Andi Thomas & Alex Netherton
Brendan Rodgers did probably not envision things going quite so badly as they have at Liverpool so far this season. Here was a capable manager, just 39-years-old, who had taken Swansea City into the Premier League and attracted praise for their style of football. Not content to use the in-vogue word ‘vertical’ as if it meant something, the Swans were more interested in possession, a more morally secure pursuit.
Given Liverpool fans’ incredibly high opinion of themselves as intellectual ambassadors for the right way to play football, and Rodgers’ incredibly high opinion of himself as an intellectual ambassador for the right way to play football, it was a match made in heaven. Self-congratulatory, possession-based heaven. They called him ‘Brendan’ and he called himself ‘myself’. He played to the crowd, praising the fans as if they were two parties trying to achieve a higher plane of football, and ultimately, existence.
Which makes it all the more hilarious that this season has been such a waste of time, pockmarked by buffoonery and errors. The latest installment involved a loss to a thoroughly crap Oldham side managed by Paul Dickov, a man who will admit to you that he doesn’t know what he’s doing if you bother to ask him. It started early, as the massed minds of FSG and Rodgers began the season with two strikers, one of whom was the £10.5million non-scoring forward Fabio Borini, and the other goal imp Luis Suarez. They also signed Joe Allen, the Welsh Xaviesta (he can play both roles, according to RAWK, the Liverpool forum where sense goes to die) who has played this season as if he simply couldn’t be bothered to transfer any information along his synapses.
And Allen plays next to Steven Gerrard. Steven Gerrard has, brilliantly, put in the bare minimum of good performances throughout the year to stop his gang of sycophants from noticing that he’s a couple of years from the glue factory. A Roy Rogers with a bad fringe, he stinks up the club with a sense of entitlement only matched by, er, his club. His shots used to be lethal in the metaphorical sense, now members of the crowd behind the crowd look genuinely worried every time he enters the pitch. The sooner he is replaced with a player capable of playing ninety good minutes rather than two great ones, the sooner Liverpool will again have a functioning midfield.
In attack, the lack of depth has just been remedied. Sorry, not remedied, parodied. If you need somebody to define the over-inflated self-worth only previously seen in, er, Liverpool, then Daniel Sturridge is your man-child. Not above shooting wide from forty yards, not above body-popping against lower league teams, not above the minimum required standards to ever achieve something as a direct result of his efforts: he’s Liverpool’s dystopian future.
What’s so striking isn’t that Liverpool are rubbish now. They’ve been rubbish for years. The striking impression is that they’re actually getting worse under Brendan Rodgers and a supposedly intelligent group of executives and owners. They don’t have huge reserves of cash to sort this out, nor do they appear to have a convincing plan for the future—not one that’s working, anyway. Brendan Rodgers: looks intelligent, has a track record of success elsewhere, going nowhere fast. Now it seems that the same could well be true of FSG. And that really would be a bit funny for us, presumably sad for Liverpool supporters.