An extremely surprising argument has arisen from Liverpool supporters who still think that Liverpool have the best footballing XI in the world. Rodgers is dragging the club down, and were it not for Suarez we would be nowhere.
From a certain, jaded point of view this isn’t without merit. Suarez has scored 8 Premier League goals, and has 2 assists. Liverpool have 14 Premier League goals all told. It’s not hard to see how important Suarez’s contribution has been. Given that Suarez is the only striker on our books presently over 21, we will succeed or fail this season based entirely on his efforts (or until the January transfer window anyway). Why this is so difficult for some Liverpool fans to accept is rather baffling – Steven Gerrard has carried the club for almost a decade, and in the process has won every bit of club silverware out there other than the Premier League title and the World Club Cup. So it’s not like we haven’t been there before, and a change of personnel in that role will not likely lead to our demise. Certainly having no backup for Suarez in such a critical position as striker/false 9 is a significant problem; the man is on four yellow cards already, and an injury picked up from the carefree hacking at his legs that referees casually allow could cause our goals to dry up entirely. But to suggest his role is more important than that of the manager?
Naturally people now choose to harp on about the loss of Carroll to West Ham without a replacement as being entirely the fault of the manager, when it is fairly well documented that Rodgers was left up the creek without a paddle by FSG encouraging the loan out and not encouraging the purchase of Dempsey, who Rodgers had targeted from the moment pre-season began. It’s also easy to forget that the primary reasons Carroll accepted playing for West Ham were that Fat Sam would build the team around him, and he would have Kevin Nolan alongside him (a personal friend who had been involved in very nearly all Carroll’s goals at Newcastle). It’s also easy to forget that, despite playing in this system designed around him, Carroll has yet to score for West Ham. Which suggests he would not be on the score sheet for Liverpool either, especially as Liverpool would be relying very much more on “Plan B” football. This is not the saviour we supposedly need, though there was a time when I too felt Carroll had much to offer Liverpool. Now that I have seen the way we intend to play I fully appreciate that Carroll is not the answer, and in fact I can’t say I agree with our supposed quest of Klaas von Huntelaar either as he is not so different from Carroll in many respects.
“Ah but…” the detractors say, “look at West Ham’s excellent league position. That can only be down to Carroll!” False! It can be down to Sam Allardyce first, and Carroll second. And that is the critical point conveniently overlooked by the anti-Rodgers contingent.
Under Kenny Dalglish, Luis Suarez scored 21 goals in all competitions in 18 months. Under Brendan Rodgers, Luis Suarez has scored 11 goals in all competitions in 3 months, all without the man at West Ham. Surely it’s not logic that leads people to think Rodgers has not been an enormous influence on Luis Suarez’s recent form? Suarez now plays in a system that does two very important things that Kenny Dalglish’s system did not: a) it gets the ball to him more often, and b) it creates more room for him in which to manoeuvre. In other words, Liverpool now play to the strengths of Suarez, just as under Benitez Liverpool played to the strengths of Gerrard, and as a result Suarez will flourish. All Suarez has done different is live up to the football adage: “Given space, world class players will punish their opposition.”
Obviously Suarez must be doing something right if he’s scoring as often for a weaker team as van Persie is for United, but if one digs a bit deeper one finds that Suarez is scoring perhaps only 20% more often than before (in terms of shots taken per goal scored), but these opportunities come so much more frequently now that the law of averages allows him to score nearly once per game. He was no different at Ajax. Were Luis Suarez individually that much more outstanding than previously he would have converted far more opportunities than he has, and would probably have a dozen goals or more in the EPL alone. Liverpool too would be far nearer the top 4 than at present; were 3 of our draws wins (eg Everton[!], Newcastle, Stoke) we would stand 7th, ahead of Spurs and behind West Ham on goal difference alone.
I’m not going to suggest that without Suarez Rodgers would do as well as we have, but to not structure a team around one’s best player is foolhardy. After all, Rodgers inherited a squad that included Suarez, so to suggest we should ignore the latter’s contribution as our designated primary weapon is just as foolhardy. To also judge Rodgers two seasons before the fruits of his labours should be clearly seen is somewhat unfair; it took Barcelona a great many years to create the best team on the planet and a lot of that came down to Messi, Iniesta and Xavi all being at La Masia at the same time a decade ago. Talents like Raheem Sterling, Suso, Andre Wisdom, Connor Coady, and Jack Robinson are all still at least 5 years off being the complete player, yet thanks to some astonishingly poor transfer activity by the last two managers, as well as the left overs of the Hicks and Gillett era, these are the best players we have! ”You will win nothing with kids”. We should be giving them a chance to grow, and giving the manager the time to nurture this side.
On the pitch we continue to control possession and create chances aplenty. For now we lack the players and the understanding between them to take advantage of these opportunities, but that is not the direct fault of this manager. He could never address all the issues with the squad and system in one transfer window and 3 months of league play. Some might say that was all Hodgson got, but these people tend to forget that football under Hodgson showed absolutely no promise whatsoever, and the man did himself no favours in media. The dissenting voices have become so accustomed to dissent that they have forgotten to have patience when it is needed. They mock Rodgers’ purchases without considering that Joe Allen is just about our best player after Suarez, Sahin is a regular starter, and Borini is injured. It’s also rare that a manager has more than half his buys work out over the course of their contract, so it’s far too early to write off Assaidi and the 18-year-old Yesil. They don’t consider the improvement in Brad Jones and the impact of the young players as having anything to do with the manager, and easily forget how important the absence of Lucas is to Liverpool.
So to these people I can only say, “To take so little into consideration while condemning a man shows a complete lack of understanding and basic intelligence, such a lack that your contribution to the debate is at the level of a worthless internet troll.” To quote Bill Shankly, “If you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win”.