Every game is a new dawn, a new start. A chance to put the record straight and start afresh. And for Liverpool these days, it’s a chance to be embarrassed and disappointed once again.
Tonight, they face FC Sion in the Europa League, a team from a Swiss town with a population of 33,000 people – fewer people that can fit inside Anfield – and who have won the Swiss league twice in their 116 year history. So this should be a good chance for a fresh start and a match to get the form going. Instead they’ll look upon it with some trepidation – after a draw away to Bordeaux in the first group game, defeat tonight would leave Liverpool in some danger in the competition. Still, even with the ‘hysteria’ surrounding the club, Liverpool should have enough to win the game.
But that’s the problem. Liverpool should have enough firepower in their squad to win most games. Daniel Sturridge is back in action, and new signings like Roberto Firmino, James Milner and Nathaniel Clyne should have the quality to bring Liverpool on. So Brendan Rodgers shouldn’t really be in fear of losing his job, his team should be doing the business, and I should be writing about how they might fear the visit of Swiss minnows in their current state.
Roy Hodgson’s tenure as Liverpool manager was marred – among other things – by defeat in the League Cup to League Two side Northampton Town. Rodgers just about avoided such disgrace as his side managed to beat League Two side Carlisle United on penalties.
Last week’s win over Aston Villa has gone some way to getting the side back on track, but questions still remain over the manager’s future. And with good reason.
Last season – and even over the summer – Liverpool fans were holding out hope that their club could entice Jurgen Klopp to take over the reins. The young and stylish manager would instantly become a fans’ favourite, but his brand of hard-hitting pressing and counter attack football would suit Liverpool down to the ground. The fans would love it, and English football would love it.
But over the last few days the rumbling has turned to another out of work behemoth of club management, Carlo Ancelotti. Whether this is just paper talk or whether there is any truth in it, only time will tell. But it does show mounting pressure on the Liverpool boss. Weathering storms is part and parcel of football management, just look at the storms Arsene Wenger and especially Jose Mourinho have been weathering since the start of the season. But this one feels different. Rodgers has been under huge pressure for a year, and the team haven’t yet progressed.
Maybe it’s going to come. Maybe Liverpool’s new signings will click and make a dramatic run up the table. It’s worth remembering that last season, Liverpool went on an unbeaten run from mid-December to March in order to give themselves a shot at Champions League football. Maybe they can do something similar again.
And we also have to remember the injuries Rodgers has had to deal with – Sturridge is back, but still wrapped in cotton wool but now Jordan Henderson is out with a broken bone in his foot. Things aren’t easy for Rodgers.
But that’s the dilemma for any club owner. To stick with your man or to change around. If they change now, and the new man turns things around, he’ll need money and the backing to overhaul his squad in January, and the same problems might return – a team in transition, new players joining and needing time to gel, and the team having to get used to a new style of play. But if Rodgers can’t turn it around, and the board do have to sack him, every game they keep him in charge is a waste of a game.
Tonight is a big game for Rodgers. If his team can build on their win at the weekend, a win tonight sets them up for the derby this weekend – and a derby day win will boost morale even more. It could be a catalyst for success. Defeat, on the other hand, plunges Liverpool back into the depths of despair and ‘hysteria’ and makes the derby even more important for Rodgers.
Defeat tonight, to Swiss minnows and on the back of how close they came to being dumped out of the League Cup by Carlisle, could be catastrophic for Rodgers given the media furore and the storm he’s currently weathering.
The next two games are make or break.