Today, Liverpool fired manager Brendan Rodgers. It wasn’t really a surprise; as the writing had been on the wall for a while that Liverpool were going to make a change. Apparently the decision to fire him was taken before today’s 1-1 draw at Everton, so even a win there would not have saved his job.
I’m quite pleased that Rodgers has gone. Not because I lost faith in Rodgers’ ability to manage Liverpool, certainly not for any of the moronic reasons many Liverpool fans have put forward for wanting him. The reason I’m glad Rodgers has gone is because he has been subjected to some of the most reprehensible abuse from those calling themselves fans that I’ve ever seen and I’m glad he’ll be able to get away from it all. He deserves better.
The atmosphere around Liverpool from its supporters has been toxic for a while now and is getting worse all the time. When Liverpool lost, it was entirely because of Rodgers, and when they won, it was in spite of Rodgers. There are plenty of Liverpool fans who have been actively rooting for Liverpool to lose for the last year because they wanted Rodgers to go.
Rodgers was up against it from day one with many Liverpool fans. He wasn’t a big-name manager, but a somewhat unknown quantity; who many felt, and still feel, shouldn’t have been anywhere near a club like Liverpool. What’s worse was he wasn’t Rafa Benitez. He wasn’t Kenny Dalglish. He was seen as a yes-man to owners that the fans didn’t, and still don’t, trust.
There was a case to be put forward why Brendan Rodgers should be replaced as Liverpool manager. While results haven’t been anywhere near as bad as Liverpool fans would have you believe, performances have been poor for a while. Last season’s campaign was disappointing, and while there were many mitigating circumstances for that, there wouldn’t have been too many complaints had Liverpool made a change there and then.
But for large numbers of fans, those things were almost irrelevant. What was far more relevant to them about Rodgers was that his marriage broke down; he had dental work done and sometimes speaks in management gobbledegook.
Check out any online comments around Rodgers and. He’ll be called Brenda (I’m guessing because in the tiny brains of those who use this name, woman = useless). He’ll be called a fraud. For example, there are currently over 300,000 people following a twitter account set up with the sole purpose of mocking Rodgers.
And they’re some of the milder ones.
More sinisterly, you’ll see death threats. Rodgers is regularly referred to in terms used for sex offenders. His children have been subjected to horrendous abuse over social media for having committed the inexcusable sin of being the child of an unpopular manager.
I wish I could put this on a minority of idiots. Every club has supporters with fewer brains than your average paramecium, living under various rocks they crawl out from time to time. But this is a large section of the Liverpool fanbase whose behaviour has been beyond the pale.
While it’s true that we all get angry at times and say things we don’t mean. That wasn’t what was happening with Rodgers. This was months and months of prolonged abuse against a man whose only crime was trying his best to win. It wasn’t as if he liked seeing his team gets beat, which was usually thanks to an experienced international player making the kind of mistake a small child learning the game would make. It’s not as though he loved having thousands of fans hurling abuse at him at Anfield.
For many Liverpool fans, it wasn’t enough to think Rodgers wasn’t the right man for the job now, or the right man to take the club forward. No, Liverpool fans’ version of the Ministry of Truth has decided that all the good that Rodgers did as Liverpool manager has to be scrubbed from history and put down to happenstance.
Apparently Rodgers inherited a great squad; which, by the way, was so good it had finished 8th in the league, scoring 47 goals along the way. The fact that so many players developed under Rodgers, including club captain Jordan Henderson, who was only at Liverpool because Fulham didn’t want him, and Raheem Stirling, who went from being a raw kid to Europe’s most valuable young player; or the fact that so many senior players speak so highly of Rodgers’ management doesn’t register with many.
The 2013/14 season, which has been Liverpool’s best by far in the Premier League era, with the most goals and most wins in a season, was all down to Luis Suarez. None of the tactical surprises and adjustments Rodgers pulled out along the way made any difference in the eyes of large numbers of fans.
Rodgers isn’t anywhere near as bad a manager as Liverpool fans and sections of the media, who have been smelling blood in the water for weeks, would have you believe.
If you want to judge a manager solely on results, then Rodgers comes out very favourably. It bothers me that Rodgers’ results as Liverpool manager are never looked at objectively. Only the bad ones ever get trotted out, and the good are ignored.
In the Premier League era, Liverpool’s average points per game is 1.72. For Rodgers, that figure is 1.80. Rodgers has the second best win percentage and the best goals per game of any Liverpool manager in the Premier League.
Even last season, which was a disappointment, Liverpool went on a run where they only lost 3 times in 29 games (and one of those was in extra-time) and had a winning sequence they’ve only equalled four times in Premier League history (and one of those was under Rodgers too).
Even with Liverpool’s so-called disastrous start to this season; after 8 games, Liverpool have 12 points, which is 4 more than Chelsea, 3 behind current 4th place side Crystal Palace, 4 fewer than Arsenal and Man United and 6 fewer than league leading Man City.
Whilst it’s not the greatest start to a season ever; it’s far from the worst. In fact, it’s the second best Liverpool have had in the last five seasons. That’s also considering that 4 of those games have been four of the seven toughest away fixtures Liverpool face in the Premier League.
As I’m writing the leading candidates seem to be former Borussia Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp, who has been who the fans have been clamouring for since the end of last season, former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and Ajax manager Frank de Boer. I’d also imagine FSG would look at Swansea manager Garry Monk and Bournemouth’s Eddie Howe too.
Whoever that manager is, they’ll have to go some to be as good as Rodgers was, let alone better his achievements. And they’ll have to do it while under immediate pressure to deliver from some of the most demanding fans in football, while struggling with the financial constraints and the bizarre off-field situation Liverpool currently have under their current owners, FSG.
What most fans failed to realise is that the problems facing Liverpool go far beyond Rodgers.
Hopefully, FSG are currently undertaking a review of their role the running of Liverpool. FSG favour a model of collective decision making rather than having one person calling the shots, but this, coupled with non-existent communication, leads to an impression that nobody really knows what they’re doing in the running of Liverpool.
Last summer, when rumours swirled about Rodgers’ future at Liverpool, FSG’s response was to revamp the coaching team and then spent a lot of money on transfers. This suggested they had decided to get behind Rodgers, rather than pull the plug and start to rebuild in the summer.
Now it seems as though, rather than a strategy; that was just indecision, and an expensive one too as they’ll have to pay off Rodgers, and probably his coaching staff to accommodate the new manager, and will probably have to spend a lot of money on players.
There are several other areas where FSG should be examining if they are doing things the right way in.
For example, there’s the much-criticised transfer committee that controls Liverpool’s transfer activity. Brendan Rodgers was criticised for his transfer record, but the point was it wasn’t his transfers. It was a committee, that Rodgers was a part of the decision making, but didn’t have the final say in who was brought into the club.
In England, unlike most of the top leagues in Europe, managers are expected to be responsible for buying and selling players, even though clubs are slowly coming round to having a sporting director, which is a similar role to that of General Manager in US sports. Not having control of transfers is seen as a weakness, and it’s the ultimate taboo for an English manager to be seen as not being in total charge of everything to do with players.
That’s why Rodgers had to make vague, lame statements about having more transfer control than he really did, even when you could tell he was being cut off at the knees with his transfers.
Both Klopp and Ancelotti are used to working with a sporting director, rather than having transfer responsibility themselves, so if they were to be hired, the committee would probably have to go, and I’m not sure that FSG are willing to give that up, as they seem to be married to the idea.
FSG also have a credibility problem amongst the fans. The impression being given by FSG isn’t one of owners who are desperate to see the club succeed. It’s one of owners who are trying to make the club as valuable as possible before they sell.
One of the reasons FSG bought Liverpool was that they believed that Financial Fair Play would mean that the financial playing field would be levelled and a team like Liverpool would be able to compete with even richer clubs without having to spend huge amounts of money to do so.
While Liverpool do spend a lot on transfers, they still adhere to the FFP model, but as FFP has already been relaxed and it increasingly looks as though it will be completely overturned soon; that plan looks to be badly outdated as rival clubs are spending even more than Liverpool and I don’t think FSG are willing to put even more money in to compete with other teams.
FSG are now looking for their fourth manager of Liverpool in less than five years of buying the club. At some point I think they have to accept that the lack of success during their time in charge may be at least partly down to the way they are running the club, rather than the coach, because if they don’t, the new manager, whoever that may be, will struggle to fare any better than Brendan Rodgers.