Decision time at Liverpool over manager Rodgers
After loss to Tigers, the Reds must decide if they want to stay the course with Rodgers
(Michael Dawson 37)
After a roller-coaster ride of a season, Liverpool are finally at a crossroads.
They must decide if it's time to continue with the mission that started the moment Brendan Rodgers was named as manager in June 2012, or bring that adventure to an end.
The Reds delivered a performance so staid at the KC Stadium yesterday morning (Singapore time) that the alarm bells went off.
Hull deserved the 1-0 victory because Liverpool were lacking in just about everything. Crucially, it was a dearth of character that ultimately brought the Reds' to their knees.
Michael Dawson's first-half header condemned them to their fourth defeat in seven games in all competitions. With seven points separating them from fourth-placed Manchester United, their Champions League qualification hope is as good as over.
Not for the first time this season, calls for Rodgers' head have emerged, only this time, they are louder than before.
Only a big-name manager can stop the rot, they say.
Liverpool's stand hasn't changed - the return to the top is a drawn-out process.
Rodgers has youth on his side, and a reputation as one of the most progressive and forward-thinking managers in the English game.
No other manager has taken Liverpool closer to an English Premier League crown than Rodgers did last season, not Gerard Houllier, not Rafael Benitez, not Kenny Dalglish.
Even when they dished out spell-binding football last term, the 42-year-old Northern Irishman was at pains to reiterate that they were ahead of schedule.
But try stemming the tide of rising expectations of a group of supporters starved of title success.
Rodgers has, in fact, become a victim of his own success.
If the Fenway Group stick with the man, they will likely have to invest millions into the squad for another two or three years into the project.
For Rodgers isn't likely going to turn things around immediately.
Judging by the displays this season, there will be considerable personnel movement in the summer. There is plenty of deadwood in the first team to clear, and new players don't usually hit the ground running.
Fans believing that Liverpool's problems can be solved with the recruitment of one or two stars are kidding themselves.
The difference in the players' performances this season and with the last campaign is stark.
At the same stage of the 2013/14 campaign, Liverpool had scored 46 more goals and collected 19 more points. Statistics like these lend credence to the theory that last term's thrilling title challenge was down to Luis Suarez's brilliance and Daniel Sturridge's ability to thrive alongside the superb Uruguayan.
Rodgers' atrocious record in the transfer market doesn't stand up to scrutiny, either.
In his third season at the club, he has already spent more than £210 million ($428m).
Yet, of the 24 more prominent arrivals, only three have made a genuine impact - Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Emre Can. With the likes of Iago Aspas and Adam Lallana, the success stories are outnumbered seven-to-one.
Will the Liverpool owners have the stomach to part with many more millions in the hope that Rodgers learns from his past mistakes?
And even if they are willing to, can a Liverpool with Rodgers in charge attract the marquee players whom he has vowed to bring in?
The owners face a huge dilemma.
They know this is a long-term project. But do they have the right man to lead it?
Putting off a decision is not an option.
"You can’t hide the fact we’ve lost over 50 goals. We have to look to improve the squad. It’s always great if you can get marquee players to come in and help you. The owners will support that."
- Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers
Aye for Rodgers
"Right now I believe Brendan is the best man. When he went on that run in the middle of the season everyone was saying he was the second coming. I think he has one more season."
- Former Arsenal striker Ian Wright
"He should have another season. Recruitment has been suspect but he is a good coach. Nearly won the league last year."
- Former Gunner Lee Dixon
"Huge pressure on Brendan Rodgers now. (Liverpool's owners) FSG may take some convincing this summer if there are suitable men available.
I'd still stick (with him) mind you...
Completely respect Liverpool fans who've had enough. Barring Juergen Klopp (who they won't get), or Rafa Benitez (never go back), there's no one else out there."
- Former Liverpool striker Stan Collymore
"We've been knocking on the door for a few years. I think Brendan is a bright man and I honestly believe he will bring success back to this club."
- Former Reds striker Robbie Fowler
"Here's the bottom line. If there's nobody better than him available then he stays. The problem is, Mr Juergen Klopp's available. He should be there."
- Former Liverpool utility man Steve Nicol