Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is once again suffering death by legends as the club’s high profile former players line up to criticise his tactics — and the big question now is ‘How much longer can he last?’
Liverpool’s toothless and heartless performance in Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester was a significant set-back at a time when the club has invested heavily in the transfer market; and the lack of support for Rodgers amongst the Merseyside glitterati is painfully obvious.
Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness, Mark Lawrenson and David Thompson were just a few of the club’s former heroes to heap criticism not just on the performance at Old Trafford but on the management vision behind it; and coping week-in, week-out with that kind of mauling is going to be a serious challenge.
It is, of course, one of the things that makes being manager of Liverpool particularly complicated in an era when the current squad has so blatantly failed to match the achievements of the past. Rodgers’ odds to be the next Premier League manager sacked are now 2-1 with some bookmakers — and only Dick Advocaat at Sunderland prevents him taking on the mantle of favourite.
Sadly Rodgers doesn’t do an awful lot to help himself these days. In the early stages of his reign it always seemed he had a plan, a vision, for the way he wanted his team to play, the way his project would be shaped — and what it could achieve in a five-year time-scale. But since the sale of Luis Suarez his decisions, his signings and his tactics seem to lack structure — and although he continues to talk a good game the big vision appears to have gone missing.
To be fair there have been one or two promising signs this season — a high-quality performance at Arsenal for instance, the growing stature of Coutinho — but Saturday’s display gave the legends every reason and every excuse to circle their prey once more as even Rodgers admitted his players didn’t have the technical expertise to match a United side that hardly ranks with the best, either.
Jamie Carragher, whose position as Sky Sports analyst gives him a huge profile, was one of the most virulent critics, ripping apart Rodgers’ tactics which left Liverpool pretty much toothless at Old Trafford until Christian Benteke — left isolated and unsupported all match — produced a wonder goal out of context with the overall performance.
“I don’t understand this obsession with playing 4-3-3. Brendan Rodgers came to the club wanting to play 4-3-3 and it didn’t work,” said Carragher. “The great season they had was with two strikers and how they got them into the team is down to the manager. They’ve got a lot of strikers, no wide players, and he continues to play 4-3-3. I don’t understand what the point was in playing Danny Ings in that wide position. He didn’t give the support to Benteke.
“You think about how many strikers Liverpool have on the books and they have no wide players. They’ve only got Jordon Ibe. Firmino is not a wide player and Coutinho played there last week and he’s not a wide player.” Graeme Souness, as reluctant to mince his words as he was to pull out of a tackle in his playing days, was also quick to criticise the use of Firmino and Ings in unfamiliar positions in such a big game.
He added: “You’ve got square pegs in round holes and it just doesn’t work. You have to make people feel they are playing in positions they are happy to play in and Liverpool haven’t got that right now.
“They need goals. You won’t always play well, but if you’ve got goalscorers it camouflages a multitude of sins and Liverpool have got to come up with a system.”
Lawrenson described the performance as ‘grim’, talked of ‘doom and gloom’ at Anfield and accused the manager of a lack of bravery in his tactics — while Thompson described Rodgers as ‘naive’ for his use of Benteke in an isolated role.
In some ways you have to feel for the Liverpool manager; being surrounded on all sides by critics who wear the same colours as you cannot be comfortable. But after nearly three-and-a-half years at the club there remains a nagging feeling that he has fallen a long way short of the vision he outlined back in 2012.
How much longer can he keep the wolves at bay?
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