As the clock ticked down on Friday, the close of the summer transfer window growing ever closer, it became increasingly clear that Fenway Sports Group had chosen abandon the manager they selected to replace Kenny Dalglish only three months earlier, leaving him to make the best of a bad situation. Failure on the pitch in the coming season is now a near certainty, and Brendan Rodgers will likely be the one blamed if—or maybe just when—things begin to unravel. If Rodgers somehow defies the odds and succeeds, it will be a minor miracle. If he doesn't, it shouldn't be his head that's on the block, though it probably will be.
Some will suggest Rodgers' limited funds this summer are the result of Kenny Dalglish and Damien Comolli's failings in the previous summer's transfer window. They'll talk about how Dalglish spent nearly £100M on signings that for the most part didn't pan out—or that at least haven't panned out yet. While that may be true, and while those failures to spend wisely were key in the former manager and director of football losing their jobs, it ignores that sales of Fernando Torres, Raul Meireles, and Ryan Babel alone represent £70M of that outlay recovered.
Just as important is that, as reported by the Times' Rory Smith, Liverpool have this summer trimmed £450k per week—or more than £23M a season—off the wage bill, in part through the departures of veteran attackers Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodgriguez, and Craig Bellamy. When these wage savings and further sales are taken into consideration, and with a series of new sponsorship deals making up much of the gap when it comes to money lost by being out of the Champions League, the reality is that any outlay Fenway Sports Group has made on the squad since arriving in the autumn of 2010 is minimal at best.
In this light, leaving Rodgers to twist in the wind without the financial backing to sign anyone on the final day of the window becomes far more difficult to understand. Dalglish and Comolli may have spent poorly, but they weren't dipping into John Henry's pockets to do so, and that a squad already thin and lacking in depth when the summer began has now been hacked away at in the name of wage cutting and fiscal responsibility without proper replacements brought in for many of the departing players borders on negligent.
Worst of all, with Brendan Rodgers openly talking about how it would make him a "nutcase" if he were to allow Andy Carroll to leave if he wasn't able to replace him earlier in the week only to later do just that confirms a massive disconnect between the owners and managing director Ian Ayre on one side and Brendan Rodgers on the other. Rodgers had previously made it clear that Carroll wouldn't be leaving if he couldn't be replaced, and similarly it's difficult to comprehend the manager allowing Jay Spearing and Charlie Adam to leave right before the end of the window if he didn't feel he had the backing to bring in another player or two. Now, though, all have left and none have been replaced to cap off a summer that had already seen more outgoings than incomings.
The bottom line is that in the end, when the final day of the transfer window rolled around, the manager wasn't given the funds he needed to construct a competitive squad. This despite the massive wage savings made by the club over the summer and despite that the majority of last summer's spending binge was funded through sales rather than by the owners. This despite the owners selecting Rodgers three months ago, choosing him as their man to lead the club into the future, and promising him their full backing after sacking a struggling club legend to make room for him.
The likes of Carroll, Adam, and Spearing may never have been good enough to make significant contributions to the first team, but the problem now that the window has closed is less about any loss of talent than it is about the club finding itself dangerously understaffed, particularly in attack. Facing four competitions and in all likelihood a 60 game season, and with three positions to fill in Rodgers' preferred 4-3-3, there is the need for 180 man-games across the forward line. At present, that would mean 45 games apiece for the club's top four attackers.
And right now, those top four attackers are Luis Suarez, Fabio Borini, Raheem Sterling, and Oussama Assaidi. Suarez is a proven talent who can terrorise opposition defences, but he has struggled to finish consistently at Liverpool. Meanwhile, Fabio Borini is 21 years old, promising but not entirely proven, and coming off his first full season in senior football where he played in 26 total matches for Roma. Then there's Raheem Sterling who is only 17, six months older than Lionel Messi when he broke through to Barcelona's first team as an 18-year-old who made 17 appearances in La Liga. And finally there's Assaidi, largely unknown though prolific in Holland and brought in on the cheap, who hasn't yet played a minute for Liverpool.
Between them there are 180 games worth of playing time that need filling, and beyond them the options are even less reassuring with newly minted left back Stewart Downing, often injured Joe Cole, and Adam Morgan, another unproven youngster and one who looked out of sorts on the right in his first senior appearance against Hearts in the Europa League on Thursday. Then there is Steven Gerrard, who many would like to see shifted into attack. Except that with Lucas injured and expected out until at least December, moving Gerrard into the attack would only result in the midfield becoming as thin as the forward line now is.
Liverpool's squad wasn't deep enough last season, lacking the quality to compete across three competitions. Now that squad has been made even more threadbare in the name of trimming the wage bill and faces four competitions. This is a recipe for disaster, and any hopes for success could easily begin to unravel at the first major injury, especially if it's to one of the forwards. Most will likely blame the manager if—or maybe just when—that does happen, but the real blame lies with the men who allowed him to go into the final day of the transfer window thinking he would be given their backing. The real blame lies with those who told him that if he offloaded wages, if he sold off fringe players and found a new home for the unwanted Andy Carroll, he would be able to replace the departed deadwood.
Last season Liverpool lacked for quality in depth. After the transfer window closed on Friday night they find themselves quite simply lacking depth of any kind.