The one. How long have you searched for this mystical figure? What will change in our lives once this leader enters our lives and galvanises all associated to our cause? The one will lead, grow, venture into fresh territories, and change the world for Liverpool fans everywhere. Since Kenny Dalglish, there have been those who looked to be truly worthy as leader of Liverpool Football Club and inspire us all. Graeme Souness, Roy Evans, Gérard Houllier, Rafael Benítez, and Roy Hodgson couldn't deliver Liverpool the league title for different reasons. The return of the king couldn't either, but Brendan Rodgers came closest to doing so.
In the spring's final month, Liverpool looked to have a manager in charge that would restore balance to the force. We were feared. We were respected. We played attacking and entertaining football. We truly believed. Even those who never quite rated Brendan Rodgers marvelled at what Liverpool did last season, and it got everyone talking. Liverpool enter a crucial match away to Bournemouth on the back of the worst start to the season since 1964 and a limp group stage exit in the Champions League. There's more. Liverpool have lost more league games than they've won in the Premier League, trail Manchester United by ten points, and only Queens Park Rangers and Leicester City have lost more league games to date this season. Life isn't good and it could get worse this week.
Lose to Championship leaders Bournemouth, and the home game against Arsenal becomes possibly critical for the manager's future. Even with victory in the Capital One Cup, losing to Arsenal could present a bleak prospect for Liverpool's league prospects before reaching the halfway stage of the campaign. Louis van Gaal's Manchester United travel to Aston Villa and any points picked up there could extend an already healthy lead if Arsenal triumph. Arsène Wenger's side sit 5 points ahead in sixth and could be eight points ahead. Would Liverpool be able to catch those sides? Missing Daniel Sturridge? Ángel Di María, Daley Blind, and Luke Shaw are significant absentees among a long list for van Gaal's outfit and Arsenal are missing a few players too. While Liverpool can conceivably improve with Sturridge, so can the teams ahead in the Premier League. They also have greater resources to count on next month to potentially remedy areas of need with a new signing or two.
Maybe Liverpool fans should be more thankful for the Europa League as it offers another chance to enter the land of milk and honey. Restarting a European campaign in February looks daunting, with Everton (a), Tottenham Hotspur,(h) Southampton (a), and Manchester City (h) complementing two games against a dangerous Besiktas side that both North London clubs struggled against in Europe this season. Before the draw against Basel, there was talk of Liverpool's rousing victory over Olympiakos in December 2004 and "big European nights" at Anfield. Now the talk of the eight-goal victory over Besiktas in November 2007 has emerged after Liverpool discovered their European B competition opponents. Such talk merely irritates when Liverpool inevitably struggle to match any of those European Rafa highlights.
Even if Liverpool stumble this week, Brendan Rodgers should have an easier time in getting results between the end of this week and the start of February. He doesn't need to be this young and talented sage that he appeared to be last season, nor does he need to bring Liverpool back to those heady times last season where goals rained and victories bumped into each other with dizzying ease. He just needs to be the one we need right now, not the manager we thought he was. If a striker cannot play a number of games in a row, play one in his place against easier opposition with tougher foes further ahead. Whether the striker is a kid or a player he doesn't rate, he has to be practical. The same goes for managing Lucas Leiva's appearances. Steven Gerrard cannot effectively play deeper in midfield, so find someone who can. Whatever Liverpool did against Manchester United in terms of building attacks, the players must continue to work in that way for the rest of the month. Goals should come.
To be the one we need, Rodgers just needs to make effective and simple decisions. Players who are playing well stay on beyond half time and the hour mark. Players who aren't playing well shouldn't make the side in defensive or attacking positions irrespective of their status at the club. If there are no adequate replacements for a player, the worst move is to bring an inadequate one from the bench or the reserves. With Mario Balotelli available, he should be rotated with Rickie Lambert while Emre Can should step in for Lucas when needed. Brad Jones shouldn't be anywhere near the Liverpool team, but the transfer committee didn't see this as a priority in the summer. Maybe we all never thought Simon Mignolet would ever get injured, as that would be the only acceptable scenario where the Australian should ever start ahead of the Belgian number two.
Whatever happens this week, Brendan Rodgers must show he can sensibly move Liverpool in the right direction. He doesn't need to be the messiah, he just needs to perform as a manager who understands how to make sensible and effective decisions. If he cannot do that, his passing will not be mourned whenever it arrives.