Coaches always carry the can for their underperforming players. Owners buy the glamor signings to appease their fans and when the tide turns, it’s often the coach left packing his suitcase. By all measure Brendan Rodgers had the hunger and talent to prove a success at one of England’s biggest clubs, but his downfall can be linked to a multitude of bad choices and near misses that makes his reign ultimately a failure.
To chop and change manager in October is a signal to the English Premier League that Liverpool are tired of settling for a place in the Europa League. Jürgen Klopp’s arrival last week sparked a media frenzy not seen since Jose Mourinho’s first stint at Chelsea in 2004. The German has that extra bit of pizzazz and leadership you can’t learn from a textbook. When someone with that quality is on the market you have to pounce before a rival snatches them from your grasp.
The common consensus in British football was that Brendan Rodgers was a huge fan of … well … Brendan Rodgers. He subtly spoke himself up in the media and lectured interviewers about his tactical acumen. The Liverpool job is a pressure cooker and when the acid test arrived Rodgers was found wanting.
Now that the dust has settled and the Northern Irishman has left with a golden handshake on sabbatical from the game, it’s time to look at the chalkboard and find out exactly why this man is no longer Liverpool manager. Here they are – the 15 reasons Brendan Rodgers was sacked.
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15 Lampooned on Social Media
Such was the closeness in comparison between Brendan Rodgers and David Brent, UK publication The Guardian released a football quiz to test people on which quote could be attributed to the manager and which goes to The Office character. He gave lines that had to be read to be believed, including the infamous line: “My biggest mentor is myself because I’ve had to study.” A stack of memes and GIFs predictably followed this with lampooning on social media, something that was always going to be the case when he stopped winning football matches. People love pulling arrogant people down a peg or two.
14 Imbalanced Squad
Taking one look at the current crop of Liverpool FC players, you would be forgiven for thinking the club had hired and fired a litany of managers during Brendan’s reign. The small, fleet-footed players like Philippe Coutinho, Adam Lallana and Joe Allen seemed to fit the blueprint of where he wanted to go. Then he oversaw the introductions of big hulking forwards like Mario Balotelli, Rickie Lambert and finally Christian Benteke on an exorbitant amount of money. The backline ended up playing a young right-footed player in the left back slot, introducing cut-priced cast offs from other teams and the side is left with a very odd looking dynamic for Klopp to manage.
13 Fenway Sports Group Tension
Slowly but surely the American owners distanced themselves from the Northern Irishman. Like a bad smell, they couldn’t wait to get rid of him and by all reports they had lined up Jürgen Klopp to replace Rodgers months prior. The Fenway Sports Group (FSG) led by John W. Henry and Thomas Werner split their energies between Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox, managing both entities under the one umbrella. The methodology of running a baseball franchise and an English soccer club has it’s own challenges and when Rodgers began to butt heads with Henry, Werner and the administration of Liverpool over transfers, the writing was on the wall.
12 Wasting Money
Lies, damn lies and statistics. They tell their own tale for Brendan Rodgers, whose spending eclipsed $460 million since his first purchase of Fabio Borini from Roma in July 2012. By that measure he cannot say the hierarchy didn’t back him to succeed. They invested a lot of money in the squad and the lack of success had to conclude in his sacking. He will point out that the wage bill was below their top four rivals (Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea) which more often than not gives the best indication of league table position, and the net spent was down with the big sales of Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez. These points are only academic when you’re cleaning out your desk.
11 Predictable Sound Bytes
Even the best managers have their little go-to phrases they churn out during the press conferences after a game, but when you’re losing these predictable sound bytes make supporters want to throw their beer at the television screen. “Okay,” “technician,” “group” and “tactical” were little catch phrases that started to get under the skin of fans and EPL fans globally. When the tide started to turn against Brendan he would have been better advised to be more candid and honest with the British press.
10 Ex-Player Criticism
You cannot turn on a television, listen to the radio or read a newspaper without watching, hearing or seeing a former Liverpool player offer their critique of the side’s performance to the press. It’s impossible. From Jamie Carragher, Graeme Souness, Michael Owen, Mark Lawrenson, Phil Thompson and a host of other names, ex-players from the clubs glory days in the 1970s, 80s, 90s and 2000s make up a huge portion of the soccer media in England. When results began to go sour, the knives came out and Rodgers attempted to hit back by alleging an orchestrated “campaign” was against him. That tactic was never going to work well, the numbers for that fight were never in his favor.
9 Transfer Committee
Oh the ill fated transfer committee. If only Brendan had the gift of hindsight he would have killed the concept dead in its tracks because it hasn’t worked well. The “Money Ball” philosophy that has been utilized to such success in baseball it saw Brad Pitt star in a movie about it, eventually made it’s way to the EPL. Buying players on statistics and figures resulted in a convoluted committee who dithered and dallied on buying players from all corners of the globe. When the money was spent, all $460 million of it in 3 years, it left supporters and pundits scratching their heads.
8 Lack of Experience
Rodgers had a great education learning under the master Jose Mourinho as a young assistant at Chelsea. His subsequent short spells at Watford and Reading ended in his sacking when results didn’t follow, but it was at Swansea where he made his name. The Welsh club had a clear identity, passing the ball out from the back and developing a core of young, British players that won promotion to the Premier League. After guiding them to midtable safety, Liverpool took a huge put on him. That was all his experience in a nutshell – one EPL campaign and one great season in the second division. When it came to dealing with budgets in the hundreds of millions, huge media scrutiny and a supporter base that expects to win every week, then it should be expected that he came up short.
Only dictators in third world countries should have the blatant narcissism to hang a self-portrait in their living room. When the documentary ‘Being Liverpool’ came out during Rodgers’ first campaign as boss of the reds, the cameras went inside Brendan’s house of living and before you had time to blink, there was a huge portrait of the man. It wasn’t so much the painting itself but what it came to represent. Despite lacking the confidence to stand up to senior players and the club’s ownership, he never had a problem selling the confidence he had in himself to the media. All the best in the business have huge egos, but results are paramount when you’re that full of your own importance.
6 Formation Changes
Team selection time for Liverpool felt like a game of bingo. 3, 4 or 5 at the back. 1, 2 or 3 up front. Midfield’s packed with playmakers or industrious box-to-box players told a tale of a man who had no clue what his best team was or how he should put them together. Around the same time last season when they had a horrible start, he reverted to 3 central defenders which paid dividends. The side played solid, if somewhat unspectacular football but they won matches. Cut to this season and the same mistake was repeated, changing from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-1-2.
5 Loss of Principles
If formations appear like simple digits on a screen, then it was the actual football before people’s eyes that lost all confidence in Rodgers. He came from Swansea with clarity and purpose with what he wanted to achieve on the field. Short, quick passing and movement by a side that pressed the opposition and played the game on their own terms. As soon as the losses started to pile up, he went back into his shell and tried to win games by scoring goals on the counter attack. A goal scored is still a goal no matter which way you cut it, but when you come riding the wave of a “sexy football” philosophy, you have to stick to your core principles that won you so many admirers in the first place.
4 Better Option Elsewhere
Two outstanding managers were left on the unemployment line, telling anyone who would listen that they would love a job in the Premier League. One was Carlo Ancelotti, an Italian who had won the Champions League as a player and manager while winning the double with Chelsea. The other was Jürgen Klopp, a German firebrand with a sense of humor who won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund in consecutive seasons while taking the team to a Champions League final. Liverpool opted for Klopp and who could blame them? He has a better record of success and the charisma to galvanize the dressing room.
3 Mario Balotelli
At the close of the January transfer window last season, Brendan Rodgers approached Steven Gerrard on the Liverpool training ground. “I’ve got good news and bad news,” he told his skipper. “The good news is – we’ve signed a striker. The bad news is, we couldn’t get our number one target and we’ve settled on Mario Balotelli.” The bad boy of European football was a huge gamble, attempting to fill the mammoth void left by the Luis Suarez departure to Barcelona. Rodgers’ ego told him he could change the Italian striker’s lazy habits but one goal in 16 appearances tells its own story. The Balotelli experiment failed spectacularly.
2 Steven Gerrard
One player never makes a club, but this is Liverpool. They idolize their stars like few others – from Kenny Dalglish to Robbie Fowler and former captain Steven Gerrard, they simply love a hero. Gerrard was the local boy who made good, taking the club to cup success under Gerard Houllier, Rafael Benitez and Kenny Dalglish. Last season Liverpool reached the Champions League for the first time in a few years and had the huge task of playing Real Madrid away at the intimidating Santiago Bernabeu. The make or break contest would be a true test of the club’s priorities and Gerrard was benched. The relationship between the pair never recovered.
1 No Results & No Trophy
The cupboard lay bare. When it’s all said and done – sport is about winning. Since the incredible run where they finished a Steven Gerrard slip away from winning the title in 2013/14, scoring a record number of goals and winning 11 consecutive matches, he couldn’t sustain the rage. Draws at home to Norwich and FC Sion told it’s own story where it was clear he lost the control and support of important players in the dressing room. Coming in from Swansea the young manager had big ambitions to lift the club back to it’s glory days, but the FA Cup semi final defeat to Aston Villa at Wembley last season threw away any chance of winning silverware.
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