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Is Brendan Rodgers’ time at Liverpool coming to an end?

The Boot Room

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Alongside Manchester United as England’s most globally celebrated club, the Reds have, as we all know well, slumbered on their treasure trove of honours accumulated in the seventies and eighties. Failed attempts at resurrection have transpired since then, with the league title proving elusive these past 25 years, while United rose to dominance under Sir Alex Ferguson and conquered Liverpool’s prestigious 18-time winners’ record. Since then, Liverpool have still enjoyed success – FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup and Champions League titles have all been won post-millennium – but almost every Liverpool fan maintains the belief that a Premier League title is the most important of the lot. Especially since their northwest rivals have leapt on to worldwide super-brand heights, the need for domestic dominance has become somewhat of an obsession on Merseyside.

They almost did it too. Last season Liverpool were oh so, so close. The Premier League trophy was theirs to let go of, and they did just that, thanks most prominently to capitulation at Crystal Palace and that slip from the man least deserving of such a cruel twist of fate, Steven Gerrard. Manager Brendan Rodgers was hailed as a messiah of sorts, catapulting Liverpool to the brink of reclaiming their long-lost thrown while Fergie-less Manchester United struggled even to make it into the top half of the table.

Brendan Rodgers was rightly given praise for Liverpool’s 2013/14 campaign, which saw them finish as runners-up to Manchester City and secure a return to Champions League football. An attacking brand which prompted over a century of goals scored and Liverpool’s worst defensive record since 1914/15, as well as the refreshingly English look to the squad, had fans displaying “Make Us Dream” banners which pointed at hope for future success. Rodgers was lauded with the LMA Manager of the Year award for running his team so close to glory, and a contract extension was agreed to keep the Northern Irishman at Anfield until 2018. If the reader is a Liverpool fan, then less than 12 months ago the future looked like it promised success.

Then, there was last summer. Player of the season Luis Suarez was too tempted by the chance of playing with Messi et al. to stick around another season. Daniel Sturridge was struck down by a series of successive injuries which kept him out of action for much of this season. The pillage of Southampton’s successful squad from the previous season backfired, as Lovren, Lallana and Lambert have failed to fluidly transition into Liverpool’s high expectations, while the Saints have further improved under Ronald Koeman. Other signings have flattered to deceive and one in particular did not even have the decency to do that much – Mario Balotelli’s Liverpool move will likely go down as one of the biggest flops of the Premier League era. And for all their transfer activity – spending upwards of £115 million on nine players – positions that were widely considered necessary in addressing were overlooked. Much maligned Glen Johnson is still first choice right-back, Simon Mignolet has no realistic competition as goalkeeper and the defensive midfield options of Joe Allen and Lucas Leiva continue to frustrate supporters.

From an edge of the seat gung-ho mentality, the Liverpool of this season have been in stark yawn-worthy contrast. They are the lowest scorers of the Premier League’s top six and look set to tally less than the 59 goals they managed last season in the first-halves of matches alone. While Suarez and Sturridge scored a combined 52 goals last season (31 and 21 respectively), this campaign’s top scorer for the Reds is Raheem Sterling with a slightly less impressive seven goals after 32 matches. Sure, Rodgers has somewhat improved his side’s defence, but at a drastically conservative cost going forward, and still not enough to contend consistently with the league’s better teams as recent results against Manchester United and Arsenal have shown. Of course, Liverpool’s unbeaten run from mid-December to mid-March was impressive, but it only served to somewhat counteract the disastrous start they had which included seven defeats from their opening sixteen fixtures. Even fourth place now seems like an unrealistic option, even with Manchester City’s recent derailment.

To pile on the league misery, Liverpool are out of the FA Cup at the hands of a very beatable Aston Villa, they left again with barely a whimper upon returning to the Champions League, and Rodgers is now their first manager in over half a century to have failed to win a trophy in his first three years at the helm.

It all sounds very doom and gloom all of a sudden, given the optimism this time last year. This summer will be absolutely critical, both in terms of managerial and playing staff. I think Rodgers, for better or worse, will get one more season to try and revive the optimism he instilled. However, it would certainly be worth hiring a seasoned advisor to aid the 42-year old, and likewise it would be advisable for Rodgers to put his ego aside and listen to a voice of reason. Mistakes like Mario Balotelli and Ricky Lambert cannot be repeated, while the initial dropping of Mignolet only for Brad Jones to quickly suffer injury left all concerned looking very foolish.

There are positives to cling to still for Liverpool fans. Rodgers is relatively young – he was only 39-years old when he took over the Reds. That means that, if the club’s owners are willing, he has the potential still to learn from this season and emerge from it a more experienced manager. He has also started to put together a young squad of potentially exciting players; Coutinho, Markovic, Henderson, Sturridge and, if he stays, Sterling, are positive attacking options in their early twenties. A defensive overhaul is required, of course, and a proven striker to partner Sturridge and replace the Suarez void, and it is in these positions that Rodgers will have to admit he failed to adequately supplement. As an obviously intelligent man, this season will hopefully have shown him a thing or two about how best to address these problems.

Liverpool, I think, will not benefit much from doing the easy thing: firing Rodgers. What could another manager realistically hope to achieve in the similar space of time as he has had? The media are in a Klopp-frenzy, and he is a proven manager for sure, but Dortmund have had an even worse campaign this year than Liverpool. Apart from him, it is difficult to imagine someone like Ancelotti or Guardiola taking over a team without the Champions League, should they leave their respective clubs this summer. A new face will likely, at best, provide initial optimism while rebuilding the team under his philosophy as Rodgers has done.

Brendan Rodgers has the potential to be a top manager, and he very nearly delivered the obsessive Premier League trophy to Anfield in 2014. Liverpool should give the Northern Irishman one more season to prove himself, to find out whether he can push on and benefit from his mistakes. Otherwise, the Reds will yet again be looking at a new manager, repeating the impatient cycle that has failed them these past 25 years.

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West Ham United

Marlon Santos joining West Ham would be ideal solution to defensive woes

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Photo: Getty Images.

There will be a summer of change at West Ham United this summer and with James Collins leaving the club there will be a spot opening up in defence. Reports from Spain indicate that the man to fill it could be Barcelona youngster Marlon Santos.

The Brazilian joined the Spanish giants permanently last summer after impressing for their B team and earning a first team debut in 2016/17 and spent pre-season with Ernesto Valverde’s first team before being sent out on loan.

Now, reliable Catalan newspaper Mundo Deportivo say that West Ham are interested in taking the defender on loan next season after he has impressed in France, playing for OGC Nice, making 27 appearances during his loan spell.

(Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

The 22-year-old has also been linked with Leicester but with West Ham believed to be leading the chase, it would be a wise move from Manuel Pellegrini to seal a deal as soon as possible.

Strong in the tackle, Santos would also bring some much needed pace to the West Ham defence. Replacing the likes of Collins and Jose Fonte who departed in January, the arrival of a fleet-footed defender would be a welcome turnaround at the London Stadium.

It may also suggest a change in style, with the former Fluminense youth product known for his ability on the ball, often looking to dribble out from the back to get his team transitioning from defence to attack.

Pellegrini is clearly putting the building blocks in place to build a side in his own image, and bringing in Marlon Santos would be a cheap and sensible addition to fix a major problem area.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Malcom would add another dimension to Tottenham’s attack

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Photo: Getty Images.

After an impressive 2017/18 campaign, Tottenham are already beginning to plan for 2018/19 and are keen to make a statement in their first season in a new look White Hart Lane. One way they may do so is with the addition of Girondins Bordeaux forward Malcom.

Sky Bet currently list Tottenham at 7/2 to sign the Brazilian, just behind favourites Manchester United in the running at 3/1, and such an acquisition would bring an exciting new element to Mauricio Pochettino‘s attacking set-up.

Predominantly playing on the right wing, Malcom may offer more width than many of the options within the Tottenham squad, but much like Heung-Min Son and Erik Lamela, he likes to dribble on the ball and cut inside, offering a direct threat rather than looking to cross into others.

The 21-year-old scored 12 goals in 35 Ligue Un games for Bordeaux this season and whilst not exactly prolific, would help to add goals to the Lilywhites’ midfield and reduce the reliance on Harry Kane.

(Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/Getty Images)

He also has some similarities to the likes of Christian Eriksen as a superb set piece taker who likes to shoot from distance, helping to add another dimension as Tottenham look to break down more defensive sides who sit deep in hope of frustrating them.

With huge potential to develop even further, Malcom may not come cheaply but would represent an interesting project for Pochettino to get even more out of him. Whilst he bares many similarities to Erik Lamela when he arrived in north London, if he can avoid injury he could go on to become the player Spurs had hoped to see Lamela become.

His pace and threat would add a much needed option into the Spurs attack, complimenting the playmakers like Eriksen, Dele Alli and Lucas Moura and supporting the goalgetter Harry Kane. Strength in depth is key in Tottenham’s quest for silverware and Malcom would be a step in the right direction to achieving it.

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Newcastle United

Fulham promotion opens up £15m exit for Aleksandar Mitrovic

The Newcastle United star is likely to move away from the club this summer.

Mathew Coull

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Fulham won promotion to the Premier League yesterday with a 1-0 win over Aston Villa in the Championship play-off final. The Cottagers scored in the first-half through Tom Cairney to rightfully take their place back in the top-flight of English football.

It was a tremendous performance and in the summer Fulham will be looking to bring in some new faces to help them stay in the top-flight. One of those faces, will not be necessarily new. Aleksandar Mitrovic has been brilliant for Fulham since joining on loan in January.

The Serbian striker has scored 12 goals since his arrival at Craven Cottage and will no doubt be wanted permanently at the club.

Is this good news for Newcastle United?

There has been plenty of talk regarding the Serbian’s exit from St James’ Park in the winter. Many fans on Tyneside are wondering whether the club should have kept him at Newcastle, considering his goal record in London.

(during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Watford at St. James Park on November 25, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

However, it is clear that Rafa Benitez is not a fan of the player and the Spaniard certainly made things work without him.

The best thing for Newcastle right now is to sell him and ensure they bring in enough money to cover the cost of his original signing.

Fulham represent their best option to do so. Newcastle want about £15 million for the player, according to the London Evening Standard, which is the fee they paid for the Serbian in 2015.

Fulham will no doubt want to bring him to the club this summer, but would not have been able to bring him to the club had they failed to secure promotion to the Premier League.

The Cottagers can now afford the player and Mitrovic’s price-tag is unlikely to be a problem with the bonus they will receive for heading into the top-flight. Newcastle must be pleased that Fulham earned promotion, as it will allow them the best opportunity to move Mitrovic on without a major loss.

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