How Rodgers has rallied to become manager of the (new) year

Brendan Rodgers 2

After Liverpool's stuttering start, Rodgers' men have recovered to out-impress early season form teams Southampton and West Ham

For a while, it seemed as though Ronald Koeman and Sam Allardyce would be battling it out for the Manager of the Year award - alongside a certain Mr. Mourinho - after leading their teams to stunning early season progress.

At a similar sort of time, it looked like Liverpool's successes of last season were down to one man - Luis Suarez, and not Brendan Rodgers. And that the boss could be following his talisman out of the club.

However, the manager and the side have regrouped and refreshed, and have strung together an unstoppable sequence of results, in the Premier League at least.

Last night's comfortable victory over troubled Burnley put the Reds fifth, just two points behind a shaky Manchester United side, and a further point adrift of Arsenal in third. Even Manchester City, in second, seven points ahead, don't look out of reach for the soaring side.

Little wonder Rodgers has called for a top-three visit.

Southampton, meanwhile - who, for so long held such a place themselves - have finally dropped out of the top five, two points behind Liverpool, and two above Tottenham in sixth, with Spurs boasting a game in hand on the Saints.

Suddenly, the excitement has all gone a little quiet on the South Coast. Club legend Matt Le Tissier is no longer predicting Champions League qualification, and few are lauding it over ex-boss Mauricio Pochettino now, especially with his new side breathing down their necks.

Realistically, Southampton should still out-do the eighth-placed finish he lead them to last season, but only by one spot.

Incredibly, the Saints had held a top-four berth since mid-September, maintaining it for five months. Their recent slide has been cruel on Koeman, who had been bullish about their chances of making it stick.

Southampton were joined in the surprise package club by West Ham, when the Hammers moved into the top four a move after the Saints, with Big Sam revelling in the success.

Their decline, though, has been even sharper, with the Clarets floundering in tenth, and Allardyce not just out of contention for Manager of the Year, but likely to be out of a job in the summer.

Rodgers and his side have gone the other way - on the up and up.

Since their 3-0 'spanking' at Old Trafford - where the game actually wasn't as one-sided as the scoreline - Liverpool have gone 12 games unbeaten in the league, only twice conceding more than one goal along the way.

The potentials of Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho have been harnessed, the pair contributing four goals in their last three league outings.

Steven Gerrard's sidelining is starting to look sensible, as does Raheem Sterling's no less controversial mid-season break, while even Mario Balotelli has started to look a threat.

After the penalties defeat by Beskitas in the Europa League, it leaves Rodgers and his men to focus on domestic duties - although an appealing home draw against Blackburn in the FA Cup must surely detract slightly from that.

With Daniel Sturridge regaining fitness and form, and rivals struggling around them, Liverpool look a formidable force.

And, with the axe looming large over Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, you can't help but feel that the big wigs at the Eithad should be watching the Northern Irishman's progress closely, in case their 'stellar' foreign fancies - Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, and principally Diego Simeone - aren't available.

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