Belfast Telegraph

Brendan Rodgers has just weeks to get it right at Liverpool

Poor signings and failure to correct last season's problems have left Kop boss vulnerable

By Stuart McKinley

Hardly a week goes by without the Monday morning 'expert analysis' in the newspapers or on television on the latest manager to find his future under the microscope.

Not long ago it was Alan Pardew who was thought to be heading for the exit door at St James' Park. Mauricio Pochettino has felt the pressure as he fails to ignite Tottenham and across north London, Arsene Wenger gets a touch every time Arsenal lose.

Then, on Sunday, almost as fast as Lewis Hamilton crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi, bookmakers halved the odds on Brendan Rodgers to be the next Premier League manager to lose his job - he's now 8-1 to be sacked, whereas at the start of the season he was a long shot at 100-1.

Could he survive four defeats in succession? It seems he can, with the Ulsterman's position not under immediate threat, but patience isn't a virtue many club owners possess and four-year contract or not, if the downward spiral continues it's unlikely Rodgers' Anfield reign will.

So, to use a question posed to another famous Ulsterman, where did it all go wrong for the man who led Liverpool to the brink of the Premier League title last season?

Well, you see, the fact that they stumbled and then fell at that brink goes at least some way to providing the answer.

Facing an understrength Chelsea, who had no intention of going full throttle, Rodgers' lack of experience in title-chasing situations was exposed, as was the absence of a Plan B.

Instead of playing out a dull 0-0 draw to keep the title in their own hands, Liverpool played the same way they had in every other game and ended up falling on their own sword.

And when 3-1 up at Crystal Palace in the penultimate game they smelt blood, went for more goals in the hope of eating into Manchester City's advantage, but left the back door open and ended up drawing - effectively handing City the title.

For Liverpool there are, sadly, too many similarities between now and the last time they finished second, under Rafael Benitez in 2009.

Back then they sold probably their best player while in the peak of his career - for Luis Suarez read Xabi Alonso, 28 at the time and just about to win a World Cup with Spain - and bought badly with Alberto Aquilani hardly an able deputy. Glen Johnson arrived then too and somehow he still holds onto a first-team place.

Since last season the personnel has changed, but formation and tactics remain the same - as do the problems.

They'll never win the league with Simon Mignolet in goal. Whether they win anything at all with him in the team is questionable too. Getting rid of Pepe Reina - irrespective of the size of his wage packet and ego - to replace him with Belgium's second-choice keeper was a suicidal move by Rodgers. He might have got away with it last season, but now the changes in the defence have exposed Mignolet as no better than ordinary.

That defence lacks understanding, authority and leadership.

Steven Gerrard continues in a role that is, let's face it, foreign to him. His driving style has been curtailed by Rodgers and well-informed sources have more than hinted that the captain doesn't actually fit into the manager's preferred system.

Dropping Gerrard is seen as unfathomable, squeezing the square peg into the round hole avoids axing the Kop hero, but look at the shape of the team that faced Real Madrid in the Champions League and you get an idea of Rodgers' Anfield ideology.

And remember too the praise he received even after the defeat in the Bernabeu.

Brendan is now suffering the indignity of having his reign compared to that of David Moyes at Manchester United. And we all know how that turned out.

There are, however, more comparisons than you might think.

Moyes never got to sign the players he actually wanted at Manchester United and ended up paying over the odds for Marouane Fellaini, simply because he knew the player and then took Chelsea cast-off Juan Mata as he was all there was available at the time.

Rodgers wanted Newcastle goalkeeper Tim Krul, or his former Swansea No.1 Michel Vorm as a second choice, but couldn't get either. Neither was he able to sign his Swansea captain Ashley Williams.

Then there's the Clint Dempsey debacle. Rodgers reportedly wanted the player, but the club never made Fulham an offer for the player and instead he went to Tottenham.

It is understood that Rodgers is just one member of a committee which deals with signings and owner John W Henry won't hold the manager alone accountable.

Suarez's departure in the summer was inevitable, the player wanted to go to Barcelona and he'd become too big a problem for the club.

So what did they do? Sign an inadequate replacement in Rickie Lambert and then another problem striker in Mario Balotelli - neither of whom have set Anfield alight.

There is, we are told, a long-term plan at Liverpool, with Rodgers very much at the forefront. Ripping the squad apart and starting over again isn't part of that, but it may have to be considered if, as has been said, the manager isn't under threat.

Dropping from second to 12th in the space of 12 games wasn't part of that plan though and if the slide continues then that's what may have to be ripped up, with someone else overseeing its implementation.

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