Brendan Rodgers is no longer Liverpool’s manager, and while many are focused on what comes next for the club, it’s just as important to ask whether Fenway Sports Group made the right decision to fire Rodgers eight league games—eleven in all competitions—into the new season. We gathered together the staff of The Liverpool Offside to try and answer just that question.
I expected FSG to sack Rodgers in December if they were going to do it at all, mostly due to the volume of money they let him splash over the summer. I don't think that after the start Liverpool have had that it's the wrong decision by any stretch of the imagination. I’m just very much surprised that it happened yesterday.
If they'd done it after the Manchester United defeat it would have felt as though it was too soon, and while tepid draws and barely-a-victory type matches since then haven't been the results they're looking for either, I think I was expecting Rodgers to go out with a bang after a major loss rather than a whimper after a draw away to the local rival. Fellow TLO scribe Chuck has been a proponent of "reassess after ten matches" approach, and we're at eleven if we're looking at all competitions. I don't think it's an unfair point in the season for the owners to decide they haven't seen enough improvement, and I think that this was probably the earliest reasonable time when they could have done it.
Like Liz, I originally thought Rodgers would be given a few months to show what he could do after being heavily supported over the summer. After attending the Carlisle game, it was clear that something was desperately wrong at Liverpool in the way the team was set up and performing. The results were a natural consequence of this. I wanted to see where we were at after ten league games, but we've at least reached 11 in all competitions, and FSG had to act given the unpredictability of the Premier League and the possibility other clubs may become more attractive destinations for a manager later on in the season. It's early, but Liverpool have played enough games for the owners to see that the unravelling from last year has become the norm. The October international break is probably the best time to make an early change so the new manager can have some time to prepare for the trip to Tottenham.
On one hand, 8 league games isn't much to go on, particularly given our difficult away schedule. On the other, it was more than enough to see that the obvious problems from last season have not been fixed. Had Rodgers been given more time to turn things around, it could have destroyed any chances Liverpool had of finishing in the coveted Top 4 and seen the club bomb out of Europe in the process. By moving now, it ensures that Rodgers' replacement has plenty of time to still make this season matter.
Moreover, FSG had to be aware that other struggling teams—namely Chelsea—could lead to a managerial merry-go-round which could see Liverpool miss out on our top managerial targets. Changing managers mid-season is never really in the plans, but by acting now the owners are giving the club the ability to land a top target—maybe even one they looked into and who wasn’t available during the summer—and not set the club back another year. In short, it's hard to argue with the timing, especially if they end up getting Jurgen Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti as a result.
Lastly, as a matter of pure public image, letting Rodgers go one season after nearly winning the title might have seemed a bit harsh (even if it was probably the right move in hindsight and/or at the time). But now when approaching certain high-profile managers, they can show just how serious they are about giving managers more leeway than many other top clubs.
The right time to get rid of Rodgers was in May, and I still don’t understand why FSG not only kept him on, but doubled down on their support of him. Two months into the new season, it's a decision that seems even more inexplicable. Sacking him now is too late. Raheem Sterling, who cited problems with Rodgers as a reason for leaving, is already gone. That surely wasn't Sterling's only reason for leaving, but it appears it was a factor.
Now, a further 11 games have passed with no discernible improvement. Going into the international break is at least an ideal pause in the season to get the new person in, but they'll be walking into the toughest set of fixtures possible. If that mythical new manager bump doesn't work because we're playing against the likes of Sergio Aguero, the natives may, to steal a bit of phrasing from Jamie Carragher, begin to get restless. That being said, if we can manage a few good results, then at least there’s a chance for things to kick on this season.
In the end, I’m left sad about the manager we lost from two years ago, but I'm glad it's finally over. This season has seemed like the longest, saddest funeral procession for Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool career. And who knows what's going on at Chelsea and how long it will be before they’re looking for a new manager. Since Abramovich has already had his fun with Ancelotti, Klopp would have been his top target if he was still available to replace Mourinho. The timing may not be ideal, but now that the decision has been made, let’s get someone in who can excite the players and the fans and rejuvenate this club, and let's do it while we are still the most tempting club in the market.
The timing does seem surprising. Not perhaps that they waited until the international break knowing they were going to let him go regardless of outcome over the weekend, but that it happened during this international break rather than in November or December. After backing him over the summer—a decision that in retrospect seems misguided at best—I really expected he would be given more time. It’s the right call, though.
Brave or call it foolish, it's clear now the decision not just to keep Rodgers on over the summer but to give him a significant spend and full control over transfers was the wrong one. The dull football and middling results this season have only confirmed it, as has a fanbase that has seemed more depressed than angry. A few screamers on social media aside, the season had taken on a funeral air. It was clear Rodgers had lost the fans, including many in an increasingly quiet—and, against Sion in the Europa League, half-empty—Anfield. It had become a question of when and not if he would be let go.
That was the reality of the situation, and Fenway Sports Group had to react to it. They tried backing Rodgers over the summer. With it having become clear that was the wrong call, they reversed course quickly. The timing, and that they didn't give Rodgers more of it, may have been a surprise, but it was the right thing to do and, given they can't change the past, now was the right time to do it.
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