven Gerrard cannot be ignored. Without the mazy piercing runs of the former two, the latter, Rodgers’ captain, has been reduced to playmaking for Rickie Lambert – slightly less mobile than your average forward – and Mario Balotelli, a more static striker.
Further injuries to the backline haven’t helped, either, with the likes of Mamadou Sakho, Jon Flanagan and Dejan Lovren all out at various stages. Considering these issues, and with some added hindsight, the hurried sale of Daniel Agger to Brondby looks like a huge mistake now. The Dane’s leadership qualities, especially at the heart of the defence, would have been a hugely welcome fillip in these troubled times.
A win tonight at Anfield, a stadium so accustomed to special European nights, will be a massive boost to the under-fire Antrim man. With the knockout stages not until February, it will provide the necessary time to get his star striker fit and firing again, adding a sorely needed extra dimension to an attack as predictable as a Dublin Bus timetable.
A defeat and an early exit from a competition they had worked so hard to arrive at will heap further pressure on his job security. Should they lose, though, sacking Rodgers would be foolish in the extreme.
There have been reports of FSG, Liverpool’s owners, sounding out Andre Villas Boas as a possible replacement, which, frankly, would be ridiculous. In essence, it would be like dumping one Olsen twin for the other. Rodgers and AVB are two sides of the same coin. It would be hard to see any progress under the Portuguese manager that Rodgers himself could not accomplish. Outside of the current Zenit boss, there aren’t many other decent options.
There is a lot of football still to be played this season, with very few really good sides in the league. With Sturridge back and a couple of decent additions in January – we’ll give Rodgers the benefit of the doubt in terms of making some good signings – there is hope of Champions League qualification once again.
Regarding tonight’s winner-takes-all clash, Basel are eminently beatable. They are a fine side, though, and have an inexplicably good record against English sides – beaten just once in their last nine with four wins on the trot – but all good runs must come to an end at some stage and where better than at one of the most atmospheric, spine-tingling stadiums in football.
It would truly be a shame to see Liverpool exit so early; it’s time Rodgers and his squad show the rest of Europe they are no one season wonders.