Liverpool’s poor start to the season has many questioning why, with the Anfield club sitting in mid table in the Premiership and at danger of an early exit from Europe. Last year’s runners up have had a torrid start to the new campaign, securing only 14 points in their first 12 games, much to the disappointment of their fans who were hoping for a repeat showing of last years form. The players appear to lack confidence which has shown in a series of poor error prone performances so far but the root cause of this is unknown. It may be as a direct result of letting Luis Suarez depart in the summer and the clubs failure to replace his goal scoring prowess which has in turn heaped more pressure onto the shoulders of Liverpool’s midfield providers. It also may be that the squad is questioning whether Rodgers is the man to guide them out of this slump; after all it was his mistakes in the summer that have landed Liverpool in this predicament in the first place. Either way Rodgers job is in doubt with few giving him past Christmas if this poor form continues.
Rodgers has always appeared to be in full control of everything that happens at the club and is known for his planning but a series of mistakes made by the Northern Irish coach during his preparations for the new season may end up costing him his job. Over the summer, the Liverpool boss alongside chief executive Officer Ian Ayre oversaw the transformation of his squad with no less than nine new faces arriving between the start of June and the end of August. These signings were made possible by sanctioning the sale of star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona for a massive fee of £75million. Controversial to many, the move was permitted after the player forced Liverpool’s hand by getting himself banned from playing once again for biting, this time at the World Cup in June. Cashing in on their troubled star now before the season began was a way to protect their season and allow Rodgers enough time to bring in the required reinforcements needed to mitigate the risk of losing such an influential component of Liverpool’s style of play. With Suarez sealing his move on July 11th, Rodgers had just over seven weeks to reinvest the money raised and immediately ramped up his spending spree as a result. In came Serbian Lazar Markovic, Belgian striker Divock Origi and Croatian defender Dejan Lovren all before the end of July, joining three players previously signed before Suarez departure – Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana and Emre Can. As August began, Liverpool had spent more than they had received for Suarez (£88.5million in total) but still had failed to buy an outright replacement for the Uruguayan. The approach taken by Rodgers was similar to that of Tottenham’s last summer when they sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a world record £85.3 million. Faced with the dilemma of having to replace arguable the world’s most exciting winger, Chairman Daniel Levy along with then manager Andre Villas Boas embarked on a spending spree, bringing in seven new faces to strengthen the entire squad. Amongst them was the talented Erik Lamela whose arrival at the club was heralded as a masterstroke as he was seen as an out and out replacement for Bale. Possessing skill and pace in abundance, expectations on Lamela were high and after a difficult initial season he appears to be more settled in to life in the Premiership this season, and is working hard to repay his transfer fee.
The key difference between Tottenham’s approach last summer and Liverpool’s this past summer has been that whilst Spurs strengthen other positions throughout their squad, they resolved the notable gap left by Bale’s departure by signing a like for like replacement. Liverpool initially struggled to do this and as the remaining pounds from Suarez monster move were spent, the club still had not signed a suitable replacement. Yes strikers Rickie Lambert and Divock Origi were brought in but neither are in the same mould or caliber as Suarez was. As a result, Rodgers was forced into trimming the fat off of his squad in order to raise some capital to purchase an outright striker. Out went youngsters Martin Kelly, Jack Robinson and Conor Coady whilst back up goalkeeper Pepe Reina and Danish defender Daniel Agger were also allowed to leave. In came Spanish defenders Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillio (on loan) along with former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli. The fiery Italian is an enigma in his own right – a troubled genius who at the best of times is one of the world’s great strikers but on a more than regular basis is a passenger in games, with trouble both on and off the pitch hindering his progression. Balotelli’s record in front of goal is hardly on par with Suarez (1.6 games per goal vs. 2.3 games per goal for Balotelli) but besides the goals, his all round game is different with Suarez a goal creator as much as a goal scorer. Balotelli likes to be the centre of attention and demands the ball whereas Suarez works for the ball and shares the limelight. It was a flawed judgment by Rodgers that made him believe that he could tame and craft Balotelli into the Suarez mould. But his biggest mistake was not making finding a replacement for Suarez his number one goal. He did bring in some good players in Lallana and Markovic in particular but his eagerness to do so in affect weakened his team.
Now Liverpool have real problems. With Sturridge injured and Suarez gone, Liverpool lack a potent threat up front whilst at the back Rodgers rashness in letting fringe players leave in order to buy Balotelli has lead to an unbalanced backline and lack of competitiveness for places. In goal Simon Mignolet was unstoppable last season but without a real competitor to his place after the departure of Reina, his form has dropped and is now more inconsistent than ever before. Even Steven Gerrard, once seen as the rock of Liverpool appears to be suffering in his new role as defensive midfielder, a necessity given Liverpool’s defensive frailties. Rodgers errors in the summer have cost his team dearly and whilst the squad has the quality to turn it around, it may not be under Rodgers guidance. The Northern Irish coach is under increasing pressure and following Sunday’s 3-1 defeat to Crystal Palace appears to be a broken man. Liverpool’s players are the only ones that can rescue him now; they need to up their game if the coach is to hang on to his job. Whether they want to is a different story. In the end it may be that decisions Rodgers made in the summer will act against him and force his departure from Anfield sooner rather than later.