Are We Being Too Hard on Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers?
Brendan Rodgers will never be cool. If we didn't know it already from his time at Swansea or the Jerry Maguire-esque manifesto he submitted with his application to Anfield, Being Liverpool confirmed it by showing us Rodgers has a sepia print of Brendan Rodgers in his own house.
The key word here is "print." It's not hard to imagine Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho hanging a watercolor self-portrait, but a print? A print in the style of something you might buy from a New York street vendor—probably depicting Al Pacino as Scarface?
There's just no place in cool for that. That's the attempt at cool of somebody who will never, ever get there. It's the fact that he tries that makes Rodgers such an easy target for ridicule and has him elected as the Premier League's jester-in-chief this season.
But is Rodgers fair game, or are we being too hard on him and overlooking the traits he shares with some of the best coaches in the game—traits that may ultimately hold him in good stead for achieving what he has set out to?
The Liverpool manager's PR spin in the wake of Europa League defeat to Zenit St. Petersburg was hardly a revolution in manager speak, after all. "It was a near-on perfect away performance," he told reporters after the game (h/t Football365.com).
It was, of course, a laughable thing to say. But laughable things flow freely from the likes of Mourinho and Ferguson on a bi-weekly basis, and we read them in an entirely different way. Proven managers can spout one-eyed nonsense and have it branded as mind games or bold defiance.
Rodgers is following their lead because he too has absolute faith in his powers, but his record makes him that much less believable. Liverpool are ninth in the Premier League, out of the FA Cup (to Oldham), out of the Capital One Cup (to Swansea) and now more than halfway gone from the Europa League.
Rodgers' team have won just one of their last five in the Premier League, but last week he was still talking of a top-four finish. This, as per ESPNFC:
We've got nine points to make up. And we can do it. There's no question about that. We've had a lot of tough games and we've got a lot of who we would consider to be big rivals for those positions to play at home.
Those quotes came three days before Liverpool lost 2-0 at home to West Brom. Pride came before a fall, and Rodgers was once again made to look daft. We should point out his team had 25 shots to West Brom's three (ESPNFC) and came up against Ben Foster in a superhero's cape, but the scoreline will remain long after those facts are forgotten.
Last season, the woodwork was against Liverpool (33 times in the Premier League). This season, they're not taking their chances. There comes a time when you have to rule luck out of the equation.
The fans who think Rodgers should be sacked are the kind that wrote off players like Walcott. Some people just don't get potential. #LFC— KOPOLOGY (@Kopology) February 14, 2013
That is Rodgers' mission. And while he's suffered some bad losses and picked some bad teams (not using experienced heads against Oldham being the most obvious example), there have also been some clear shoots of recovery.
Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson and new signing Daniel Sturridge have impressed, while established names Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard are both thriving.
Is Rodgers the right man for Liverpool?
This being Rodgers' first year in office, there were always going to be lows. Long-term planning demands it, and most Liverpool fans remain in support of a gradual ascent back to where they belong. The alternative is the kind of short-term planning that got Liverpool in this mess in the first place.
Rodgers believes in himself absolutely. We might find that ridiculous, but without that belief, he wouldn't stand a chance.
Just because Rodgers is more like your boss at work than the one who manages Real Madrid doesn't mean he's not qualified to do great work at Liverpool. We know he's a fine coach, and we know he has a vision that Liverpool and the majority of their fans are behind right now.
The question is, how many comedic incidents and embarrassing losses can the club's pride withstand before everyone involved starts to seriously question it?
The coolest managers, after all, are the ones who are winning.
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