Liverpool 2: Gerrard (pen.) 17' (pen.) 40'
Leicester City 2: Nugent 58', Schlupp 60'
Praised as an innovator just two days ago by his vice captain, Brendan Rodgers finds himself back in the firing line tonight, and rightly so after his Liverpool side threw away a two-goal lead they never really deserved to draw with bottom of the table Leicester City at Anfield. It was miles apart from the energetic and encouraging display Rodgers oversaw on Monday night, and the manager has nobody to blame but himself.
His puzzling decisions actively hurt Liverpool from the outset; Jordan Henderson was shunted from central midfield to right wingback after his best performance in months against Swansea in favor of Steven Gerrard, with Javier Manquillo, who'd been largely solid in the 4-1 victory earlier in the week, back to the bench. At all costs, regardless of performances or form, this Liverpool squad now exists to best accommodate the captain, whose deployment in central midfield does more harm than good.
It has become a no-win situation for Rodgers, who either genuinely believes that Liverpool are better with Gerrard in the squad in his current role, which simply isn't true, or he lacks the conviction to change the focus of this Liverpool squad to what's best for them as a whole rather than in some sort of misguided attempt to provide tribute to the captain.
That Rodgers would revert to the inclusion of Gerrard after speaking so highly of the team's performance without him on Monday night--something he did even more effusively after the hammering of Spurs last December, another display that saw Gerrard out of the squad--indicts the third-year boss further, and while the onus is certainly on more than one player to get results, it's only willful ignorance to claim that they're at their best with a player who grinds their tempo to a halt both with and without the ball.
There can be no mystery about why the cutting edge was gone tonight, why the defense looked shakier and more exposed, why the pressing that suffocated Swansea for large spells went missing. The two penalties were expertly taken by Gerrard, but those were gifts, outliers that belied how poor the hosts were for most of a match that saw them undo most of the good work from earlier in the week.
It's painful to speak so harshly about a player who is rightly in the discussion as one of the top two in the club's history, but there are few other explanations available for how they can look so poor just four days after they were on their way to turning a corner. Yes, tired legs likely had an impact, as did the exit of Adam Lallana through injury. And take nothing away from David Nugent and Jeff Schlupp, whose goals were expertly taken for a Leicester side that dominated the second half of a match that could have seen them collapse after conceding two first-half penalties. But even then, choices were available that could have seen the team on the field strengthened, and instead Rodgers opted for Fabio Borini, whose mere existence up until the Arsenal match had been in question.
None of it is really about Gerrard anyway, with Rodgers, as he's so often reminded the press, the one with whom the power resides. If that's truly the case, he needs to start acting like it. He has shown innovation in searching for a formation that will work in the absence of a clear goalscorer, but today he sabotaged himself and Liverpool by taking the pieces that fit--crucially, Henderson in central midfield alongside Lucas and Manquillo as a more conservative right wingback to provide cover for Emre Can--and displacing them.
By insisting upon using Gerrard in the manner in which he has this season, Brendan Rodgers is running himself out of a job and the legacy of one of Liverpool's greatest-ever servants into the ground.