Rodgers must go
After three seasons, he still comes across as unworthy of Liverpool FC
Brendan Rodgers acknowledged his Liverpool future was in doubt. Speaking to the media, he admitted that the Reds had been awful in the 6-1 thrashing by Stoke on Sunday, just "absolutely awful".
In that moment, the facade fell away. There was no daft jargon about giving "150 per cent", no self-help sound-bites, just a mumbled admission of guilt.
Rodgers has always been out of his depth at Anfield. Now he is drowning.
If he is not thrown a life ring, he goes under for good.
The Fenway Sports Group must pull him out, coughing and sputtering, and send him on his way. It wouldn't be a sacking, but a salvage operation.
Rodgers can move on and save what's left of his career. If he continues at Liverpool, the club go down with the dugout.
The Reds must learn from those devilish enemies on the other side of Lancashire.
Though their supporters wouldn't care to admit it, Manchester United and Liverpool are two sides of the same coin. In English football, they stand together, omnipotent and unrivalled.
On the international stage, the English Premier League is essentially two main players and 18 support acts.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City have divided the silverware among them in recent seasons, but still lack the pedigree.
Pedigree takes time to acquire, over decades, across generations, but can be lost in a couple of seasons.
The pedigree that defines Liverpool now threatens to break Rodgers as it did David Moyes at United.
Both men are fine coaches, but crippled by insecurity when confronted with such sporting behemoths.
Both men followed similar paths, constantly trying to trumpet their credentials, like a puny kid in a gym straining to show off his muscles.
Moyes showed Champions League-winning defenders videos of Everton's workmanlike back four. Rodgers allowed Raheem Sterling to head off to Jamaica to recharge his 20-year-old batteries.
In both instances, insecure managers thought they were reiterating their control, but they were in fact doing the opposite.
They were dazzled by the star power in their dressing room and intimidated by their own employees. They were overwhelmed by the club's pedigree.
Just compare Rodgers' incompetent handling of Sterling with his predecessor's wily contract negotiations.
Kenny Dalglish used to famously send his players away to the chief executive, knowing that they'd get a low offer.
Pretending to be outraged, Dalglish would then storm into the chief executive's office and demand a decent wage for his invaluable players.
He got a figure that had been privately agreed with the chief executive beforehand and his delighted Reds ran through walls for their devoted leader.
The names Liverpool and Dalglish were interchangeable; one was never overawed or felt threatened by the other.
But Rodgers, like Moyes at United, doesn't assert his position with the club's hierarchy.
Louis van Gaal does. He demands full autonomy over United's transfer dealings. So does Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
Both van Gaal and Mourinho will be judged by their own decisions. They govern their destiny. They will not be overruled by a shadowy transfer committee or by absentee owners imposing an American baseball recruitment philosophy.
Lacking the confidence - and the brand name - to challenge his paymasters, Rodgers finds himself in the ludicrous position of being savaged for blunders that may or may not be entirely his fault.
It takes a separate article to highlight the dumb and dumber decisions that began the moment Luis Suarez was sold and continued through to the last day when Steven Gerrard was humiliated, again, by being played in a false No. 9 role against Stoke.
But Rodgers turned into a confused King Midas, everything he touched turned rancid. He sold one of the finest artists to ever grace Anfield and replaced him with sub-standard dross.
With the solitary exception against Manchester City, he failed to manipulate any games against the top four in his favour.
He allowed the greatest midfielder of his generation, an inspirational leader who defined loyalty and decency in an age when greed and self-indulgence are the norm, to leave his beloved club.
If Gerrard's demands didn't match the Moneyball ideals of the boardroom, then Rodgers had to step in and fight his skipper's case.
Mourinho and van Gaal do not sell players against their will. The dressing room comes before the boardroom. They are not cowed by the name over the stadium, or those on their team sheet.
But Rodgers couldn't even keep a 20-year-old kid on side. He allowed Sterling's agent to make a fool of him - and the club - and left the manager a pawn in someone else's game.
Agents don't try this stuff with van Gaal, Mourinho or even Arsene Wenger. It's a fool's errand. Those managers are comfortable in their own skin. They belong.
But Rodgers doesn't. His greatest battle still comes from within.
He bought players unworthy of Liverpool FC. He sent out confused, fragmented line-ups unworthy of Liverpool FC. And he engineered too many performances unworthy of Liverpool FC.
After three years, he still comes across as unworthy of Liverpool FC.
He's still behaving like a dog with a bone, over-eager to impress, over-reaching and under-achieving.
Rodgers remains a committed manager, but the wrong man for Liverpool.
His name will never carry as much weight as the one on the front of the jersey.
"I've always said that if the owners want me to go, then I go. It's as simple as that. But I still feel I've got a lot to offer the club."
LOSING 6-1 TO STOKE
"They (the fans) deserve an apology. They were angry at half-time, and rightly so, because that was awful, absolutely awful."
"With Raheem, there has been a lot going on over the past number of weeks and I felt there were other players mentally positioned to play."
5 mistakes, 1 big mess
1 What a waste of money
Without exception, Liverpool's recruitment strategy has been the worst in the Premier League.
Other clubs have bought poorly or over-spent, but only the Reds combined the two in such haphazard fashion.
Buying the likes of Rickie Lambert was strange enough, but he was pocket change compared to the £117 million ($242m) spent in total.
And the £16m lavished on Mario Balotelli was not only the worst signing of the season, but also indicative of Rodgers' arrogance. He believed he could succeed where Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho failed. But, of course, he couldn't.
2 Too many chiefs
Liverpool's transfer committee sells proven quality like Luis Suarez and buys rubbish in return. That's all it does. One Philippe Coutinho (above) does not make up for the long winter of discontent.
What's worse, the shared responsibilities mean everyone and no one takes the blame and yet Rodgers ends up carrying the can.
He is tarred by their brush, but who is doing the scrubbing? When there's no clear accountability, no one can be blamed.
But there is also no clear direction or vision. Frankly, the Moneyball ideal is a misguided joke that Liverpool fans no longer find funny.
ASSETS: Luis Suarez is one in a long list of Liverpool players who were sold as they neared their prime. PHOTOS: CARL RECINE, ANDREW COULDRIDGE/ACTION IMAGES, REUTERS
3 Reds are a selling club
Maybe it's the Moneyball philosophy, the Americans' desire to balance the books or Rodgers' ineptitude, but Liverpool are a selling club. And that's an insult to their global support base.
How can an established brand with the international reach of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona sell rising stars like a small-town, provincial club?
As Gary Neville pointed out, Steve McManaman, Michael Owen, Javier Mascherano, Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres and Luis Suarez all left as they approached their prime.
Sterling's departure will only further underline Liverpool's parochial mindset. In this context, the Reds do not deserve the global loyalty they still enjoy from fans around the world.
4 Tactical doomsday
Playing with a back three; using Emre Can out of position; using Can as a right back; using Balotelli or Lambert at all; picking Adam Lallana up front; fielding the White Flag 11 against Real Madrid; being out-thought by Tim Sherwood's front three in the FA Cup semi-final; isolating Jordan Henderson on the right against Arsenal; exposing Kolo Toure (above) against Arsenal; losing every tactical battle with Mourinho; going to Stoke with no striker and tinkering, adjusting, chopping and changing all season long - Enough?
5 Sterling, Sterling
All Rodgers had to do was take a leaf from the big book of coaching cliche - We want Sterling (above) to stay. We've made a generous offer. But we will not be held to ransom and no player is bigger than the club and so forth.
Instead, he pandered too much to a player who has performed poorly for much of the season. Liverpool looked like amateurs in a PR battle and now the manager has lost another star from the title-chasing class of 2014.
No one comes out of the saga well, but Rodgers appears powerless and no longer in control of his dressing room.
Pepe Reina and Daniel Agger have already spoken of how Rodgers says one thing and then does another.
His indecision has been his undoing all season long. And now Liverpool must pay one hell of a price for it.
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