Brendan Rodgers was always going to be a dead man walking after the debacle of the 2014/15 season. After going out of the Champions league in the group stages Rodgers appeared to be a manager out of his depth and unable to get the best out of his side.
Even when Rodgers had an opportunity to salvage something from the season and perhaps buy more time from the fans he was still unable to get his team past Aston Villa in the FA cup semi-final. A 6-1 thrashing by Stoke City was the point of no return. Instead it was Rodger’s assistant Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh who were to pay the price as they were relieved of their duties. To many fans Rodgers lost even more credibility that he was willing to let his coaches go instead of also walking.
Expectation was low for the 2015/16 season. Indeed there were strong rumours that Brendan Rodgers had ten games to keep his job. This certainly seemed to be the case as despite the Champions league that was up for grabs for winning the Europa league Rodgers rested key player’s during the group stages with the league his priority.
The autumn leaves had only just started to fall when Liverpool decided to cut their losses and terminated Brendan Rodgers contract. Nobody likes to see the manager lose their job as it also means that the club had failed but with the poor run of results it was always a case of when not if.
Jurgen Klopp was announced as the new manager of Liverpool which instantly raised the spirits of fans. Charismatic and a proven track record as a winner at Borussia Dortmund he was the experienced but young manager that many Liverpool fans felt the club needed.
Relaxed and enthusiastic Klopp talked about everyone from the player’s, staff, and the fans to work together and enjoy the experience. George Sephton certainly played into the spirit as he played soft rock anthems after Klopp expressed his liking for ‘heavy metal,’ football.
It was something that the Liverpool fans bought into as results started to pick up. The Europa league was something that was now taken seriously and even a League cup final was reached.
Of course the Europa league brought its highlights as Liverpool reached the final. There was the drama of the reds comeback to beat Borussia Dortmund 4-3 in the dying minutes as well as the professional job against Villarreal in the second leg.
Ultimately the defeat against Sevilla in the final summed up Liverpool’s standing at present. When it came to stepping up to the plate Liverpool fell short as they had done in the previous three seasons.
There was a lot of ‘sage,’ wisdom from the media experts who professed that there wasn’t really much to change and that Klopp would continue to get the best out of his young squad.
The reality though is a bit different as the Liverpool team of the past two seasons since Suarez left has been the most mediocre in living memory. If it was an ice cream it would almost certainly be vanilla.
It is also a team that appears to lack the mental strength to cope in big games. They choked against Sevilla despite going one up courtesy of a fantastic goal by Sturridge. When Sevilla equalised rather than try and wrest back control they allowed themselves to be continually pinned back in their own half and failed to make a go of it.
This wasn’t the first time that this Liverpool side had failed in important games. Aside from the league cup final against Manchester City they have consistently failed such as the poor performance against Aston Villa in the FA cup semi-final at Wembley last year. Even when there is a mention that Liverpool have a chance of showing the form of finishing in the top four they falter when the spotlight is on them.
Looking at the Liverpool squad it is a sum of its parts. The transfer committee may have smugly patted themselves on the back thinking that they had stolen a march on their rivals after spending the Suarez money on young potential, but all they had done was spent big money on average players.
For the 2015/16 season after Balotelli had flopped it was decided that a striker was needed and rather than thinking about a striker that would fit into Rodger’s style of play the transfer committee seemed to have panicked and signed Benteke from Villa. A player who relies on a more direct style of football was like a fish out of water but even when given a chance by Klopp seemed to have the mobility of an oil tanker trying to turn and was unable to grasp what was expected of him.
Adam Lallana although having some nice touches and movement about him seems to lack that extra quality that you need to compete at the top level. His finishing lets him down and in those crucial games when chances are scarce you do need a midfielder that can chip in with the goals. Unfortunately that is another issue with this Liverpool team in the sense that there are not enough goals throughout the team.
The defence is also a major concern as they seem unable to cope with dead ball situations and always seem to concede soft goals. No real questions have been asked why Sakho felt it necessary to be taking fat burning weight loss pills. There was no doubt that when he first signed for Liverpool that Sakho seemed to struggle with the pace of the game but was it down to his fitness or simply not being able to cope with the speed of the Premier league? Either way neither Sakho or Lovren are not a Hansen, Hyppia or Agger in defence. A defender has to be a priority for Liverpool for next season.
In many ways James Milner sums up this Liverpool team. A ‘steady Eddie,’ who does a decent job but is unable to produce that extra bit of quality when needed. Liverpool sides of the past have always had players who can somehow get a result through adversity. Too many in this current squad can’t do this and the only one that springs to mind is Coutinho. Even then he was practically non existent in the final.
A big clear out is not likely as it is not practical in terms of being able to find adequate replacements and being able to ship some of the player’s on who are on big money. Klopp will still have to work with most of the squad that he has favoured this season but hope the extra bit of quality will make the difference next season.
Loriz Karius may have been signed from Mainz with many believing a new goalkeeper is required. This may be the case as Mignolet lacks the basics of goalkeeping such as positioning, decision making, and kicking to name a few but he did sign a new and improved contract extension. One would assume that at present Mignolet will still be the number one otherwise the question would be why you would give a wage increase to a number two keeper who still had two years left on his contract.
With regards as to the rest of the team a defender certainly has to be on the list. Preferably one who can organise like Carragher but at least one who can bring assurance and confidence at the back. A left back is also preferable but two midfielders are also needed. Someone with the extra quality to create chances and score and another who is an ‘auld arse,’ and knows when to leave his foot in. Above all they need players that will not wilt under pressure but remain calm and impose their will on the game to positively change the result.
None of this is going to be easy but Liverpool do have one of the top coaches within Europe. It is a case of having to try and get the right players whilst making the right decisions as they cannot allow themselves to stagnate even further. Nevertheless 2016/17 should be an interesting season in terms of seeing how Klopp puts his mark on Liverpool and with his character it certainly will not be boring.