The 2015/16 season will be the season of reckoning for Brendan Rodgers, and his future at Liverpool.
Simply put, the Northern Irishman has to deliver now or face the sack. The parody twitter account @DeludedBrendan provides humour for all football fans bar Kopites, and it is up to the actual Brendan to prove himself. Given the amount of John Henry’s money spent, Liverpool need tangible silverware and/or Champions League football to avoid becoming a footballing basket case. If the Premier League was the Eurozone, Liverpool are in grave danger of resembling Greece.
This transfer window thus far has represented an outlay of nearly £60 million, and that’s assuming a tribunal sets Danny Ings’ cost at £4 million – an absolute steal. Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne spearhead Brendan’s splashing of the cash, over £41 million for the pair of them. Add to that James Milner and Adam Bogdan on free transfers as well as the potential of young Joe Gomez, then Liverpool must be considered contenders for major trophies or serious questions need to be asked – are they spending this money for the fun of it?
It’s not just this summer either.
Brendan is no stranger to flashing his (or rather Mr.Henry’s) wad of dollar bills (think the 1980s Harry Enfield sketch), and in his defence he has had some success. Coutinho for around £8 million is very good value for money, with Mignolet and Moreno at £9 and £12 million each not being exactly over the odds. Unfortunately for Rodgers, these are overshadowed by some of his less successful wheeling and dealings (think Del Boy). Dejan Lovren, Mario Ballotelli and Fabio Borini cost over £46 million together, with Lambert and Lallana alone adding nearly £30 million to Southampton’s transfer kitty this time last year.
In crude maths, Rodgers has spent over £235 million on signing players, and what has he got to show for this? A Premier League runners-up medal. We all know how agonisingly close Liverpool were that season to clinching a much needed first Premier League title, and horribly for Steven Gerrard, it was not to be. Mr.Rodgers nearly won the league in his second season in charge, and looked untouchable on the eleven game winning streak – no mean feat whatsoever. However, how much of that was because of the scintillating Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge partnership remains up for debate. Certainly, SAS weren’t a hinderance.
Brendan now needs to vitalise the troops and make it work. The current crop need to gel and buy into Brendan’s way of thinking to deliver instantaneous results, not least of all to repay the faith of John Henry. Not purely fiscal, Henry’s support has also allowed Rodgers to bring in Sean O’Driscoll as his left hand man. O’Driscoll is something of a football philosopher, and as a manager focused on performances rather than results. This worked wonders at Bournemouth and Doncaster, less so at Bristol City. But if the players buy into the Rodgers/O’Driscoll way of thinking, a unique ‘Liverpool’ culture will emerge, and may be the breeding ground for success.
On paper Liverpool have a more than competent squad to challenge for the top four, and to put distinct effort into either the FA Cup or Captial One Cup. It isn’t a small task, especially considering the league now boasts a Mourinho Chelsea side, a Manchester United team seemingly clicking with Louis Van Gaal at last, not to mention steady Arsene Wenger now actually spending some money himself and winning trophies. And yes, Manchester City, Spurs and Southampton fans, we know you exist too, and you will of course provide yet more stiff competition for European football and in the domestic cups.
Let’s now address the elephant in the room, if he’s actually turned up.
From the outside looking in, Raheem Sterling does not seem to want to be a Liverpool player. At the time of writing, he has phoned in sick for two consecutive days, and a national tabloid has run a story stating he wants to leave purely because of Mr.Rodgers. At the tender age of 20, Sterling has already had his fair share of controversy. His rejection of a £100,000 a week contract led him to publicly announce that he wasn’t “money-grabbing”, he has been pictured with a shisha pipe and inhaling nitrous oxide and now he has pulled consecutive sickies. Manchester City are rumoured suitors, and he may well have offers from overseas as well. Sterling has undoubted talent, and an all too rare ability to get spectators out of their seats, which, if he leaves, will be missed at Anfield. However, Liverpool’s path to glory does not rest on the shoulders of one Englishman, despite Steven Gerrard carrying the side in years gone by. With his scattergun approach in the transfer market, Brendan is finally assembling a good looking squad, and he is likely to add more before the season commences in August. Sure he may want Raheem to remain a Red, but plans will be in place if the Kingston born flyer does leave. The potential loss of Raheem Sterling should not derail Liverpool’s plans for success.
After an underwhelming 2014/15 season Liverpool and Brendan need something to put on the CV, which is looking decidedly bare in the case of the latter – how long can you live off of one Championship play-off win? A top four finish and/or silverware is paramount to continuing Rodger’s career on Merseyside. He has already enjoyed more time in the job than perhaps he would of otherwise due to the backlash of Henry’s Dalglish dismissal, and for only so long can he spend the American’s money on his chosen players and backroom staff before he has to triumphantly return a gift stateside, much like a domestic cat when lording a catch. Now is the time to make a statement that Liverpool FC are finally back. Just don’t tell Steven of Los Angeles Galaxy.
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