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Rodgers and Out

As Liverpool exit the Capitol One Cup, we awake to the usual miasma of gloomy opinion and whilst some of it is warranted, much of it is unnecessary. Brendan Rodgers words about needing to strengthen the squad aren't helping, however.

If he had to show them the dance-move once more....
If he had to show them the dance-move once more....
Julian Finney

Some of you probably read the title quickly and presumed this was going to be a choleric tirade about how the manager must go now before we're relegated to League Two. If so, my apologies, dear internet wanderer, for I'm afraid I'm not selling any crazy this morning. I can send you in the direction of some quaint fora designed for those of your irascible persuasion, but here at Offside Towers we like to at least make a valiant stab at maintaining jerk-free knees. Mostly.

You see, I'll be the first to admit that I turned the air blue with my profanity-heavy reflections on the match last night. There was much pacing, gesticulating and pained grimacing, with the telly remote constantly in fear for its safety, but amidst the fug of misery and frustration there were some patches of clarity that might suggest hope was not an utterly delusional state for a Liverpool fan.

Let's be honest, there is no good way to lose to Manchester United; no pleasant way to cede victory to David Moyes. The combination of the two sticks deep in the craw and the hollow misery I experienced last night will have been shared by most. That the loss came about due to an established and eminently avoidable failing in our team's preparation, added a little extra discomfiture. How many times must we see a player switch off at a set-piece? Is this not something that elite professionals could eradicate? How is it that our manager, a coach of note and a deep thinker about the game, seems incapable of addressing this flaw?

Jose Enrique is a player always flirting with disaster. His athleticism, strength and ability are not in question. What always fills me with a kind of dread is the man's capacity for mental malfunction. One moment he is the picture of concentrated effort as he muscularly chases down an opponent or pings a delightful pass, the next moment he is a study in gormless vacuity, looking on benignly as an opponent eludes him and punishes Liverpool. Frankly, I find it hard to trust the player. There's a lot to like about Enrique but I am crossing my nail-bitten fingers for the swift and successful return of Aly Cissokho. And Glen Johnson. Especially Glen Johnson.

Speaking about the concession of the goal, Brendan Rodgers was careful to specify where the fault lay, without actually naming and shaming.

"It is disappointing," offered the manager. "It's an individual thing, it is not a collective. If you look at the corner, you see all the players skin-tight to their markers. No-one was free and then Chicharito gets free far too easily. It's not good and at the weekend we did a similar thing. As an individual, you have to be stronger mentally and have a greater desire not to lose your marker. If you do that there is a greater chance you won't concede. It is not something we go straight into after the game but it is something they know."

It is not only Enrique who has suffered these concentration-lapses. In the last eighteen months we have seen it far too many times from throw-ins and corners. The team seems to be exceptionally brittle and vulnerable on set-pieces and yet, were I to put back on my tattered coaching jacket, that is exactly where I would start my work on the training pitch. Brendan Rodgers is an excellent coach. Why are his players failing to grasp the basics? The disdain in Jamie Carragher's voice as he analysed the shoddy efforts of Enrique before Javier Hernandez scored, belied a long-held frustration with the player and the set-up. It's not new and Rodgers needs to make it a thing of the past.

Having played a blinder thus far with his media work, yesterday night saw the re-emergence of a less welcome narrative from Rodgers. The Northern Irishman is eloquent enough to articulate his ideas clearly and yet, in yesterday's post-match interview, he seemed to be lamenting the thinness of his squad - a squad now massively of his own making and one he had earlier stated was stronger than it had been before. The general thrust seemed to be that he could only work with what's available and that the next transfer window will be important. Again.

" I could have no qualms about the players' effort," said Rodgers. "I thought they were brilliant in terms of everything they put into the game but obviously we're disappointed at a lack of concentration for the goal. I think the players have made an excellent start. We were flat and subdued at the weekend and we couldn't get going. Part of that was because of the players we had available. Tonight they have given everything. Now we can only concentrate on the league up until Christmas, so we have to make sure we stay up in that top six in the league and keep fighting and hopefully we can reinforce in January."

It's that last bit that's the killer. Nobody wants to hear Brendan Rodgers talking about the next bloody transfer window. What about utilising the players we currently have correctly or more efficiently? To be fair to the manager, irrespective of his motivation for selecting it, the back-three of Mamadou Sakho, Martin Skrtel and Kolo Toure was very effective. In the first half Henderson and Enrique were functional wing-backs and the central pair of Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard were passable. Ahead of them, Victor Moses and Luis Suarez were busy and Daniel Sturridge was involved but clearly impaired. It sort of worked. At times, it sort of worked very well.

It is all to easy to whinge and sadly, it is often all too justified. However, at this juncture the relentless complaining seems wilfully negative. Few bad patterns have been established and several good ones have emerged. This feels like a critical point in the season, however. The next step may be defining. So lads, no pressure on Sunday, then.

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