Liverpool’s hope of Europa League glory this season ended abruptly last night as they failed to overturn the deficit of an away goal at Anfield against Zenit St Petersburg.
This is only the latest blow for Reds fans in a long line of disappointments this season and, over the last five years; this has unfortunately become the rule not the exception.
Last season’s League Cup is there only piece of silverware in since the 2006 FA Cup won with Rafael Benitez, under whose leadership they won the Champion’s League the season prior to that.
1) A title-winning manager is something Liverpool desperately need – the fans got right behind Brendan Rodgers when he first arrived from Swansea – everyone was willing him to bring back the glory days to The Kop but gradually, over a season of yet more disappointment, inconsistency and turbulence, he is gradually losing the faith of the faithful.
I feel some sympathy for Rodgers, as it’s clearly not the dream job he was expecting when he agreed his three-year contract in the summer. I suspect there are contributing factors that are out of his control – he has the backing of John Henry but I fear that his days at Anfield are numbered.
The problem is that he didn’t really have the credentials for the job in the first place and it’s my firm belief that his lack of any title-winning experience domestically or on the continent is now a glaringly obvious cause for concern.
Benitez had already won La Liga with Valencia when he was appointed and those are the kind of honours that should realistically be on the CV of a Liverpool FC manager. I thinks that an absolute minimum requirement for Rodgers’ eventual replacement.
2) The problem is, Liverpool desperate lack any form of stability and continuity – Roy Hodgson was appointed to stabilize the club, like Rodgers, as reflected by his three-year contract. When that didn’t work out Kenny Dalglish was appointed in the hope of restoring some continuity between the Reds’ past present and future but, as we know in hindsight, that was the opposite of what actually happened.
I understand it’s something of a catch-22 situation at this point – Liverpool need stability and continuity as a new foundation to build from but everyone they hire fails to achieve those objectives and is promptly replaced by the next manager – it’s a constant upheaval process which is detrimental to the clubs aims.
Where Rodgers perhaps could have succeeded and, thus far, has failed is that he tried to ‘re-invent the wheel’. He came in and tried to force his style and brand of football on a team that was already playing attacking possession football for the last twenty-odd years.
The team had been set up by Benitez to attack with verve and impetus – yes, Benitez had his own ways defensively but it wasn’t as if they were playing like Stoke before Rodgers walked in.
3) Where he could and possibly should have aimed his focus was on simplicity and consistency over style. Keep it simple, stupid. The fluidity and chemistry in the team is likely down to the influx of youngsters as much it is the team’s gradual adaptation to Rodgers’ philosophy, I’ll admit.
However, he might have faired a little better if he’d have set the team up to suit the strengths of team he inherited. Steven Gerrard and Luis Suarez are the life-blood of that team and, with all due respect, pretty much everyone else (except Pepe Reina) should be considered a utility player whose job it is to function as a cog in the wheel that feeds their two star best star players.
Daniel Sturridge can now be added to that list of stars – he is undoubtedly the best thing Brendan Rodgers has brought to Liverpool FC so far and, without a shadow of a doubt, the manager had a tough job from the start trying to rectify mistakes made in previous regimes.
4) Liverpool need to use the transfer market more wisely – that’s a no-brainer. That’s something that had been lurking under the surface as a problem even when Benitez was in charge. They need to bring in players of quality and experience every season just to keep pace with the big spenders in the Premier League these days.
That doesn’t mean they need to spend £30 million on one player but there are players of quality available for much much less than that – look at Santi Cazorla at Arsenal or, forgive me, Marouane Fellaini at Everton.
Bringing in Sturridge is a move in the right direction but letting the likes of Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, and Javier Mascherano go is something Liverpool fans don’t want to see. They want to see players of exceptional quality brought in to play, like Suarez and Gerrard, for the peak, if not the whole, of their careers.
5) Finally, on that note, the club needs to listen to the fans who support them. I’m not a Liverpool fan but I know that those who are can be considered the most passionate, loyal, intelligent, dedicated, and vocal of pretty much any other club in the league, possibly the world.
They cannot be considered just seat warmers at Anfield – the fans know the ins and outs of the day-to-day running of the club, they know what the balance sheet looks like and they know what they see on the pitch when they see it.
The club is trying, I believe, to honour their faith in and love for the club – I don’t believe it’s a situation where the fans are entirely contemptuous of the owner or the board (not to my knowledge, anyway) but they have to start taking on board the suggestions of the supporter groups who are desperate to leap to the rescue of the club they love.
There has to be more of an open and honest dialogue because these fans have seen this club through the worst of trials, tribulations, and tragedies in the past and they must be the architects of its future.
image: © joncandy