Brendan Rodgers: Why Liverpool sacked their manager
Brendan Rodgers was sacked as Liverpool manager
after travelling from the brink of history to Anfield
oblivion in the space of 18 months.
On 27 April 2014, Rodgers was being carried along on a crest
of euphoria that looked certain to make him the first
Liverpool manager to win the title in 24 years.
A 2-0 loss to Chelsea, including the infamous slip from
Steven Gerrard, started a chain of events that ended with
his dismissal an hour after the 1-1 Merseyside derby draw
with Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.
So how did it go so wrong for a manager who seemed to
have a glittering Anfield future in front of him?
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The committee’s fatal transfer flaws
At the heart of Rodgers’s demise at Liverpool was a failed,
flawed recruitment policy that saw nearly £292m spent since
the 42-year-old’s arrival in the summer of 2012 – but most of
the world-class talent he possessed walk out of the door.
And to add to the dysfunctional decline Rodgers presided
over was Liverpool’s infamous “transfer committee”, the
group that led the club’s buying strategy and was
responsible for far more failures than successes.
The committee consists (or we should now say consisted) of
Rodgers, scouts Dave Fallows and Barry Hunter, the man in
charge of analysis Michael Edwards, owners Fenway Sports
Group’s (FSG) Anfield representative Mike Gordon and chief
executive Ian Ayre.
They sought value, often in young and unproven players
who could be considered versatile – although in many cases
jacks of all trades who were masters of none.
Twenty-three players were signed on permanent deals
during Rodgers’s reign. How many were unqualified
Certainly Brazilian Philippe Coutinho at £8.5m from Inter
Milan and Daniel Sturridge at £12m from Chelsea until he
was struck down by a run of injuries that have wrecked his
last 12 months.
After that you are struggling and some have been out-and-
out flops, particularly the £20m spent on defender Dejan
Lovren and the same sum spent on Lazar Markovic, who is
out on loan at Fenerbahce after one unfulfilling season.
By targeting potential rather than the finished product,
Liverpool have tried to navigate a route around a transfer
system that can simply not be circumnavigated.
It also daubed a grey area on Liverpool’s policy. Who was
ultimately responsible? Rodgers said he had the final word
but in many senses he was beholden to member of this
committee whose track record suggests they were simply
not up to the task of finding players for a club of Liverpool’s
It certainly gives Rodgers a get-out when he can point, with
justification, to the fact that Liverpool’s struggles were not all
down to him.
The other edge of this sword was that during this time of
financial waste on an industrial scale, Liverpool saw the
world-class Luis Suarez leave for Barcelona in a £75m deal,
Raheem Sterling off to Manchester City for £49m and
Gerrard quit Anfield to move to LA Galaxy. Transfer double
Did hope walk out of the door with Suarez?
When Liverpool received the cheque for Suarez after the
Uruguayan shamed himself at the 2014 World Cup by biting
Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini, it presented an opportunity for
Rodgers to fulfil a prophecy he made when Spurs sold
Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for £85m a year earlier.
He said: “Look at Tottenham – when you spend over £100m
you’d expect to be challenging for the league.”
Rodgers did. And Liverpool didn’t.
Sadly for Rodgers, when Suarez took his stardust out of
Anfield it was followed by the cash from his departure –
most of it squandered.
Liverpool targeted a player coming through the Nou Camp’s
revolving door, Alexis Sanchez as his replacement. He would
have been a near-perfect replacement (if not quite as good)
for Suarez but the lure of Arsenal in London proved too
This seemed to plunge Liverpool into transfer inertia. With
no “Plan B” and only the somewhat off-the-wall £4m deal for
Southampton’s Rickie Lambert in the bag, they were left with
three choices on transfer deadline day.
They could do nothing (which ultimately should have been
the preferred option), sign Samuel Eto’o, whose legs could
no longer stand the pace, or Mario Balotelli from AC Milan.
Rodgers had stated “categorically” that Balotelli would not
be coming – so imagine the surprise and embarrassment
when the Italian last resort arrived in a £16m deal with
predictably abysmal results.
So not only was there no replacement that came anywhere
close to giving Liverpool the flash of genius Suarez provided,
the rest of the money was largely wasted on Lovren,
Markovic, £12m defender Alberto Moreno, £25m Adam
Lallana, as well as £10m on Emre Can, who may yet come
And not only did Liverpool lose a player who could grace
any team in world football, they lost the money they raked
in for him. This proved to be a toxic combination.
The road to decline
The beginning of the end for Rodgers started back on 22
March with the home defeat by Manchester United.
Liverpool went into the game on the back of a 13-game
unbeaten run and back in top-four contention after Rodgers
switched to a back-three system to cure a poor start to the
He was once again being feted as the coach of his
generation, with tales of sitting up at 3am writing down his
thoughts on a 3-4-3 formation that looked to have
rejuvenated their campaign.
It all came crashing down that afternoon as United won 2-1
and captain Gerrard lasted only 38 seconds after coming
on as a half-time substitute for Lallana.
Rodgers never quite recovered.
It was followed by a heavy 4-1 beating against Arsenal on 4
April, then 15 days later the biggest setback of all, a pathetic,
lame display in losing to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semi-final
The die was cast as Liverpool lost away to soon-to-be
relegated Hull City, celebrated captain Gerrard’s Anfield
farewell with a comprehensive 3-1 defeat by Crystal Palace
before the ultimate indignity of a 6-1 thrashing at Stoke City
on the final day of the season, the first time the Reds had
conceded half a dozen in the league for 52 years.
After another summer of spending, which included £29m
Roberto Firmino from Hoffenheim and Christian Benteke at
£32.5m from Villa, wins at Stoke and against Bournemouth
rekindled mild optimism but a 3-0 home defeat by West
Ham and a 3-1 loss at Manchester United probably sealed
Like FSG’s decision, the end was swift and decisive.
Rodgers at Liverpool: 1 June 2012 to 4 October 2015
League Cup competitions Europe
2012-13 7th FA Cup (fourth
round); League Cup
(fourth round) Europa League,
round of 32
2013-14 2nd FA Cup (fifth
round); League Cup
(third round) Did not qualify
2014-15 6th FA Cup (semi-
finals); League Cup
(semi-finals) Champions League
round of 32
2015-16 10th League Cup (fourth
round) Europa League
Liverpool owners’ misplaced faith
FSG conducted a full review into Liverpool’s last season,
raking over the wreckage of a Champions League campaign
that failed to crawl out of the group stage or make the top
Rodgers was hardly going in on a position of strength after
that 6-1 loss at Stoke but knees do not jerk in Boston and the
manager was given another crack, complete with the £49m
raked in from Manchester City for Sterling and more
It will be a source of regret to main man John W Henry and
chairman Tom Werner that they have dispensed with the
services of a man and manager they felt was the
embodiment of their ethos – but they clearly feel he can no
longer deliver what they demand.
The question is – do they now wish they had sacked him in
In defence of Rodgers
It does a grave disservice to Rodgers to paint his reign as a
complete failure – this is a relatively young manager who has
time to come again and make good on the potential he
showed at Liverpool.
In 2013-14, in a blaze of attacking football and against all
odds, Rodgers took Liverpool to the brink of the Premier
League title. He was effectively a Gerrard slip away from
writing his name into Anfield’s rich history.
There has been some cheap rewriting of that season,
claiming Rodgers rode to glory on the back of Suarez’s
This is a nonsensical argument akin to claiming Sir Alex
Ferguson was only successful because of Eric Cantona.
Rodgers had a world-class player and devised a system that
allowed him to flourish. He can hardly be criticised, or be
expected to apologise, for that.
He always wanted to give Liverpool’s fans the attacking,
passing football they wanted. He fell short – but it was not
for the want of trying.