Red mist descends on Rodgers

There were those who sympathised. They know Basle have always been tricky, especially against the English. These were reasonable people who understood you can’t go missing for five years and just pick up where you left off in 2009. They know it was expected then because Rafa had already earned his stripes at Valencia, while Rodgers is a relative novice.

Red mist descends on Rodgers

They are just and they are fair.

‘They’ are very much in the minority right now.

There are enough questions to be asked that go beyond such common sense. How come he picks a midfield full of workhorses, yet every team we play (even Leicester) strolls through it at will? What on earth made him think at this late stage that Jose Enrique has anything to offer? What is going on with Borini? Stuff like that.

These are the conundrums Brendan Rodgers can’t satisfactorily answer. The idea that leaving Borini off the bench and starting Lambert for six straight games is a “football decision” is so laughably false, it’s hard to know where to even begin.

Is the arrogant young coach who arrived at Anfield with his bold refusal to accept any Director of Football now a mouthpiece for his bosses? Not that anyone believes Borini is any great shakes, but Liverpool chased two goals without a striker on the pitch. Neil Mellor and Sinama-Pongolle did it for Rafa 10 years ago. Are you honestly saying we had nobody to come in now?

You may want the player to go to grab that £14 million or whatever it is Sunderland offered. You might also not want to cut your nose off to spite your face.

There is an unnerving yet understandable reluctance to use any of the summer buys. Managers at big clubs often behave like this during the endgame. That includes the grapevine’s laughable suggestion of a Rodgers replacement, Andre Villas-Boas, when he was at Tottenham.

“I never bought him, that one wasn’t my first choice,” etc. The manager’s words in August about Balotelli (pre-purchase) did however hint at something rotten in the state of Anfield. That was an obvious one, though somebody at the club could have asked Rodgers why he wasn’t buying any striker at all. We had just lost arguably the best one in the world.

Luck has left town, of course. It was only for 15 minutes but Markovic finally began to look like a player. Then ‘that’ happens. Yes it was silly to fling an arm but 99 times out of 100, that’s not a red card.

In the aftermath of European failure, the post-mortems pile up yet they could have been written any time in the last two months. The football has been appalling and anything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

Older fans may want to quote the words of Shankly when he pointed at the league trophy and proclaimed: “THIS is the one that WE want.” Liverpool in the Champions League era have often appeared confused and reticent.

They want the wealth and prestige because they think that helps bring classier players to what is fast becoming the least fashionable of all Europe’s giants. How did that work out in the summer, then?

Even going back to the days of Keegan, Souness and Rush, the Reds would lose star players when others snapped their fingers or paid enough. The ability to find hungry talented replacements on the road to stardom has vanished, now abandoned. Sterling is an accident that won’t be repeated.

Not wealthy enough to compete with the richest, not smart enough to navigate through choppier waters. That isn’t a successful combination.

The rest of the season must be tackled now with morale around the ankles and some tired, overused players. Brittle at the back and weak up front. The middle’s not so hot either.

Was Suarez really so important? Was confidence really at the core of everything good during 2013-14?

The image of Rodgers as a chancer landing on his feet has never been as strong as it is right now. Unfair? Surprisingly, I’d say yes. Suarez was here and scoring freely when Rodgers’ opening few months were damn poor. The second half of the season saw a big improvement, 36 points won and the first signs a free-flowing Liverpool could score at will.

Of course Suarez was important but so were Sturridge and Coutinho. If anything, Sturridge is the real lucky charm. Suarez bit Ivanovic and went missing for 10 games, but Liverpool won seven of those and Sturridge was the star. England broke him and Liverpool lost to Hull, Man City and Chelsea. He came back and the Reds won 48 of a possible 57 points.

Since he’s been injured again we’ve looked dreadful. At least Sturridge’s eventual return is a straw to clutch. The reluctance to buy another decent striker with some pace in the summer, when they had €£150m sloshing about, borders on criminal negligence.

Football goes on with a trip to Old Trafford and a League Cup quarter-final in the coming days. The mighty may fall, but never all that far.

We’ll shrug our shoulders and wonder if even this awful season can be resuscitated. If it can’t, there’ll be another. That’s how you get through it, most days.

Steven Kelly writes a weekly Terrace Talk column on Liverpool for The Irish Examiner

The price of Champions League failure

FINANCE

Liverpool banked £8.4 million (€10.6m) from the group stage before television income is taken into account. They will miss out on a potential £18.4m (€23.2m) available in prize money to the remaining teams. Even getting to the quarter-finals would have brought in £3m, in addition to the £2.7m they would have received for reaching the last 16, with more broadcast cash to follow. The only way to offset that would be to win the Europa League, which would rake in £5.5m and also guarantee a Champions League place next season.

TRANSFERS

A decent run in the competition can sway a player’s decision. Brendan Rodgers is unlikely to spend heavily in the new transfer window, having spent £110m in the summer, but he needs to get more goals. Recalling Divock Origi from his loan at Lille is a distant — and costly — hope, and with Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli fit soon, Rodgers may gamble on youth-team players like Jerome Sinclair or Sheyi Ojo.

MANAGER

If a stuttering league campaign has not been bad enough, Rodgers’ performance in Europe has put him under the spotlight even more. Rodgers has plenty of credit with owners Fenway Sports Group after leading the club to second place in the Premier League last season but he will need to instil significant powers of recovery in his side if that is not to wane.

EUROPA LEAGUE

Playing Thursday and then Sunday is less than constructive to success in the Premier League, but that is what Rodgers must now manage. On the plus side he has a large squad having brought in seven new players in the summer.

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