Has Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool Project Run Its Course?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistSeptember 24, 2015

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Holding a Premier League managerial position for more than three years is a noteworthy feat.

Besides the singular, and peculiar, reign of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, only one manager has been in charge of their current club over three years: Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool.

Wenger has seen the Gunners through nearly two decades. It seems a tenure never to be repeated, as football's current climate makes prolonged stays exceedingly difficult. Hence, Rodgers' three years at Anfield makes him a quasi-veteran of Premier League management.

Things aren't going great at Anfield. Needing penalties to beat Carlisle United won't help much.
Things aren't going great at Anfield. Needing penalties to beat Carlisle United won't help much.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Were a more experienced top-flight manager given the position at Liverpool—winning nothing and spending upwards of £310 million in the process—them seeing another match, let alone another season, would be questioned to the point of ultimatum.

The 42-year-old Northern Irishman (receiving the benefit of his relative youth) has been largely sheltered from such discussions, but Merseyside's patience is wearing thin.

There have been three major departures since Rodgers took the Reds' mantle: The massive sales of Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling, with the closing of Steven Gerrard's Liverpool career placed in-between.

Despite none of these players being indebted to Rodgers (although Sterling's case could be argued), the 2013/14 season was an exceptional spell for Rodgers, his players and Liverpool supporters. Taking advantage of no European obligations, thus able to focus solely on domestic competitions, the Reds were millimetres from winning the Premier League.

Losing your leader and your best player within 12 months isn't going to help much either.
Losing your leader and your best player within 12 months isn't going to help much either.PAUL ELLIS/Getty Images

Figurative slips against Crystal Palace and actual slips against Chelsea might have cost them the title, but the manner in which they played was nothing short of exemplary.

A high-octane brand of football was welcomed to Anfield. Suarez, Sterling and Daniel Sturridge used their pace and guile to frustrate defences and, once gaining possession, pounced. When enjoying possession, Gerrard's ability to sagaciously dictate play as a deep-lying playmaker was key in almost every Liverpool victory.

The quartet of Suarez, Sterling, Sturridge and Gerrard scored 74 of Liverpool's 101 Premier League goals in 2013/14, or 73.3 percent; they were the driving force behind a second-place finish and Champions League football—but the gang did not stay together long.

Suarez was sold to Barcelona for £75 million in summer 2014, and the snake's proverbial head was cut. Losing the Uruguayan's tenacity—running concurrent with Sturridge's frustrating inability to remain healthy—Rodgers was left with a vastly changed centre-forward stable in 2014/15.

Leaving for £150 million, Liverpool sold Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling but did not find similar-styled replacements.
Leaving for £150 million, Liverpool sold Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling but did not find similar-styled replacements.Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Instead of purchasing a striker with similar qualities to Suarez (a high-energy workman), Rodgers deviated from what brought him success, buying Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli.

They predictably struggled to maintain places in Liverpool's starting XI, on account of general speed and their passivity when pressing. This forced Sterling to take up more striking positions, rather than playing in his natural, wider role.

The young Englishman's pace gave Rodgers what he wanted, but the then-19-year-old was not capable of scoring 20 goals a season—his finishing and clinical nature required further development.

No Suarez, absentee Sturridge and a different role for Sterling—Gerrard was handcuffed. No doubt frustrated by the lack of movement in front of him, plus having to defend more, contract negotiations were made untenable, and the Liverpool legend left for Los Angeles Galaxy at 2014/15's conclusion.

Mario Balotelli is the complete opposite of Luis Suarez in terms of energy. The Italian was setup for failure.
Mario Balotelli is the complete opposite of Luis Suarez in terms of energy. The Italian was setup for failure.Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Shortly after, Sterling's transfer saga, which had been waging for months, finally concluded. Now 20, the player wanted a move to a Champions League club (which Liverpool no longer were), and Manchester City paid £49 million for his services.

Already seeing what Rodgers had done with Barcelona's £75 million, giving him nearly £50 million to spend must have been difficult for Liverpool's owners, the Fenway Sports Group.

Similar to the season prior, the Liverpool boss deviated from 2013/14's success and, rather than finding another pressurising centre-forward, he bought Christian Benteke. The Belgian is an ideal target man, but does not suit what gave Rodgers his past success.

Furthermore, and possibly damning, Rodgers' success came from Kenny Dalglish buying Suarez in 2011 (aided by Roman Abramovich's £50 million to take Fernando Torres to Chelsea), and Rafa Benitez finding Sterling at Queens Park Rangers, buying him, and then staying neutral—as Stamford Bridge interim manager—when the Blues elected to sell Sturridge in January 2013.

Brendan Rodgers needs a turn in fortune this season—lest his Liverpool career fizzle out.
Brendan Rodgers needs a turn in fortune this season—lest his Liverpool career fizzle out.Clive Mason/Getty Images

You cannot consistently win games—much less silverware—without proper players in the proper system.

As it stands, Liverpool do not have the proper players to fit Rodgers' best system. Given the financial backing to correct deficiencies (and three transfer windows since selling Suarez), Rodgers has ran out of lives.

Starting 2015/16 with two outright wins from eight matches, unemployment's groundwork is being laid.

With the likes of Carlo Ancelotti and/or Jurgen Klopp available as free agents (should Liverpool's contention for Champions League positions wane), it may be time to consider Rodgers a one-season wonder and arrest his Reds' project before more funds are wasted.

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.

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