Liverpool: What Constitutes a Successful First Season Under Brendan Rodgers?
In Brendan Rodgers’ massive house—the one with the slightly smaller portrait of him on the wall, a gift from disabled members of a Swansea supporters’ group—the glasses are always half-full.
There is only one side of the bed to get out on—the right one. Thoughts are always positive ones.
There have, however, been the dark days when the curtains have stayed drawn. The second half slackness which allowed Udinese to win at Anfield and throw Liverpool’s Europa League progression into doubt. The Capital One Cup defeat to Swansea. The early home loss to Arsenal, which signified just how much improvement was needed. Bar the criticisms from the manager which followed those defeats, triumph and disaster have been met pretty much the same.
Rodgers is a positive person, that much has been evident throughout his so-far-brief reign as Liverpool’s manager, and it is that positivity which is playing in his favour when the question of just what constitutes a successful first season at Anfield is tackled.
The definition of success in football has changed in recent years. By the old definition, Kenny Dalglish was successful last season, given that he ended it clutching the Carling Cup and was within a stunning Petr Cech save of taking the FA Cup final to extra time.
That wasn’t enough in the modern game, though, but with John Henry and Fenway Sports Group insisting that Rodgers isn’t under pressure to achieve a top-four finish and Champions League football this season (via Guardian), the lines between success and failure have been somewhat blurred.
The positivity and Rodgers’ clear efforts to implement a strategy—a strategy which is pleasing on the eye at that—mean that the Northern Irishman has been cut a lot more slack than the previous "outsider" manager at Anfield, Roy Hodgson, but the dour Hodgson’s methods were taking the club backwards, they were placed squarely in the short term and were seemingly only for the benefit of the man himself. Rodgers is the polar opposite.
As such, poor results under him have largely been looked at as just "part of the journey" as a club who have made horrific off-field mistakes in the past couple of years seek to gain a foothold back at the summit of the English game under novice football ownership.
There will come a time when that will change of course—and Liverpool’s league form and consistency do need to drastically pick up in the new year to add substance to Rodgers’ often soothing words—but the sense that there is now a direction and a recognised way of playing will be the manager’s greatest success of his first season whatever happens on the pitch.
However, a trophy would provide tangible evidence of success, and with the club through to the last 32 of the Europa League—a tournament which has hugely aided the development of Liverpool’s many young players—and facing a third-round tie against a non-league team in the FA Cup, then platforms for progression in both competitions have been laid. It is league progress that fans want to see now, though.
With a couple of attacking additions in the new year and the maintaining of Luis Suarez’s fitness and form, it is not hard to imagine a second half of the Premier League campaign which will prove a lot more fruitful than the first.
Bar the big hitters at the top, there isn’t much about the teams immediately above Liverpool in the table for the club to be overly wary of, and so a challenge for the European places as winter turns to spring looks more than possible and achievable.
If you were to put a position on it, then perhaps fifth or sixth is the best that Rodgers can hope for come the end of the campaign. A hardly stellar ranking for a club of Liverpool’s stature but an improvement on last season’s eighth and with a squad who will have gotten older and wiser.
Rodgers would look upon that positively, as he does most things, and as he seeks to build for the future he might one day look back at it as a pretty decent start.
Did I say decent? I meant good. Great? Excellent?
Is that positive enough for you Brendan?
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