In the Name of Liverpool's Progress
It started with Mourinho.
It finished with Sherwood.
There’s a phrase that many seems to have adopted around Liverpool football club; weeks after the initial signs of a gravestone began to manifest itself around the persona of Brendan Rodgers; the term “for whom the bell tolls” seems to hover above his head like a wandering storm; those below it simply awaiting the strike of lightning. That strike came through the avenue of Tim Sherwood; whose tactical mastery of Christian Benteke was the undoing of all of Brendan Rodgers’ work at the helm of Liverpool Football Club.
The noting of the football club as a whole is a matter of vital importance; and keep in mind that whatever supposed agendas and faux preconceived ideals people want to instil upon this blog; these are opinions founded upon reasoned and validated fact; all of which deems the evidence ‘against’ Brendan to be stronger than the evidence found ‘for’ him.
Of the words used to describe last season: words like “euphoria”, “elation”, and “excitement” all thrown around to elaborate upon the roller-coaster ride that was Liverpool’s best chance to snatch the Premier League crown in twenty-six years, none seem to be apparent in Liverpool’s current situation. Instead, words like “disastrous”, “crisis” and “calamity” have been expended by those unfortunate enough to see the transformation from saviour to villain. Keeping the faith was realistic during the 10-game run; even when the more pragmatic fans could see the need to address some aspects of the 3-4-3.
Alas, Champions League was in the sights of “Brendan’s Boys” right up to the point where an extremely confident set of supporters rolled into Anfield, confident of blasting the ineffective Manchester United side away and stealing that vital Champions League place.
Some would say that was the first tolling of the bell, but it wasn’t. The night FC Basel strolled out onto the infamous Anfield Champions League night and made a fool out of Brendan Rodgers’ pathetic team selection was the first toll of the church bells. That followed the infamous “Night in the Bernabeu”, where the precedent had been set: Liverpool don’t belong in the Champions League.
Not when you go to the current European Champions with the minimalistic mindset of reducing the damage to ensure the least embarrassment. A fine plan if you’re Jose Mourinho and you can be assured of grinding out the result that takes you to the next step and winning the games that matter. Which is what made the Basel draw that much more disastrous.
As for the Premier League; the realistic expectation was to ensure £120 million was well spent. Perhaps not all of it; after all only 50-60% of transfers can be classed as “successful” (per The Tomkins Times), but reality dictates that the sizeable treasure chest; if utilised correctly, would be enough to address the Suarez-sized hole in the side. Yet the hole got bigger, and bigger, and bigger: as the defensive frailties continued and the lack of a striker became detrimental to Liverpool’s chances at retaining any hope of a Champions League spot. The idea of shattered dreams only affects those willing to buy into the philosophy (or lack thereof) of a failed regime; of deficiency and dereliction uncharacteristic of the Liverpool side we all dream of. Dreams, unfortunately, are a far cry from reality.
Then, most recently, Brendan’s wounded side travelled to the Emirates stadium; a final chance at retaining a Champions League spot and rescuing the calamity of the 2014/15 season. And it was there, amidst a haze of Simon Mignolet saves and atrocious defending; the hammer blow was dealt. Arsenal’s four goals were emblematic of Liverpool’s season, in truth. A better manager having his way with Brendan Rodgers’ tactics, bizarre substitutions and the lack of adaptability were all evident. And then there was Alexis Sanchez: a clear representation of what could have been.
The point of those depressing, cold facts is the concept of progress. The term most readily brandished during Brendan’s tenure at the helm of the faulty football club has been “progress” – and it’s not without merit either. Progress, in the name of tactical philosophy, transfers, and winning big games is all that FSG and their supporters have strived for in their attempt to put Liverpool back on the map as a power of English football.
Reality, however, dictates that progress should not be directly accommodated to the instigator of the change. There’s no clear, concise reason to say the person who instigates progress is necessarily the person to ensure progress is guaranteed. They might be, but surely if a derailment like the one witnessed this season occurs, something must be done to change it? There’s no point trying to fix a faulty lightbulb by leaving it in and hoping it just comes back on of its own accord, is there? No, you either fix it, or you replace it.
With that in mind, let yourself be immersed outwardly for a moment. FSG are surely aware that the realm of possibility for a tactical improvement on Brendan Rodgers is indeed out there and waiting for a phone call; Jurgen Klopp and Frank de Boer, namely, are two key prospects who can come in and be assured of taking the next step, in the name of progress.
That being said; if FSG do indeed believe that Brendan’s five year plan is sustainable, it is their responsibility to ensure its prosperity. The idea of replicating last season isn’t a blueprint for sustained progress: but the idea of improving upon the mistakes made during this season, and creating a Liverpool side that knows its tactical philosophy is. A side that has something of a direction, and that is equipped to combat the transfer market with the acumen of a Champions League side; despite the fifth-placed financial bearing. But how?
As discussed; a tactical philosophy has desperately been lacking throughout the season’s entirety. Even in the 10-game run in which Liverpool seemed to gain some lost traction on their season; the 3-4-3 was less of a system and more of a formation which suited certain games. It suited the visit of Manchester City to Anfield, and it suited the ability to combat a fiery Southampton side; grinding out a result. It did not, however, suit a Garry Monk diamond more than equipped to pressure our midfield into retreating ten yards; in turn placing the onus on the defence to oust any serious threats. How we navigated a 1-0 victory against Monk’s well drilled side still astounds most to this day; but it didn’t matter in the end. The seeds were sown; how to pick apart the 3-4-3, and Louis van Gaal latched onto them with venomous intent. As did Arsene Wenger and Tim Sherwood. Despite the systemic changes; the result was the same: tactically outclassed due to a lack of proper identity.
Brendan spoke of his “death by football” mentality when he first arrived at the shores of Merseyside; and it was promising to hear the words of a manager who knew where he was going. At the helm of a club which had lost all sense of direction; falling victim to the out-of-depth Roy Hodgson. Now, the club seemingly has a direction – a young, vibrant, talented squad which needs moulding to a particular philosophy in order to fire. Whether it’s via a new manager, a Director of Football, or the changing of particular staff; this end result of this season ultimately requires some form of change.
And that, hopefully, is something we can all agree on.