Saturday’s fierce Merseyside Derby 3-3 draw at Goodison Park was Brendan Rodgers’ 50th Premier League game in charge of Liverpool. The Reds’ good start to the current campaign has been widely hailed as evidence of their progression under the 40-year-old Irishman’s management. But just how far have Liverpool come under Rodgers’ rule?
To gauge the progress, or lack thereof, made under Rodgers I can’t help but compare and contrast his record to that of the man he succeeded.
When Kenny Dalglish was dismissed by Fenway Sports Group (FSG), principal owner John W Henry revealed that even if the legendary Scot had completed a domestic cup double by beating Chelsea in the FA Cup final he still would’ve lost his job as a result of his poor showing in the league.
This admission more or less gave Rodgers a mandate to focus, at least initially, on improving Liverpool’s league form at the expense of all else. On the face of it, however, his Premier League record with the Reds is only marginally superior to Kenny’s, having both managed a similar amount of games.
23 wins from 50 games gives Brendan a win percentage of 46%, while Dalglish claimed an additional victory but with six more games played giving him a percentage of 42.85%. Liverpool are scoring more under the current regime, although Rodgers is struggling to determine his strongest defence.
Coincidentally, Rodgers has amassed a haul of 85 points in 50 games, precisely the same as Dalglish managed in 56.
Indeed Rodgers merely finished one place higher than his predecessor in his first season in charge, while failing to mount any sort of challenge for the domestic cups unlike his predecessor.
Crucially though, we know that Dalglish started very impressively but plummeted from there whereas Rodgers’ tenure has taken quite the opposite trajectory: a bleak first six months, followed by a resurgence in the 2013 calendar year that has given fans renewed optimism.
In 2013 Liverpool have played 30 league games, amassing 57 points. That gives the Merseysiders a points-per-game average of 1.9. Extrapolated over a full season that would lead to a 72 point finish, which almost surely would be enough for that coveted 4th spot and perhaps even 3rd. Of course, sustaining that form will be a big ask but it’s clear that an improvement has been made since the poor beginning to the 2012/13 campaign.
This improvement can be put down to shrewd signings and a general consensus that the squad is slowly but surely coming around to the former Swansea manager’s philosophy.
One man who certainly seems to be responding to Rodgers’ methods is Luis Suarez. Besides ending a six-year trophy drought, Kenny’s greatest act during his second stint at Anfield was securing Suarez’s signature; Rodgers, of course, has reaped the dividends.
Before the Irishman arrived, Luis had scored 15 goals in 44 league games for the Reds. Respectable, but hardly spectacular. Since Rodgers has arrived the Uruguayan’s return has vastly improved, with 32 league goals coming in just 40 games.
A well-reported trend in Rodgers’ first season at the club was Liverpool’s inability to beat the better teams. It took until March’s 3-2 victory at home to Spurs for him to secure three points against a side competing for a Champions League place. That win and this campaign’s 1-0 defeat of Manchester United remain Rodgers’ only two big scalps thus far.
And that’s really nothing to panic over. Figuring out the most effective way to beat the lesser sides is essential. Way to state the obvious, I know, but there are more average teams in the Premier League than great teams. Kenny’s Liverpool were capable of raising their game on the big occasion, as evidenced by their cup runs and wins against Manchester United, Arsenal at the Emirates, Chelsea home and away, Man City, and Everton. Ultimately though, a failure to regularly dispatch the sides that set out to frustrate Liverpool cost him his job, despite the cup success.
Some Kopites were obviously enraged when their King was dethroned despite claiming the League Cup and reaching the FA Cup final. The Reds have performed poorly in the cups so far under Rodgers, who won promotion to the Premier League via the playoffs with Swansea. An early 3-1 defeat at Anfield to the Welsh club ended Liverpool’s defence of the League Cup, while this season a trip to Old Trafford marked the end of their participation in the competition they have won a record eight times. Rodgers’ showing in the FA Cup was even more disappointing, as strongly fielded selections scraped past Mansfield before being thrown out of the competition by Oldham. Even though he’ll sink or swim on his league form an improved showing in the FA Cup should be a large priority for Brendan.
50 league games into his Liverpool career and halfway through a three-year contract, for the rest of the season Rodgers is tasked with sustaining the good work accomplished over that last 11 months. Specifically, maintaining 2013′s (to date) points-per-game average of 1.9 for the rest of the season will be enough for a return to Champions League football, although even just a genuine challenge for 4th would represent real progress.