I have been a supporter of Liverpool since 1974. They were the best team in England at the time and I loved the way they played football. Over the ensuing decades Liverpool has brought my joy and just as much anguish. The last time Liverpool won the league title I was leaving CAST and deciding what I wanted to become in life. More than two decades later I am still waiting for them to win the league title, now known as the Barclays Premier League , once more.
Two seasons ago they came really close. They led with three weeks to go but slipped up against Chelsea for what was their first loss in about 15 matches and then had an embarrassing draw against Crystal Palace that pretty much handed the title to Manchester City. It was another year without a league title, another year of being mocked by my friends, another year of frustration for millions of Liverpool fans across the globe.
For the past four seasons, Brendan Rogers has been the man at the helm of the Reds. He was the man who took the team to the brink of a title two seasons ago when Liverpool possessed perhaps the most potent strike force in English football. Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling played a huge role in the more than 100 goals that Liverpool scored that season, the one where they almost won it.
Since that time Suarez has moved on to Barcelona and won trophies there while Sterling has moved to Manchester City where he hopes to win titles. Sturirdge meanwhile, has been trying to play a full season but has spent most of the last two recovering from injury. That has meant that Liverpool has gone from being a scoring machine to a team that can barely score goals. Except for their last match where they scored three against Aston Villa, Liverpool had only scored three goals in their last four matches in the BPL.
The team that was once so confident of outscoring its opponents can now barely a goal a match and because it cant score it’s defensive deficiencies that were once overlooked have now become a major bugbear.
After Suarez left for Barca, Liverpool have brought in close to 300 million Pounds worth of players and the team has looked even worse. They spent the money acquiring second-rate players with potential yet to be realized. They bought a whole bunch of so-called attacking players and a few defenders but the team has hardly managed to jell because Rogers has made a mess of how he uses the talent he has had to work with.
We have seen players like Lazar Markovic, Mario Balotelli, and Iago Aspas and so many others come into Liverpool as potentially good players only for them to take backward steps once they joined the squad at Anfield. Players with obvious potential have come in and look a shadow of themselves playing for Liverpool while elsewhere, players of similar quality have joined other teams and literally hit the ground running.
The reason why is fairly simple. While other clubs have brought players in and have them playing in roles they are familiar with while working with players who complement their respective strengths, Rodgers has his players in unfamiliar positions and then hopes that they jell with his philosophy. This obviously has not worked on either offense or defense and it’s time Rodgers starts to learn from his mistakes and stop tinkering. Play players where they are most comfortable and give them the chance to play and shine.
Danny Ings is not a deep midfield player. He is a forward. Let him play there. In his last two matches when he has been allowed to play in a familiar role he has thrived and looks the part. Look at how quickly he has developed chemistry with Sturridge in that match against Aston Villa? The chemistry has happened because both players are playing in roles they are familiar with.
Isn’t it ironic that Markovic who was forced to play full back and in the wider positions at Anfield is now shining in a more central attacking role while on loan to Fiorentina? Isn’t it revealing that Balotelli looks so much better playing for Milan,similarly Aspas playing for Celta Vigo? Aspas, as you might recall scored twice this past week as his team drubbed Barcelona 4-1. These are players whose confidence was destroyed by Rodgers who wanted to fit them into positions they will never be comfortable playing – square pegs in rounds holes. It’s why Sterling wanted to leave Liverpool. He is a forward/winger who was being played in defensive positions that he is not accustomed to. He still can’t cross or finish but he looks a lot better player for Manchester City.
Playing players out of position is also why Liverpool’s defense struggles. They brought in Dejan Lovren, who has looked like a deer caught in the headlights since he started playing for Liverpool. They then put him to play alongside another nightmare in Martin Skrtel at centreback. Both together have made two nightmares into one giant scream-fest. Meanwhile, you have Joe Gomez, a natural centre back playing at left back and Mamadou Sahko on the bench most times. Here is a solution I am yet to see Rodgers try. Why not have Gomez and Sahko play in the middle and Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno play the full back positions. It certainly cannot be worse than what is happening now?
Lucas can then play in front of the defense as a destroyer until they can get someone better along with Milner, Can or Henderson when the latter returns.
What Rodgers needs to learn is that for players to bed in quickly you have to have them play in familiar positions. Then they don’t have to make too many adjustments and can focus on building chemistry with their teammates. That way, over a short time you can have a clearer idea of what your best team will look like.
That way, instead of struggling to beat teams like Carlisle and Villa and West Ham, they can focus on developing and trying out new strategies for the bigger guns they have to play and beat to win the league. That is the approach Rodgers needs to take. If he is not willing to do that then he needs to leave and go manage a bottom tier club where these experiments of his won’t be as much a disaster as they seem to be now.