“At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky”. Sadly for Liverpool, the storm is still very much raging on. The early exits in both domestic cups, two competitions Liverpool reached the finals in last season, adding to an underwhelming display in the Premier League, as well as a second-round exit in the Europa League, this season has very much left some fans questioning what, if any, progress has been made by Brendan Rodgers in this turbulent campaign.
Opinions on Brendan Rodgers are very much polarised between fans; people are either advocates for keeping him, or firmly believe he isn’t deserving or adequate enough for his role as Liverpool manager, with few and far between. Any criticism of Rodgers is ordinarily greeted with a substantially hostile reception from the pro-Rodgers quota, although on the contrary, the Ulsterman isn’t faultless.
Supporters are often apprehensive when coming to criticise Rodgers as those that do are often branded as one of those solely interested in seeing him lose his job. But the truth is, there will always be some who are more obsessed about seeing the back of Brendan Rodgers and Fenway Sports Group than witnessing Liverpool progress, but it’s dangerous to turn to blind optimism purely to avoid fuelling the fire that the anti-Rodgers brigade have raging. There are people who want Brendan Rodgers sacked and have logical reasons for it. That is fair enough. Ultimately, everyone just wants to see the team they love succeed. But in my opinion, the only way that’s going to happen is instilling a sense of stability and structure at the club to build upon. Instead of turning a blind eye to mistakes, merely address them sensibly and rationally. Criticism is a fundamental element of transition. Without being critical, you can’t iron out the creases to improve your situation, and a transition is all about developing and striving to improve.
If Liverpool are to progress, Brendan Rodgers is going to have to stand up and have his mistakes counted for. A negative approach against United cost Liverpool the game, poor substitutions, team selections and approach to games have been wrong on occasion this season. Failure to confront and acknowledge weak performances is the most frustrating. More recently, taking off two players fundamental in building attacking play immediately after taking a 3-1 lead vs Zenit was poor management. Liverpool subsequently lost all momentum and the substitutes brought on, with the exception of Oussama Assaidi, failed to contribute or make even the slightest impact on the game.
Despite that and the fact that we’re now out of every cup competition this season, Rodgers is not solely responsible for Liverpool’s deprivation of success this season. There has to be a sense of reality adhered to. Liverpool’s squad isn’t nearly as strong as people would like to believe and there is still a lot of progress to be made. On the other hand, there were plenty of positives to take away from Thursday’s win. A lot of times, Rodgers’ team has played with a fragile mentality or distinctively lacked character. Nothing of the sort could have been said on Thursday. Spurred on by the crowd, Liverpool looked threatening against a strong Zenit side and produced arguably the best European performance since the Benitez era. There was a desire to win the ball back and to attack with purpose. That brittle mentality and absence of character has resulted in throwing away too many winning positions this season and ultimately that has impacted upon our league position. Sadly, the poor showing and result in Russia always left us with a mountain to climb and a fourth goal was just too much to ask.
However, both Brendan Rodgers and the players will learn. This season, as I’ve mentioned, is about transition. The thinned squad at the start of the season led to the inclusion of a number of youthful figures, whom otherwise would never have featured. Although since entering the transfer market and securing the services of both Phillipe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge, Rodgers has significantly enhanced both our attacking play and attacking options.
With Jamie Carragher’s imminent retirement, Sebastian Coates appearing out-of-favour and a shaky defence primarily being Liverpool’s Achilles heel this season, there is still a lot of work to be done, although Rodgers has stressed that will wait until the summer. The preliminary signs are encouraging though. If Liverpool are able to restructure their defence soundly, I will certainly be expecting a substantial improvement for next campaign.
Brendan Rodgers was keen to emphasise upon arrival at Anfield that this is a ‘project’ and owners alike are keen to state that this is a long-term solution, not a quick fix. The crucial element to this ‘project’ is stability. I am critical of Brendan Rodgers, the board and a lot of things, but I believe he’s the right man to take Liverpool forward and I have confidence in his ability. The only thing missing is expectation. This is a long-term plan, but there still needs to be a minimum requirement of Brendan Rodgers to deliver a certain standard of league finish and performance. At times, I don’t feel Rodgers has that pressure and is mitigated from poor performances.
Liverpool fans are often ridiculed for allegedly proclaiming ‘next year will be our year’, maybe not ‘our’ year, but I am definitely expecting things of Brendan Rodgers’ side next season and I’m confident he can deliver. Rodgers is a young manager, he will make mistakes, he will learn. His plans are coming to fruition, but it will take time. I’m eagerly anticipating both the summer and next season. I have hope. I just pray they deliver.