No matter how well he has done this season, the job during the next campaign just got even bigger.
It looks as though Liverpool will fall short in this season’s title race but it should not take away from the progress that Brendan Rodgers and the rest of his staff have made with the side this season.
From taking the side that was struggling to get into the Europa League places right into the heart of this season’s title race is truly an astonishing transformation.
But next season is likely to be a huge test for the Northern Irishman.
Expectation levels will rise. As he has said not so long ago, not many people gave his side a sniff of even finishing in the top four this season never mind being in with a chance of lifting the Premier League title come the final day of the season.
But next season, there will be an appetite for more, no matter how this season ends. Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez came close to ending Liverpool’s title hoodoo, but coming close signalled the beginning of the end for them at the helm of the club.
Houllier’s side finished second to Arsenal in 2002 and had a promising start in the following campaign, but ended up finishing fifth with a League Cup win. The following season they struggled to a fourth place finish in 2004.
Benitez had a side that pushed Manchester United until May in 2009 and fell four points short of a title win, the following season proved to be his last as the side finished seventh, 24 points worse off from the previous campaign, and in turn the eventual champions that season.
What is imperative is that Rodgers at least consolidates Liverpool’s position amongst Europe’s elite that he has managed to guide them to for next season. But he also has to manage the expectations of fans who will be expecting another title challenge from his side during the next campaign.
With Manchester City and Chelsea expected to strengthen again and changes taking place at Manchester United and Tottenham, with Arsenal and Everton both looking a threat, it is going to be a tough ask. After coming so close in only his second season to delivering what Liverpool fans crave, they will want to see something tangible in terms of silverware produced the next.
The next test is the Champions League. The Reds will return straight in at the group stages and are drawn in pot three which is going to be difficult. However, with the Liverpool defence the way it has been this season, in Europe he can’t afford much more slackness and naivety from his players. Europe is a different animal to the English league and Liverpool do have the game to trouble the best. But quality players are needed, meaning bigger competition for the first team and possibly a greater test of his man-management skills.
Finally, as it looks as though Liverpool have fallen short, it is picking up the players so they can go again and back up this season. Otherwise some will regard it as a flash in the pan, when what they need to do is show that the Reds are a force to be reckoned with once again. They may be ahead of schedule in the mind of Rodgers, but that doesn’t mean they should slip back.
Next season will be interesting viewing, regardless of the eventual outcome of this.