13 moments that shaped Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool reign
We take a look at some of the moments that shaped Brendan Rodgers's three-and-a-half years in charge of Liverpool
1)West Brom defeat
The first game of the Northern Irishman’s reign ended in defeat. Their 3-0 loss to West Bromwich Albion was littered with defensive mistakes as the players were slow to adapt to Brendan Rodgers’s possession-based style of play. 151 goals later, the Liverpool defence hasn’t significantly improved from that performance during three-and-a-half years despite some big-name signings like Dejan Lovren and Mamadou Sakho.
2) Signing Coutinho and Sturridge
His transfer record is blotted with big-money failures but it is easy to forget Rodgers did enjoy early success with the Liverpool chequebook in hand. Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge arrived in deals worth £20m in January 2013. The pair were instant successes and gave Liverpool renewed attacking thrust, culminating in an impressive unbeaten run at the end of the 2013-14 season.
3) Suarez bite
The Liverpool forward certainly tested the Northern Irishman’s managerial and media skills. Rodgers had to handle the fallout after Luis Suarez decided to have a nibble on Branislav Ivanovic’s shoulder, which resulted in an eight-game ban. To his credit, Rodgers handled the episode well while Liverpool continued to build on a promising first season in Suarez’s absence at the start of 2014-15 campaign. He – and Steven Gerrard – used their persuasive powers to talk Suarez out of a move to Arsenal in the summer of 2013, too.
4) The Gerrard slip
After a stunning run of results which included emphatic wins against Arsenal, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United and a dramatic victory over Manchester City, Liverpool were on the cusp of a first Premier League title. All that stood in their way was Chelsea. Avoid defeat, and Liverpool would seemingly dismiss the challenge of Crystal Palace and Newcastle United to finally end their 24-year wait to be crowned English champions again. However, Gerrard’s cruel slip allowed Demba Ba to break Kopite hearts and the rest is history. The former Liverpool captain will forever be the poster boy for their title collapse, but Rodgers got his tactics wrong on the day. The manager was naive in his approach to a must-not-lose game as Liverpool were caught up in the emotion of the moment.
5) Manager of the year
While Rodgers has taken a lot of criticism over the past 12 months, it is easy to forget in May 2014, he was named the LMA’s manager of the year. Liverpool played some of their best football since the Premier League’s inception under the Northern Irishman, who undoubtedly benefited from a world-class Suarez, a revived Gerrard and the likes of Coutinho, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling blossoming.
6) Suarez exit and shambolic signings
The £75m sale of Suarez to Barcelona was a blow, but crucially, it shouldn’t have been a critical one. Allowed to reinvest the transfer fee and more on new players, Rodgers signed Lovren, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Emre Can, Divock Origi, Alberto Moreno and Mario Balotelli in deals worth more than £120m. Three have already left the club, whilst only Can and Moreno started their 1-1 draw with Everton on Sunday. That says it all, really.
7) Weakened side v Real Madrid
Perhaps the moment the tide began to turn against Rodgers can pinpointed to his decision to field a weakened team at Real Madrid in November 2014. Liverpool were back at Europe’s top table for the first time in five seasons, and despite a disappointing start, had a fighting chance of reaching the Champions League knockout stage. So, the decision to rest big-name players including captain Gerrard was baffling. It contradicted Liverpool’s values, particularly as the fixture saw Europe’s third most-successful club take on the 10-time European Cup winners. It left many former Liverpool players questioning the manager.
8) Tea and toast
One of the Liverpool manager’s flaws was his approach to the media. Too often, Rodgers was more David Brent than Bill Shankly, and this was the case when he discussed his tactical innovations following an impressive unbeaten run. Rodgers bought himself more time after he navigated his way through his first real crisis at Anfield. Switching to 3-5-2, Liverpool went on a 13-game unbeaten run in all competitions and relaunched their top-four bid. Rodgers revealed that he had a brainwave about his new formation over endless cups of tea and toast on one particular night where he worked until 3am in the morning. It was one of his defining quotes.
9) Manchester United defeat
The tea and toast were soon the talk of Merseyside again when Liverpool’s impressive run came to an end. Rodgers left Gerrard on the bench for his final appearance against bitter rivals United. When the manager turned to his loyal skipper at half-time following Juan Mata’s first-half opener, Gerrard was frustrated that he was sent off for a reckless stamp inside two minutes. It wasn’t a surprise. Rodgers must accept a small portion of the blame for the incident, although Gerrard should have known better. The result effectively ended Liverpool’s season as the Reds never really picked up again, losing heavily at Arsenal a week later.
10) FA Cup semi-final
The FA Cup provided Rodgers with a lifeline. His predecessor Kenny Dalglish had at least won the League Cup during his second spell in charge at Anfield. With nothing to show except a runners-up finish in 2014, the FA Cup could have bought Rodgers more time. But in a result which mirrors many of Liverpool’s performances under the Northern Irishman, relegation-threatened Aston Villa cancelled out and early first-half opener to boss the semi-final. It was a humiliating result for the Reds.
11) 6-1 humiliation at Stoke
Rodgers did achieve some records at Liverpool, although not all favourable. Liverpool suffered their heaviest Premier League defeat on the final day of the 2014/15 season in what many thought would result in his dismissal. To compound matters, their 6-1 defeat marked Gerrard’s final Liverpool appearance. While some will rightly argue it was nothing more than a dead rubber, their biggest loss since 1963 suggested the manager was losing the dressing room.
12) Getting rid of Pascoe and co
It really did look like the beginning of the end for Rodgers when his long-term number two Colin Pascoe left the Reds in a backroom shake-up in the summer. Reports suggested Rodgers was told to make changes or else face the sack. It undermined his position at the club and sapped even more of his power, with speculation suggesting Rodgers was losing his say on transfers, too.
13) Merseyside derby
No surprise, particularly with their tough run of away fixtures, that Rodgers has left in October. Liverpool took an early first-half lead thanks to Danny Ings’s opener but as has so often been the case, poor defensive play allowed Romelu Lukaku to equalise before half-time. While reports suggest his fate had been decided before the derby, the result was systematic of his time in charge.