The performance against Manchester United showed that the malaise in this Liverpool side looks gaping.
There is plenty of discontent and disgruntlement in the Liverpool fan base, and understandably so. And after miraculously escaping getting sacked in the summer, Rodgers finds himself in a tough spot once again. While it is highly unlikely that FSG will pull the trigger after an away defeat to Manchester United and just five matches into the league, Rodgers must be feeling as though his head is on the line once again.
He needs to make sure this lack of dynamism in the side doesn’t stand out anymore. After this defeat, the Northern Irishman has fallen in the same category as Roy Hodgson as far as love and trust from the fans or the lack of it is concerned. Have a look at Twitter to remove any qualms on the matter.
Rodgers needs to change things and he needs to do them now. Here are three things he can do to make sure he gets some favourable results in the coming games which buys him more time.
Bring in Mamadou Sakho
Lovren wasn’t directly responsible for any goal, unlike the West Ham game. In fact, Skrtel was more to blame specifically for a goal (Martial’s third). But it wasn’t as though the former Lyon defender did anything worthy of note. As a left sided centre-back, it was odd seeing him on Liverpool’s right flank alongside Nathaniel Clyne in the opening minutes.
Rodgers needs to accept that Lovren has not proved to be the player Liverpool thought they were paying for last summer. The Croat is not an organizer of the back-line and gets dispossessed too easily. His confidence has not been restored from last season and he is certainly not a Carragher replacement. Liverpool dona t even have to look too far for a player who could be those things. He is in the squad but has been receded to the bench. Mamadou Sakho should not be a back-up to Lovren, it needs to be the other way around.
Why Mamadou Sakho has continuously played second fiddle to Dejan Lovren is something only Brendan Rodgers knows. Liverpool owners know the Frenchman is good — best centre-back in the team by a mile — and have thus offered him a new contract but Sakho has understandably refused to sign it, so far. Why would a player recently dropped from the national team because he was not playing for his club pledge his allegiance for even longer?
Bringing in Sakho in the team would indicate to the Liverpool fans that Rodgers is willing to let his stubbornness go and do what is better for the team, not just persist in the hope that it might eventually pay some dividends.
Play Danny Ings upfront, not on the wings
Danny Ings in fact, was probably Liverpool’s best player, someone who remotely generated anything resembling a good performance. But one thing that collectively astounded and annoyed the Liverpool faithful was the use of Ings (and Roberto Firmino) on the wings, something that left Christian Benteke completely isolated in the game.
“Ings spent most of that half running towards his own goal. He would class himself as a striker, he doesn’t want to be doing that”, said former manager Graeme Souness.
Jamie Carragher was equally vocal in his frustration at seeing the former Burnley man used out wide. . He said, “Ings came in and I said before the game it must be two up front and they must be playing a diamond formation, but they were still playing 4-3-3. I don’t understand what the point was in playing Danny Ings in that wide position. He didn’t give the support to Benteke.”
In the coming games, Ings might not be picked to start as Coutinho will take his place, but when he is (and he could be in case Jordan Henderson doesn’t return soon and Rodgers decides to tinker personnel), he must be used up-front. Benteke was rendered useless in an effectively 4-5-1 formation as Firmino and Ings were so far behind. For Liverpool to extract results, Rodgers need his attack to click and playing players in their best position is the most basic, and perhaps the best thing the manager can do at the moment.
Instill some heart and passion in the team
While saying things like “I’d rather take a loss where the team shows some passion, than an insipid performance” is an idyllic and often convenient lie, no one likes to see a performance devoid of any heart, let alone a supporter who invests so much in the team.
So far this season, Liverpool have managed to put a solid and attractive performance for 45 minutes, and that came in the first half against Arsenal. Other than that, the team has been uninspired and lacklustre. Two of the three goals have come due to moments of sheer individual brilliance and the third one should never have stood.
The Liverpool team doesn’t look inspired. The players don’t remotely look like they are enjoying themselves on the pitch. Everything looks too mechanical and yet, it is not mechanical enough to bring a semblance of order at the back. There is no pace to brag about, the team is not direct; counter-attacks if any, are ineffective. Against United, Liverpool couldn’t keep the ball for more than 10 seconds in the opening half and were incredibly poor in possession. As much as Lallana has been underwhelming, at least he makes sure someone is pressing and pressurizing the opponent. Even then, there is no cohesion in pressing.
Brendan Rodgers needs to make his team play an exciting form of football and if that doesn’t happen, he certainly needs less scrappy results coming his way. Because from the looks of it, the clock is ticking for him.