Liverpool News: Are Liverpool FC really struggling this season under Brendan Rodgers?

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Less than twelve weeks ago Brendan Rodgers was a darling of the media who it seemed could do little wrong.  After Rodgers had taken Swansea to the dizzy heights of mid-table in the Premier League he was being hailed as the next big thing, a manager who knew how to get a British team playing the Barcelona way, and getting results by playing that way too. 

Fast forward less than three months and Rodgers is Liverpool manager, with the media describing him as out of his depth, undermined and one dimensional.  If readers want another example of the fickle nature of the British press we need only look to Andy Carroll.  Three months ago he was allegedly the biggest flop in Liverpool history - a £35m waste of money.  In the last week he has been hailed as the saviour of West Ham and has been given rave reviews by the British media for a single performance in which he last less than seventy minutes and failed to score.  He is now injured for six weeks but someone will find a way of blaming Rodgers for that.

These two examples are not meant to represent a personal review of Carroll and Rodgers performances, but they go an awful long way to explaining the apparent 'plight' that Liverpool Football Club finds itself in.  Three games into the season and Liverpool are at the bottom of the Premier League table with only a single point to show for their efforts.  Perhaps it does look bleak but look a bit deeper and things are perhaps not quite as bad as the media would like us all to believe.

Liverpool have played two home games.  During one of these they dominated against last season's league champions and went ahead twice.  In the second match they came up against an Arsenal side with something to prove, a team that will no doubt have a say in where the league title eventually ends up this season.  In addition to that, Liverpool had an away game at West Brom, a chance for Steve Clark to get one up on the club that sacked him only a few months earlier.  Since beating Liverpool that day, undeservedly it has to be said, West Brom have gone on to beat an in form Everton side and manage a deserved draw away to Tottenham, who finished fourth last season.

This is not meant to suggest that Liverpool are actually having a good season, but merely to put a more balanced perspective on life inside Anfield.  Things could be better, and it is not the start Liverpool were hoping for, but there are 35 league games to go and lots of them will be easier than the three encounters Liverpool have begun the season with.  Liverpool as a club though are victims of their own success.  Having enjoyed a 60 year trophy laden dynasty where only one manager, Roy Hodgson, failed to present silverware to the fans, the expectations on the team and club are colossus.  It is these comparisons that we must go back to when we try to explain the current issues Brendan Rodgers is dealing with at Anfield.

Rodgers is not attempting to follow some of the most successful managers in Liverpool history; his immediate predecessors were trying to achieve that.  Souness, Evans, Houllier, Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish have all struggled to emulate the success of previous eras and it is important to consider the quality and age of the squad that was inherited by each of these managers when we generate lofty expectations of what lies ahead each season.

Comparisons down the years are extremely dangerous but some things in football stay the same.  One of these is the age at which players reach their prime.  Regardless of quality, or price tag, is has always been the case that footballers are in their prime between the ages of 26 and 28.  Looking back at the most successful Liverpool teams, it is the managers who inherited a squad that fitted into this bracket who fared the best.  Souness was the first to suffer, inheriting a squad, at the end of Dalglish's first spell in charge, with an average age of 32 to 33.  Souness never bought well and it was downhill from here.

The Souness era left Roy Evans with an even bigger problem.  Evans put together a young team who had no fear but also no experience of winning anything.  They played great football and came as close to any side since 1991 to winning the league, had they succeeded Roy might still be at Anfield now.  Gerrard Houllier then changed everything about Liverpool, he made them more defensive and spent big money on new signings.  Despite great success, most of these singings fell in value during their time at the club, leaving Rafa Benitez with another rebuilding job.

Under Benitez, Liverpool achieved success too quickly and expectations after this were out of line with reality.  Following the Champions League win in 2005, Liverpool were expected to go on and win the title.  Quality cup sides don't necessarily fare too well in the league and Rafa could not deliver a squad with the required quality in depth to secure the holy grail of the league title.  Roy Hodgson had a limited budget at a time when the owners were looking to sell the club and they were shipping out quality and shipping in cheap players to shore up the squad.  Dalglish then faced a massive rebuilding job and bought young talent, in line with the plan the owners had in place.

This investment, under Dalglish, will remain a debatable point, with many fans still arguing he should have been given one more season and that the team were not far away.  Regardless of how we all fell, it remains a fact that Liverpool finished eight in the league but were in the top five in terms of transfer fees under Dalglish.  Following that latest transitional period, Brendan Rodgers is now attempting to radically change the recent Liverpool philosophy by introducing patient, possession play, and not quick counter attacking football.

The clear evidence is that all of this takes time.  This case is made even stronger when we consider the average age of the team Brendan Rodgers assembled to take on Arsenal - somewhere between 22 and 23 years of age.  In his first spell, taking over from Joe Fagan, Kenny Dalglish had inherited a squad at the peak of its performance - between 27 and 29.  It is perhaps no wonder Kenny went on to win the double in his first season.  Rodgers, on the other hand, has a monumental challenge on his hands, having inherited years of failed investments he now has to turn around the cruise liner that is Liverpool football club.  Like his football style, success will come with patience.  The media will try and drain this patience from fans, with stories of unrest from within and senior players struggling to adapt.  The truth is that everyone at Liverpool football Club, from Melwood to Anfield and to Boston, will be working hard, and patiently, to undo the years of decline and prove the doubters wrong.