I wrote last week that there was a genuine chance of Brendan Rodgers being out of a job by New Year’s Day, and Liverpool’s untimely exit from the Champions League this week only reinforced that fact.
Make no mistake: Liverpool are now in crisis mode, and the next three weeks are likely to be three of the most defining of Rodgers’ reign.
As is often the case when things aren’t going right, Rodgers’ words in April are definitely coming back to haunt him. As his side prepared to take on Tottenham, Rodgers was asked whether he felt under pressure. His response will now be used as a stick to beat him: “Look at Tottenham. If you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league”.
How Rodgers must regret that remark. Tottenham had, of course, spent £100 million the previous summer in a bid to replace the talismanic Gareth Bale, and Liverpool now find themselves in an eerily similar situation.
Shorn of their talisman – the enigmatic Luis Suarez – the Reds spent over £100 million in the summer, and rather than challenging for the title, they are currently scrapping around in ninth; at least 12 points shy of even challenging for the league.
Unwittingly, Rodgers’ comments last season are now being used as a yardstick for his own side’s performances. By his own measure, his side are failing miserably; and their brief sojourn in Europe was yet another indication that things really are not right at Anfield.
The trouble for Liverpool is that it doesn’t look like things are going to improve anytime soon. Daniel Sturridge’s return has repeatedly been pushed back, Steven Gerrard’s influence continues to wane (despite his phenomenal free kick during Liverpool’s final Champions League game for the foreseeable future) and it now seems as if Raheem Sterling may play hard-ball over a potential new contract. Certainly from the outside, it appears as if things really are unraveling on Merseyside.
How Rodgers handles the next few fixtures will make or break his tenure. A loss at Man United this weekend is unthinkable, whilst he could really do with a good win away at Bournemouth in the League Cup three days later. Lose either of those games, and the pressure will continue to heap – and that’s before Liverpool welcome Arsenal to Anfield the following weekend. Record negative results in two out of these three games and Rodgers’ position may become untenable. How the Northern Irishman may regret his comments about pressure.