Upon his unveiling, Brendan Rodgers set the long-term ambition of making trips to Anfield “the longest 90 minutes of the lives” of those who set foot in the place.
He meant the opposition, but after an insipid defeat to
Short of attacking options after being denied a deadline-day deal for Clint Dempsey, Rodgers is now considering re-signing Michael Owen, who is 32, too old but cheap, and said he would “ask the question” of Didier Drogba, 34, too old and expensive.
It is desperate, but these are already chastening times for a manager let down by what he diplomatically referred to as “operational issues”.
“Any player that I believe can improve the squad, I will look at — there is absolutely no question about that,” said Rodgers, who admitted he would not have let Andy Carroll go had he known there would not be a replacement. “We have got a very small group here. I cannot say no to anything. I have to look at ways to change the group. We need a reinforcement, that’s obvious.”
Rodgers will struggle to convince his board to sign Owen, who has a two-year
deal with Stoke on the table, but the former
Arsenal exposed Liverpool’s frailties, bereft not only of the firepower Rodgers craved, but also enough of the technically gifted personnel to play the high tempo, penetrative football he idolises. The defence is guilty of weekly aberrations too, Pepe Reina again culpable for Arsenal’s second by the outstanding Santi Cazorla.
In many respects, Rodgers needed this wake-up call last week, as the
encouraging signs against
Luis Suárez was isolated and erratic. He often is. Too much is expected too soon of 17 year-old Raheem Sterling. Nuri Sahin ran out of breath early on his debut, and although Joe Allen was a standout performer again, Steven Gerrard is yet to find his form. What was apparent in Rodgers’ post-match inquest is the problem is not simply the new financial reality at Anfield, essential if the club are to abide by the fair play regulations John W Henry champions. It is the contradictory messages that are exasperating.
Liverpool continue to behave and present themselves on the same level as
They knew they had to cut wages. The pay-offs to the last management team also impacted on the budget, so why did they not say so publicly?
Rodgers will also be seeking assurances that his player recommendations are not being vetted and counter-assessed by others. He did, after all, take the job having negotiated the absence of a director of football.
Fenway Sports Group lauds its now mythical 'advisers’ – supposedly highly-respected names within football but presumably too shy or brave enough to be identified. It would be helpful to know who they are, just to be reassured (as some at Anfield genuinely fear) they are not internet nerds who sit at laptops downloading football manager software and telling Henry and chairman Tom Werner who they should and should not buy.
What was clear on Friday is that even managing director Ian Ayre did not have the clearance to conclude the Dempsey deal. There are others at Anfield who, privately, were insisting a month ago it would never happen. Contradictory messages again. Rodgers was evidently working on a false premise but he has no intention of walking away already.
“It’s been a big learning curve for the owners as well,” said Rodgers. “They have come in and invested over £100 million in the club. They have made big changes for whatever reason and one of the most iconic figures in Liverpool’s history has left the club. They have made a commitment to have me here for the long term.
“I have a group of people that I work very well with. The owners are very honest and up front with me. I have got no problem with that. There are one or two things that we have to iron out, but they have been very honest and I don’t feel they have misled me in any way. There are just one or two operational things that we need to organise. If we do that, it will certainly help us in the next window and the window after that.
“I have spoken to the people back in America. I have laid out my thoughts. We have had a couple of brief conversations about what might happen in January and we will reflect on that again next week, in terms of another conversation and the way forward. Hopefully now, going forward in the January window — a window when not a lot is done.
“But if we need help by that stage — and I’m sure we will because we can play a maximum of 27 games and a minimum of 25 and we have a very small squad — we will need reinforcements and hopefully it will be ironed out by that stage. I’m not here to cry. I’m very proud to manage this club and I want to fight to keep us improving and moving forward.”
If Liverpool’s results and performances deteriorate, what the club’s American owners consider prudence and pragmatism, others will see as negligence.