These recaps have, at least on this end, become an addendum to First Thoughts. They've unfortunately taken on the shape of many of the recaps in Rafa's final season, Roy Hodgson's ill-fated reign, and Kenny Dalglish's first full season back. There is no joy to be had in recounting performances that simply aren't good enough, and under Brendan Rodgers in the past three months, Liverpool have been far off the standard. So far off the standard--whatever it is at this point--that they've outdone Hodgson's start in the league.
A goal within ninety seconds, and barely a sniff thereafter. A goal on the counter with too much space in front of the back four, a defensive error, and a terrific free-kick by the opposition. Stagnant up top. Anonymous in the midfield. Porous in defense. Insecurity and doubt throughout the squad, and few signs of a team that finished second in league last season. Losing Luis Suarez probably has an impact, as does the injury to Daniel Sturridge, but the incompetence of this Liverpool side goes far beyond last season's top goalscorers.
It starts with a manager who's been willfully ignorant of the changes needed since the goals stopped coming. Suarez and Sturridge helped paper over the crevices defensively, but with the goals and attacking threat long gone, it's only the calamitous defense Liverpool are left with. The manager's insistence on picking Steven Gerrard as the only ostensible cover for a clearly struggling back four provides further indictment of Rodgers' third season in charge; one of the greatest to ever don a Liverpool shirt, the captain is now being exposed as a major liability.
It wasn't just Gerrard, as only Joe Allen, Javier Manquillo, Adam Lallana, and Rickie Lambert emerged with any sort of credit on the day. Most involved produced as they have for the season to this point, with Glen Johnson again arguing against a contract extension and Dejan Lovren continuing to underwhelm. To blame individuals doesn't feel entirely fair, though, as the collective is rotten, and the man overseeing it all does nothing to change.
This is not a cry for Brendan Rodgers to be fired, but it's certainly a plea for change. Rodgers' post-match comments indicate that the third-year manager is aware he's gotten it badly wrong, but he has said as much before. As has been argued all along, it'll be the difficult decisions that will determine his Liverpool legacy. Right now he's getting them all wrong, but there's time for that to change.
Whether or not he implements that change remains to be seen, and it will surely determine whether or not he manages to keep his job as Liverpool manager.