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Can we really judge Brendan Rodgers?

The Boot Room



Not since the days of Roy Hodgson have I felt such disillusionment with the powers that be at Liverpool. For obvious reasons, Hodgson was never an ideal or seemingly capable manager and therefore his position at Anfield was short-lived. The now-England boss never seemed to have an underlying philosophy that ran through everything he did. His team didn’t play with a noticeably unique style of play that could be clearly seen as being his own. Presently, however, Liverpool has Brendan Rodgers, who despite having a philosophy that runs throughout the club, from the changing rooms to the kitchen, you cannot help but feel that his position as Liverpool manager is slipping between his fingers.

Liverpool started the 2014/2015 season dismally and it took them until November to turn things around. Liverpool started the season with a diamond in midfield and two up-front with Sterling and Sturridge spearheading the formation that had brought Liverpool close enough to the Premier League to see their reflections in it. Then Sturridge got injured, again. Then people realized Balotelli was nothing more than a gamble that didn’t quite pay off. Then Liverpool struggled through two months of what can only be called frustrating football. Liverpool had very few chances to put away and very few players capable of doing so.

The turnaround in form came with Rodgers’ stroke of genius to change the system he had been using without any success. He switched the shape to a risky 3-4-2-1. I must admit that I don’t think the likes of Mourinho or Van Gaal would have the bottle to admit their system wasn’t working and then still change to such an ambitious and ultimately risky system. The drastic change in form was admirable. Taking a 17 points form a possible 21 since the turn of the year and going unbeaten for thirteen games meant Liverpool was sitting pretty two points off United before the fixture which saw everything unravel.

Since that fixture Liverpool has essentially seen any hopes of Champions League dashed and to further worsen that the team seemed destined to have a spot in the beloved Europa League tidied up. The only way Liverpool could avoid the competition would be if Aston Villa won the FA Cup; yet another competition the Reds have exited this term. The record stands at being knocked out of the Champions League and then the Europa League, a semi-final exit at the hands of Chelsea, FA Cup sorrow and most recently the bleakness of knowing that a top four spot is basically impossible.

Typically two semi-finals would be a great accomplishment but that would only be the case if it went hand in hand with a top four finish. The fact that this was not the case coupled with the fact that it never seems like Rodgers quite wants to burden the responsibility of a poor campaign. In his first season as manger the Reds finished seventh and it was accepted and cited as being all part of the transition period but when you have had three seasons and spent £212 380 000 on players that very few can be called a success. Seven of his 27 signings in the last three years aren’t even at the club anymore. 3 of his signings from last season arguably should be on their way out as well namely Dejan Lovren, Mario Balotelli and Javier Manquillo. Only 2 of his signings being Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho can be called outright successes despite the former’s well documented injury plight. Only 2 of his signings have come good on this policy of seeking out potentially world class players.

It could be argued that Rodgers has been constrained by the FSG’s policy of buying young players who are showing potential of being world class and the notorious transfer committee of Liverpool Football Club. Not to mention the legendary Ian Ayre. All these are indications of a lack of cohesion between the manager and the staff surrounding him. Brendan Rodgers hasn’t been granted the full extension of his buying opportunities. Liverpool has, for the last several been in a transition period that desperately needed for quality proven players to be brought in. It is difficult to pass judgement upon a man who is forced to coax the quality out of greedy teenagers and to nurture talent rather than to accept a ready-made and proven player.

You wouldn’t get away with saying that the owner’s lack ambition. I think having spent £116 million last summer demonstrates a very definite amount of eagerness for success but the scope with which their money is being used to access talent isn’t great enough. Rather than being unambitious there is a naivety to the transfer dealings where FSG is concerned. This is doubly important if their ambition is genuine. Liverpool is being seriously outplayed in the transfer market by the likes of Chelsea and the Manchester clubs all because they are prepared to sign proven players. Manchester United’s post Ferguson slump wasn’t as prolonged as Liverpool’s current slightly interrupted hiatus from Europe’s elite competition, due to the simple fact that they are capable and un-hindered by club policy to sign ready-made quality players. Di Maria, Falcao and Juan Mata are the type of signings Liverpool just isn’t prepared to make and it is ruling the club out of contention for any sort of prestigious competition.

The owners need to come to the realization that if Liverpool is going to be successful they need to be prepared to invest the money they are currently spending on players that will come straight into the squad and put the fear of God in teams in the way that Liverpool did last season. Luis Suarez, a world class player, took Liverpool as close to the Premier League title as you can get without actually winning it. The ‘Suarez Money’ that was generated from the sale of the controversial Uruguayan to Barcelona was dismally squandered on players that are mediocre when the club desperately needed to reinvest that same money into a player who would lead the club with a similar brilliance.

The season is nearing a close and it is imperative for Brendan Rodgers, despite FSG’s assurance that his job is safe, gets as much out of the upcoming fixtures. Otherwise, not only will there be awkward question marks surrounding his future, fans will have more than the disappointment of the poor season going into the summer transfer window. If FSG really want Rodgers as the manager of Liverpool Football Club and for him to succeed he needs to be granted more freedom to sign who he likes without the pandering of a nonsensical transfer committee. If Liverpool are indeed to succeed, the club’s policy of signing only young potentially great players needs to be abolished.

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Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts



Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash



Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts



West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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