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Brendan Rodgers Has Some Decisions to Make

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Liverpool have had a wretched September from what looked to be a decent run of fixtures after a tough August start to the season. Brendan Rodgers has some decisions to make on how he rotates his side.

Jamie McDonald

But that's the nature of existence. You make mistakes. If you're smart, you adapt and evolve. If you're an idiot, you make them over and over again and you fizzle out before your time. It's positively Darwinian.

Gabriele Marcotti provided those piercing words for an engaging piece on Francesco Totti in the wake of his contribution at the Etihad for the Il Capitano's beloved AS Roma. Thoughts ran amok.There will be players and managers of considerable talent who will not

I am generally an optimistic but cynical sort. However, the defeat against Basel has driven me to temporary madness. Sterling was very poor but it's a case of his manager needing to help him. Brendan Rodgers is probably thinking there's not much else he can do right now but it isn't fair on a teenager. My dad told me that Liverpool are making a mistake by putting everything on him so soon. Sterling was frustrated and felt for the kid. He's quality, have no worries about him and Rodgers seemed to be that way inclined after the game. He knows he shouldn't be playing him but just don't agree with the excessive minutes right now. Much to still like about Brendan Rodgers but he's got to make decisions.

Gerrard probably should not have played the entire game against West Brom but one can reasonably suspect that Rodgers factored in the international break when deciding to play the captain. What was a welcome development was the 15 minute recalibration that saw the captain move into the number ten slot behind substitute Mario Balotelli who lead the line in the closing quarter of an hour. The combination play between the two was promising and showed that both players can make considerable contributions to the Liverpool cause this season. It was strange to see how a slight alteration can remedy clear problems in the squad.

Brendan Rodgers is a fine young manager, one cannot doubt his talent and progression over the past two seasons. No manager is perfect but there are areas to address that will clearly enhance the 41-year-old's  team's results along with his own reputation. The oft-trotted phrase in football is "week in, week out" and for managers, a season or two isn't enough to establish a reputation as a serious operator. In those seasons, achievements of not must either be achieved or sustained. Finishing in the top four one season and then dropping out is not what will serve Rodgers' ambitions...or the club he manages.

Consistency is why Real Madrid can do their worst to Carlo Ancellotti at the end of this season or at some other time in the future. He's won trophies with AC Milan, Chelsea, and Real Madrid. He'll be more than okay. As for some of the valid criticism of Arsène Wenger pertaining to tactics and squad improvement, he knows how to achieve the minimum requirements for a Champions League club. Is that something Brendan Rodgers can match? One should think so based on the evidence of his Liverpool tenure to date, and there are a few areas that must be addressed quickly to ensure that last season's progress is maintained somewhat.

Expensive horses are not meant to be flogged

Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling don't need to play all of the minutes all of the time. Rotate. If a player is playing badly, then please take him out of the side. Playing him until his confidence is on the verge of shattering (see: Joe Allen in season one) or until his body works but his brain doesn't (see: Raheem Sterling ins season three), isn't advisable. There is a defensive midfielder in the squad and can be of use some of the minutes some of the time.

Look at the receipt

Would you like a striker sir? No, flexible forwards are not available and Alexis Sánchez has already been bought. What about Loïc Rémy? That will be £8.5 million please. Sure, we accept card. Please sign...oh, you don't want him anymore? Okay. What about Mario Balotelli? Great. That will be £16 million please. He's not a bad egg and can work hard for the team. Once you play him a few times, you'll know exactly what you're working with. If you do find that he's not doing as well as you thought, just check the receipt and it'll tell you the type of strikers that will work well with him. Hint, Daniel Sturridge and Fabio Borini.

Midfield muddles

Gerrard as a single pivot can work against some teams especially if they're low on confidence and Liverpool are playing cannon fodder at Anfield. If they have someone chasing around as we saw against Aston Villa, then move him further forward or substitute him at half time. Jordan Henderson is starting to come into his own as a midfielder and is producing a lot of assists when he breaks opposition lines with his direct off-the-ball forward runs. Also, Lucas Leiva can play some of the time and offer an option as a defensive midfielder. Just don't play him with Gerrard in a double-pivot in midfield.

Should we even bother mentioning the defence?

The defence needs to improve but will take quite some time do so, so focus on the attack to bail out maddening errors and address protection from midfield.

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This is Liverpool's first season in the Champions League for a number of years and the man in charge has never managed at that level before. Rodgers has shown that he will learn, and there are areas that may need a transfer window or the passage of time for remedies to be found. Returning players will help, but the Liverpool can experience tangible benefits of well-judged tweaks today...not tomorrow.