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The Liverpool Offside 2015-16 Season Review, Part 3: The End of the Brendan Rodgers Era

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In the third part of our 2015-16 season review, we look back at the end of Brendan Rodgers’ tenure as manager of Liverpool Football Club.

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Part 3: The End of the Brendan Rodgers Era

After an end of season heart-to-heart about the state of the team, Liverpool’s owners chose to keep Brendan Rodgers on as manager for 2015-16. Fans were split as to whether he should have been let go in May vs. whether he deserved one last chance to deliver on his vision. Where did it go wrong for the manager, who was eventually fired in early October?

Noel

Where it all went wrong wasn’t this season but last, with the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Stoke the point of no return. Things had been trending the wrong way all year, but it was at that point that I was reluctantly ready to move on from Rodgers. If still felt like there was a potentially great manager in there somewhere, but after 6-1 he had lost the confidence of the fans and there was the sense that at the first difficult run they would turn, that things would start to spiral.

Short of pinning Liverpool top of the league for much of 2015-16, it felt like it was only a matter of time. Which made FSG’s decision to back him with a Christian Benteke-sized vote of confidence over the summer bold and brave and foolish and risky. With that in mind, I don’t know that it ever went wrong for Rodgers this season. Not really. It just never quite went right enough to get rid of the doubts, the unease, and that insidious feeling that he’d already lost the team and fans and that it was a question of when and not if. Then, the owners saw Jürgen Klopp was available and knew they only had a limited window of opportunity. So it goes.

Elizabeth

Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool feels like a lifetime ago and I’m honestly struggling to remember any kind of specifics of August to October. I was someone who thought he deserved one last chance but fully expected him to be gone by Christmas if things were dire right out of the gate. They were, and he was. A lot has been said about Rodgers being a good coach but not necessarily a good manager, and I think it was his inability to find a way to coax the vision he had for his teams out of his players that led to his ultimate demise.

Jürgen Klopp has, save for striker extraordinaire Steven Caulker, worked with the exact same players that Rodgers had at his disposal but has gotten far more promising performances out of them. The new manager bump is a very real thing that shouldn’t be discounted, but Klopp seems to be getting things out of the players that Rodgers couldn’t, even if he probably thought he could when he selected them in the first place.

Khaine

Exactly this. Brendan Rodgers has some excellent concepts about football, ones that fit the philosophy of this club extremely well, but his ability to translate that vision onto the pitch was found lacking and he doesn’t possess the gravitas or command the respect necessary to drive the players on when things didn’t pan out. When his principal ideals didn’t get the job done, he fell back on a rapidly diminishing bag of tricks that eventually made his side look more disjointed and haphazard two months into his fourth season than it had two months into his first. If he ever figures out the managing part of being a manager he could be a great one, but for now, he’s merely a good idea.

Kevin (saintgrobian)

All managers go through bad spells. Klopp went through one of his own in the twilight of his tenure at Borussia Dortmund, and it won’t end up being his last. Some managers extricate themselves from these dips while others do not, and I think the turning point for Rodgers arrived when it became increasingly had to tell whether he had a master plan for correcting course. I always felt Rodgers was a better communicator than some of the soundbites would have you believe, but towards the end some of what he said seemed completely at odds with reality, and if there was a master plan, it wasn’t apparent from the press conferences, the lineups, or from the general demeanour of the squad.

Zach

Back in October, I posited that perhaps the better question was, “Where did it go right?” The TL;DR answer to that question is Daniel Sturridge, who had an instant and profound impact on the glorious 18 months of footballing magic that followed. Without a sharp end to the stick, Rodgers’ idealized vision of possession-based football just wouldn’t work, as he never learned how to set up his Liverpool teams in a way that would stop bleeding goals.

He then exacerbated his problems by continually toying with formation and personnel. There’s a reason why “play him at right wingback” became a running joke. Some of those changes, notably the playing three at the back, helped in the short term, but Rodgers never seemed interested in turning any one of his short-term tweaks into a long-term solution. I still think he can be a good manager, but with the double blow of losing Suarez and Sturridge, he didn’t know how to address the problem of goals—at either end. When that became painfully obvious, he lost faith in his system, leading to a bevy of curious, experimental decisions and confusion both on and off the pitch.

Steph (epicskyline)

I can only agree with Zach here. I think having three exceptional players in Suarez, Sturridge, and also an in form Coutinho hid a lot of Rodgers’ sins. Like many, I was ready for him to be gone last May. Before last May, if I’m being honest. I don’t know if FSG always meant to keep him around while keeping one eye on Klopp’s availability, but if they were in fact always waiting for the German to be ready, I would have preferred an interim manager rather than one final summer of chasing Rodgers’ confused vision.

Chuck (cstars)

Steven Gerrard’s last game at Anfield was a disaster and Liverpool looked bedraggled losing to Crystal Palace. Then a trip to Stoke City ended in a 6-1 defeat to wrap up 2014-15 and say ta-ra to a Liverpool legend. It was, quite frankly, a disgraceful end to the season, one that should have ended Brendan Rodgers’ time at the club. Managers don't usually come back from a loss like that, and only a few months into the following season, Rodgers proved to be no exception.

Nailing one’s managerial future to a £32.5 million mast without an understanding of how it should be used and how the rest of the ship would be able to accommodate it was a serious error of extreme proportions. As was not seeming to rate or understand the hard-working baller that is Roberto Firmino along with numerous other instances of failing to understand where and how players could function best. That 6-1 defeat should have been the end. Everything afterwards was just waiting for it.

Also in this Series

Monday - Part 1: Transfer Business
Tuesday - Part 2: Underperformers and Overachievers
Thursday - Part 4: Jürgen Klopp on Merseyside
Friday - Part 5: Positioning the Club for Success in 2016-17