English Premiership

Liverpool in freefall

2015-05-25 15:53
Brendan Rodgers (Andrew Powell/Getty Images)
Brendan Rodgers (Andrew Powell/Getty Images)

Cape Town - As subscribers to the "Moneyball" approach, Liverpool's American owners like to do their business based on cold, hard statistics.

So here are some damning numbers for the hierarchy at Fenway Sports Group to chew on before they sit down with Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers for his end-of-season review in the coming days.

Liverpool finished a miserable season with a 6-1 loss at Stoke, its worst defeat in the 23-year history of the Premier League and its heaviest in 52 years. For the first time in 84 years, the Reds conceded five goals in the first half of a top-division game.

In the space of a year, Liverpool has gone from the second best team in England to No. 6, despite an outlay of  £116 million pounds (now $180 million) on new players in the last offseason.

Rodgers has had three years as Liverpool's manager and hasn't won a trophy.

Meanwhile, a man with the experience of 710 Liverpool appearances to his name is about to leave the club, with captain Steven Gerrard swapping Liverpool for Los Angeles after 17 years as a professional at Anfield. Gerrard scored three of Liverpool's last four goals this season, taking his overall tally to 186, and some pundits believe the player who has held the club together for the past decade is leaving too early.

It all makes tough reading for Rodgers, who on Friday declared himself "150 percent" sure that he'd still be in his post at the start of next season.

Some aren't so sure anymore and that includes Rodgers himself.

The man widely regarded as the top young manager in Britain last season for guiding Liverpool to the brink of a first league title since 1990 had a shell-shocked look to him as he was asked to explain the capitulation at Stoke.

"If the owners want me to go then I go," an emotional Rodgers said, "but I want to be here."

"The fans deserve an apology," he added.

"They were angry at halftime - and rightly so - because that was awful, absolutely awful. They have every right to be angry and frustrated and of course I take full responsibility for that."

A 6-1 loss to a mid-table team with nothing to play for is the kind of result that gets a manager fired, and social media and radio phone-ins were filled with Liverpool fans calling for the removal of Rodgers after the game. With a respected coach like Jurgen Klopp looking for work after leaving Borussia Dortmund, Rodgers is on shaky ground.

Ever since Luis Suarez left for Barcelona last July, things have gone downhill for Liverpool and Rodgers.

The summer signings have been majorly disappointing - and Rodgers' lineup for the Stoke game reflected that. Mario Balotelli wasn't in the squad, fellow striker Rickie Lambert started on the bench as Liverpool began the game with no recognized forward, Dejan Lovren and Lazar Markovic - who reportedly cost a combined £40 million pounds - were unused substitutes, and Adam Lallana and Emre Can played out of position.

Liverpool failed to get out of its group in the Champions League and, at one stage, was in 12th place in the league. Later, Rodgers acknowledged that at that time he feared for his job.

Rodgers changed the team's formation to a 3-4-3 and the Reds went unbeaten in the league for 13 games. However, the final two months of the season saw Liverpool win just two of its nine league games — against relegation contenders Newcastle and Queens Park Rangers - and lose to Aston Villa in the FA Cup semifinals in arguably the low point of the campaign. At least before travelling to Stoke.

"It's evident for all to see," former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher said on his Facebook page, "there is problems at both ends of the field that will hopefully be rectified in some way this summer."

With no Champions League football on offer and with the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United set to spend big this offseason, Liverpool is unlikely to attract the top names to Anfield.

The summer is also likely to be dominated not by who comes in but whether Liverpool is able to keep hold of winger Raheem Sterling, the team's best young player, who is refusing to sign a new contract.

Gerrard's departure leaves a gaping hole, not just in the team but at the club itself.

And next season's schedule already looks complicated for Liverpool, which must - because of its sixth-place finish - go through two qualifying rounds to compete in the group stage of Europa League. That competition has loaded a heavy burden on English teams in recent years.

And there's still room for one last insult for Liverpool fans. Belgium striker Divock Origi, who will join on a permanent basis this summer after being loaned back to Lille following his  £10 million-pound transfer to Liverpool last year, was named in the French league's worst team of the season by respected French newspaper L'Equipe.


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