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Liverpool’s Brendan Rodgers’ Decision Making Shows His Naivety

Football is a cruel mistress, it can take you to the highest of highs and plunge you into the deepest depths of despair. At least, that is how supporting Liverpool makes me feel. Until this season, that is. I know I should be rejoicing, or at least breathing a huge sigh of relief following our narrow victory against West Bromwich Albion today. However, all the win achieved was to further highlight the defensive frailties of the team as a whole, and a lack of cohesion and options in midfield and attack. I fear that Liverpool will return to mid-table mediocrity unless there is a change in Brendan Rodgers footballing mentality, or better still a change in manager.

Fans will doubtless laud Rodgers’ handling of Walkabout Mamadou Sakho following his unprofessional and childish decision to storm out of Anfield after being dropped from the matchday squad against Everton last weekend. The question is, if Balotelli, or one of his other high-profile stars displayed the same attitude, would he have adopted the same policy? I suspect not. His decision, which was undoubtedly correct, only serves to emphasise how little confidence he has in Sakho, one of his key signings last season.

Some will even consider his decision to drop Balotelli to the bench for today’s game and give Rickie Lambert a start as a piece of tactical genius. That decision was an inevitability given Balotelli’s performance against Basel in the Champions League. However, it also highlights the paucity of options available to Liverpool upfront whilst Daniel Sturridge recovers from injury. Lambert has had a remarkable career, rising through the various levels of English football and consistently scoring goals wherever he has played. Most Liverpool fans wanted to see the fairytale continue, the local boy finally appears for the team he supported as a lad and scores in front of the Kop. That still looks a long way away, but at least Lambert cannot be faulted for effort and honest endeavour.

The decision to start with Lambert felt very much as though Liverpool were scrapping the bottom of a very short barrel and not coming up with very much at all. This is not meant as an overt criticism of Lambert, more as a pointed barb at Brendan Rodgers and his conduct in the transfer market. I have made the point before, but today’s win only served to highlight how bare the cupboard feels at the moment. In Sturridge’s absence, the options were to pick Lambert, persevere with Balotelli, or select Fabio Borini, a player Liverpool spent most of the Summer trying to offload to anybody who would take him at a decent price.

The football rumour mill continues to link Liverpool with a glittering array of strikers, playmakers or attacking midfielders, whatever the vogue phrase is for the type of player that seems to appeal to Rodgers. So far, we have been linked with Karim Benzema, Gonzalo Higuain, Marco Reus and Marek Hamsik, all players who would undoubtedly enhance Liverpool’s attacking options, though none of them possess the genius of Luis Suarez, the player they are realistically expected to replace. The question remains, will any of them want to join Liverpool if they continue to make hard work of the Premier League and Champions League football is a dim and distant memory in January?

Needless to say, Liverpool’s porous defence continues to undermine all the hard work that presumably takes place on the training ground. West Brom clawed their way back into the game via a penalty conceded by Dejan Lovren, a player who came with a big reputation and  an even larger price tag. He does not seem to have forged a solid defensive combination yet with either Sakho or Skrtel, and if Liverpool are to turn a corner, then it is vital that Brendan Rodgers sorts out the way the team set up and play as a unit. At the moment, the defence is wide open, and the number of set pieces Liverpool give away is a cause for concern as a number of goals have been conceded in this way. Both fullbacks are young and have time on their side, but both seem better at going forward than defending. It is a mystery as to why Luis Enrique did not feature at all today, and the prospect of Glenn Johnson coming back into the team will give most fans heart palpitations. Whilst the loan of Andre Wisdom to WBA, Tiago Ilori to Bordeaux and Sebastian Coates to Sunderland should enhance their playing skills, surely at least one of them is good enough to appear in the current Liverpool backline? Likewise, the sale of Martin Kelly to Crystal Palace makes less sense with each defensive lapse.

We should not underestimate the positive effect of today’s victory against West Brom, but the hard work begins now. Liverpool need to learn the art of winning ugly,  that a ground out, attritional victory is far better than a glorious, free-flowing loss and perhaps that lesson continues to elude Brendan Rodgers. He continues to display a sense of naivety in the way he sets up Liverpool in such an open and inviting way, but most worrying is his lack of nous in the transfer market. January will be an interesting and nerve-rackinig time for Liverpool fans – if Brendan Rodgers is still in charge.

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