Brendan Rodgers, from the Liberty Stadium to Anfield.
If both the BBC and the Guardian have it as a certainty with an announcement in 24 hours, that’s usually good enough for me. Disclosure: yours truly is a Liverpool fan who thought Rodgers would be insane to go to Anfield as late as this morning.
The hire is interesting for a few primary reasons:
1) It looks like Fenway Sports Group will have to abandon its preferred hierarchy. Rodgers and Martinez were clearly its finalists and neither one appeared to want anything to do with a director of football/sporting director. There’s nothing wrong with that particular structure per se, but Prem managers don’t cotton to it. Maybe it’s the “too many cooks” thing.
2) Where the clubs are and where their ceilings lie. The ceiling for Rodgers at Liverpool as it currently stands is much higher than Swansea’s despite the Swans paying up to bring their best player, Gylfi Sigurdsson, on full-time as opposed to on loan. Given that support of Rodgers’ blueprint, it confuses me as to why he will come to Anfield — because right now, Swansea are a footballing side with a plan as opposed to Liverpool, who made a point of looking aimless and profligate last season. But Liverpool can be among the six or seven clubs fighting for Champions League spots, whereas Swansea would be thrilled with a Europa League slot. (Although now I fear them fighting to stay up next season if they hire the wrong man to replace Rodgers; the Swans and Norwich were great fun to watch last season.) FSG does not have the pockets of a sheikh or Russian oil tycoon, but it does not lack cash. What it is counting on is that Rodgers is savvy enough in the transfer market and skilled enough in training to establish his preferred brand of passing, possession football at Anfield in a short amount of time. Rodgers has enough ambition to believe he can make that turnaround, otherwise, why abandon the work you’ve already put in?
3) The problem of the Kop. There is a not-small faction of LFC die-hards who wanted Rafael Benitez back, While Benitez was done wrong to an extent by the Hicks & Gillett team on his way out and seems to have been pining for a return to LFC ever since the change in ownership, we’ve already revisited the past once with Kenny Dalglish. There’s a segment of fans that believe Liverpool is still a “top” club, but by the objective measurements in recent years (titles, CL place finishes, etc.), it pains me to say LFC are not and have work to do to get back there — made more difficult by the ascension of Manchester City, Tottenham’s speed, and Newcastle’s smart scouting work and on-pitch management. That leads up to a big question of how Rodgers will be received because “he hasn’t won anything yet.” I would venture LFC have to take a chance on an up-and-comer because it does not have much to offer outside a name and an opportunity to rebuild that name. Europa League football would not lure Jurgen Klopp or Didier Deschamps.
4) How much time will Rodgers have? If FSG is committed to long-term development and a stable future, it can’t afford to sack Rodgers if he doesn’t make the Champions League next season. John Henry and Tom Werner are not Roman Abramovich and cannot afford to be in sacking the manager.
5) Player turnover. What type of player is coming in and who’s going out? Jamie Carragher is done, will Steven Gerrard be eased out if he can’t adapt? What can Rodgers do with Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, and Andy Carroll? Will all four be put on the back-burner or are there places for them? (My personal bet is that Henderson and Carroll may survive; Downing and Adam not so much.) Are we going to pay the British Player Tax again or scout the international market?
Of course, we await official confirmation from LFC and FSG, but these are early things to think about.