Being a manager is a stressful gig, especially when you're the manager of as big a club as Liverpool. Every decision is put under the looking glass and micro-analyzed, torn apart shred by shred until someone, somewhere finds something to scream and whine and complain about.
The big decisions, the ones with real weight to them, carry an even higher degree of scrutiny, and with them a significant amount of risk. Take too many big chances and come out with a bad roll of the dice, and it's the unemployment line for you. Some managers have made their careers by gambling on the big decisions, but many more have been left as forgotten footnotes of sporting history.
Brendan Rodgers recently took such a risk, heavily rotating his side ahead of this week's Champions League match against Real Madrid. Rodgers drew heavy criticism for the decision, with some factions of the fanbase calling for Rodgers' head immediately after the lineup was released. The media was no kinder, viciously crucifying Rodgers all week long for the "disrespect" his lineup apparently represented.
For his part, Rodgers isn't backing down from the choices he's made. "You have to be bold enough to make the decisions as a manager," he told the press, "and that is why you are paid the money you are. If you make more wrong ones than right ones you will be out of work, it’s as simple as that. It’s a big risk but for me I’m happy with the decisions I make. It can be a big call and people might think ‘You took a massive risk there’, but you weigh up the risk and reward."
At least he understands the risky position he put himself in, but with all the chips down on this match against Chelsea, the risk is far from mitigated. Despite the criticism, though, Rodgers says that he still wanted to win on Tuesday, and that his side did not represent the capitulation he was accused of, merely a different strategy.
The only thing I showed the other night was the trust I have in the team and in this group of players," Rodgers said. "I never feared that if I play this team we are going to end up losing seven- or eight-nil and what would be the consequence of that? I would never do that, I would never pick a team that I believe couldn't get a result from a game. I never went into a game in my life and felt that we are not going to get a result.
Source: The Guardian
While he claims he doesn't feel pressure, Rodgers has to realize the situation he's now backed himself in to. Lose this match, and the decisions he's made will dramatically increase the risks he faces. In fact, if you look at a risk/reward comparison, the "risk" column far outweighs the "reward" column.
Lose, and Liverpool are 15 points out of first place and continuing a league slide that's getting uglier and uglier. Add in the factor of going all-in on this match, and Rodgers could face far more punishment than an angry and upset fanbase. Win, and Liverpool are... nine points out of first place, and probably still not looking too terrible rosy in the meantime.
Hopefully Rodgers has an ace up his sleeve, because this is a bet that he can't risk to lose.