Brendan Rodgers has faced a lot of stick from supporters and pundits, but not all of it has been warranted.
Granted, the flak that Rodgers has received for his team’s performance in the Premier League and in their League Cup match against lowly Carlisle United has been deserved. But the criticism he got when he rotated his squad for Liverpool’s first Europa League match against Bordeaux was not.
Let’s face it, the chance of this Liverpool squad winning trophies is slim. It’s still early days but at this very moment in the season, it looks unlikely that this Liverpool side will mount ever mount a serious title challenge. Because of this, Rodgers and his side should focus on righting the ship in the Premier League, as good results could find Liverpool contending for a Champions League place and Rodgers could find himself holding onto his job for at least a little while longer.
— Express Sport (@DExpress_Sport) September 29, 2015
The fate of Rodgers as a manager does not lie in his success in the Europa League, but in his team’s performance’s domestically. Of the teams above Liverpool in the table, Arsenal and the two halves of Manchester are the only sides that people can confidently predict will stay at the top of the table. With Chelsea having a difficult start and no other teams showing the consistency to stay at the top, this season is a prime opportunity for Liverpool to seize a spot in the top 4. This is an opportunity that they cannot waste.
Last year’s embarrassment in the Europa League at the hands of Besiktas left Liverpool supporters unhappy. However, that loss came right in the middle of Liverpool’s incredible run of form at the beginning of 2015. A top-four finish was actually a realistic possibility, and Rodgers was taking no chances in terms of risking many of his top players. Fans would have liked the silverware, but understood what Rodgers was doing.
But now there is an uproar over Rodger’s decision to start Divock Origi, Kolo Toure and Jordan Rossiter in a draw against Bordeaux for the same reasons as last last season. He understands that while many pundits point to his trophy-less start at Anfield, it is his record in the Premier League that will decide his fate. Rodgers knows that while the competition in the Europa League isn’t top notch, Tottenham, Shalke and Dortmund are not teams that Liverpool can roll over en route to a trophy. He recognizes the varying importance of the competitions he’s in, and it’s time the supporters do too.
Keep in mind the fact that Rodgers is not bowing out of the European competition. He is just keeping his important players fresh for their more important competitions. If the second string team can carry Liverpool to a point in the Europa League where they are in a position to win the competition, Rodgers will definitely aim to win the trophy (obviously this is hypothetical, as Rodgers will hope to still be Liverpool’s manager by the time this situation rolls around).
Liverpool have abandoned wingers in their past few matches, so Jordon Ibe may deserve time on the pitch. Joe Gomez has lost out to Alberto Moreno after Liverpool’s switch to a back-three, but now that Dejan Lovren is injured, Gomez needs games in case he’s called back into action in the league. Adam Lallana, Kolo Toure, etc do not get a lot of first-team action in the Premier League, but deserve action on Thursday against FC Sion, as well as throughout the Europa League competition. These players may have been knocked down the pecking order, but one would think that they have enough quality to be successful against the other Europa League teams
The rest for pivotal players like Philippe Coutinho and Daniel Sturridge will come in handy. Other players like James Milner, Danny Ings, Nathaniel Clyne and Alberto Moreno have the stamina to play in all competitions, but will likely still see rests which will be helpful as they endure a long season. Having these players fully fit as they await the returns of Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and captain Jordan Henderson will benefit Liverpool as they try to fix their flaws and make a run in the Premier League.
This season will in no way come close to the success of the 2013/14 season, but it can definitely better the performances of last season. If Rodgers can get close enough to a trophy, he will put all his cards on the table, but until that time comes, he needs to save his job with good performances in the league. If he can climb the table to the top spots, he will likely see out the end of this season, but any finish outside the top four will almost certainly mean a sacking. If he’s wasting his best players in the Europa League where it can be difficult to defeat teams like Borussia Dortmund, and the results aren’t coming in the Premier League, it’s over for the Rodgers era on Merseyside. He needs his best XI available in the league to keep his job, and the Europa League just has to take the backseat as Rodgers navigates his way through the many obstacles he will face this campaign.