Friday 25th September: “It’s not about me.”
Saturday 26th September: “I’m the same guy who nearly won us the league, but better.”
Brendan Rodgers really doesn’t help himself.
During his pre Aston Villa press conference, in front of a ravenous group of journalists smelling blood after his side scraped through on penalties against League Two Carlisle, Rodgers looked resigned to his fate. He admitted that his job was on the line and that he was under threat of becoming the first managerial casualty of the Premier League season. However, he handled the ordeal of having his job and his credentials openly questioned by the media with immeasurable dignity.
Yet, only a little more than 24 hours later Rodgers conducted his post match press conference with an air of naive defiance after his Liverpool side won 3-2, securing their first win in six games. After all, despite the win, the goals, the return of Daniel Sturridge, the encouraging performance, this result changes very little. Rodgers has a lot more games to win and a lot of fans to win over.
Saturday’s result, where Liverpool scored more than one goal in a match for the first time since May, should have helped, but his post match comments didn’t. They included a claim that there was a certain group of ‘outsiders’ who have created a ‘hysteria’ around his team and want him out of the job. He went on to say, bizarrely, that Liverpool’s start to the season was being unfairly criticised considering that Manchester City had lost more games in all competitions, even though they had lost to Juventus in the Champions League.
Until Friday, assistant manager and former Liverpool midfielder Gary McAllister had handled both pre and post Carlisle press conferences and Rodgers had been silent ever since Liverpool’s disappointing 1-1 home draw against Norwich. It reminded some of the manager’s silent summer of 2015 after Liverpool had been embarrassed 6-1 by Stoke City where he went for weeks without making any public appearances or conducting any press conferences.
It seems strange that Rodgers, who has a history of making odd comments, is continually going through these periods of silence. Perhaps he is under instructions from above and maybe this is a good thing. After a run of five successive wins last season, for example, Rodgers claimed his Liverpool team, who were sitting in 5th place, could finish 2nd. Liverpool then lost their next fixture, a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United, and went on a run of terrible form losing 4 and only winning 2 of their remaining 8 league games. They finished the season in 6th.
Brendan Rodgers has proved that he is a good football manager. You have to be a good football manager to take a team from 7th to within two points of winning the league in a single season, playing a style of football that the Premier League had not seen in a long time. His critics say that his success was all because of the talent of Luis Suarez, who scored 31 goals during the 2013/14 season, but that would be unfair. It was Rodgers who got the best out of Suarez and made him into the player he is today and gave him the platform to score so many goals by playing him alongside Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling.
After failing to win a trophy or qualify for the Champions League in his 3rd season in charge many expected Rodgers to be sacked when he was summoned to meet the clubs American owners in Boston only days after Liverpool’s 6-1 defeat to Stoke, their worst in 52 years. But the sack never came and Rodgers kept his job. After Sterling was sold to Manchester City for £50m the manager was given the money to spend. His signings, such as Christian Benteke and Roberto Firmino, created an air of optimism around Anfield for the first time in nearly a year.
But that bubble burst after two dismal defeats to West Ham and Man United, 3-0 and 3-1 respectively. Polls among supporters suggested that 90% of fans wanted Rodgers sacked, the pressure was building and reports were emerging of the club inquiring about the availability of Jurgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti, who both appear to be waiting in the wings.
On Sunday Liverpool will make the short trip across Stanley Park to face Everton. Rodgers has so far never been beaten by Everton as Liverpool manager but if his side lose on Sunday he will find it incredibly difficult to recover. If he does lose, what he says after the match could seal his fate. Just ask Roy Hodgson who lost the support of all Liverpool fans when he said that his sides performance during their 2-0 defeat by Everton was their best of the season.
If Rodgers does win, which he is more than capable of doing, then he can use that momentum to start getting the fans back on side. From now on he needs to solely focus on results instead of using his press conferences to hit out at critics or satisfy his own agenda. There’s no need to make managing Liverpool harder than it already is.