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Everything's the Worst: Best Laid Plans Edition

Has Brendan Rodgers' redemption project gone astray?

Staring into an abyss...
Staring into an abyss...
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

In the last edition, this column was waiting for signs in the wake of an embarrassing home defeat to West Ham United. Have definitive signs arrived just a single game later? This appears to be the space Brendan Rodgers is operating in after his side appeared to end the season after losing at home to Manchester United in March.

To be clear, this column still maintains the position set out at the end of last month. Brendan Rodgers is a manager with the talent and ability to steer Liverpool to a recovery, the club's solid work in the summer transfer window had the manager's ideas and preferences at the heart of it all, a hierarchy shouldn't back a manager only to pull the plug five competitive games later, and the lack of conviction from various teams in England's top flight suggests that there may be more opportunities for Liverpool to make inroads than previously thought.

Although, those who wish to see a managerial change have some valid criticisms. Where and what is the plan? If anyone has an idea, please explain so in the comments below. Ironically, Liverpool have looked most convincing this season failing to score in North London. One convincing half against Arsenal, however, is not a compelling argument to keep the faith. Lacking ideas in attack, connectivity in midfield, and organisation in defence is far more depressing when it's a continuation of last season. Liverpool have played 13 league games since Manchester United ended the club's 13-match unbeaten streak in the Premier League and only won four of them with six defeats.

Is it fair to join the start of this season to the closing stretch of the last campaign? If one is looking for patterns and a general trajectory, yes. Manchester United, West Ham, Stoke City, Crystal Palace, and Arsenal all found it far too easy to score against Liverpool with no attacking threat in response. The defeats this season do not look out of place in a run of form that could very well, and perhaps should, have ended the Rodgers era. When Liverpool concede or go behind, there appears to be no plan from the manager or inspiration from the players to reorganise, fight back, restore parity, or completely reverse the balance of power according to the scoreline. Not one of these things have been seen since that rousing win over Manchester City in March.

If one travels back further to September last year, Liverpool's rotten 3-1 defeat at Upton Park was the sign of Champions League misery that was to come in October and Premier League disaster that arrived in November. If current travails will only be temporarily halted against low ranking and middling opposition for a few games before a similar slide like last season, Rodgers should be sacked. The question is, one which will be answered in due course, is whether Liverpool can find both the results and the performances under Rodgers to warrant the patience FSG have shown him since he took charge in 2012.

While missing players cannot excuse lack of coherence in attack, how would Liverpool fare with Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, and Jordan Henderson back in the side? It feels hollow to cite missing players, though, when Rodgers weakens his side by omitting the club's best centre back in Mamadou Sakho. The gap between Sakho and the current starting pair is comparable to the gap in quality between Simon Mignolet and Brad Jones last season. Such actions deliberately weaken the side and invite accusations of incompetence and poor judgement.

Should two or three missing players mean that the side plays without any discernible identity? Missing players of such importance can be a hindrance, but an idea or a plan that looks like it can succeed can offer a glimpse of a way forward. It may not be a path that leads quickly to success, yet it is a path nonetheless. The home game against Bournemouth was my first at Anfield, and Liverpool were as uninspiring in possession and attack as witnessed in the past two league games. It was disheartening to see how familiar this turgid tale was in an arena that immediately felt like home.

Liverpool need to respond, and Brendan Rodgers must find a way to make that happen before whatever the sands of patience run out. He could make the obvious alterations in defence, but if they don't work, what then? It may be the case that his time is up at Liverpool where he no longer has the ideas nor the confidence of the players to do so. However, many purported rivals for a top four place haven't exactly inspired so far this season. Arsenal and Manchester United need to score more goals and lie only three points ahead of Liverpool, albeit with a comfortable advantage in terms of goal difference. Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur have fewer points than a side that's faced Stoke City, Arsenal, and Manchester United away.

Recovery from this position isn't impossible with the players in the squad, many of whom are quite similar in terms of the space they prefer to occupy on the field (something to perhaps take note of), under a manager who produced exciting football for a dizzying 18-month spell after Fulham were battered 4-0 at Anfield. Upon entering Rodgers' second season, the greatest source of confidence was how Liverpool finished the previous one. How things have changed for a manager who produced Liverpool's most inspiring football in a generation. There's still time for things to get better, and he will be rightly given time to do so by a hierarchy that doesn't deserve the criticism it's receiving from some quarters, but it appears that Rodgers' best laid plans have truly gone astray.

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