The case against the Brendan Rodgers regime at Liverpool is mounting.. His transfer dealings have been atrocious - Fabio Borini has been an outright flop, Nuri Sahin already gone despite Liverpool having paid for a year’s loan, Oussama Assaidi hasn’t been deemed good enough to feature more than a handful of times all year, and the man he called the "Welsh Xavi" and paid £15 million for, Joe Allen, has lost all his confidence and poise he showed at Swansea.
The botched Andy Carroll loan deal that left the club short up front for the first half of the season was an abysmal bit of squad management, the bullying and condescending approach that soured Fulham on coming up with a deal for Clint Dempsey who ended up going for a paltry 4m damaged the clubs negotiating position.
His public criticism of the young players, and of easy targets like Joe Cole, Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing who represented the old regime's transfer dealings as an attempt to deflect blame have shown a manager who isn't willing to accept responsibility or fight for his players; his substitutions have actively lost games such as against Manchester City; and his failure to match up strength for strength either against fluent teams like his former club Swansea, or strong-arm tactics of Stoke or Oldham has shown someone who is tactically naive.
The initial dogmatic decision to play 4-3-3 at all costs and ostracise Carroll, and Downing. could have been interpreted as strong management by a manager who knew what he wanted; were it not for the fact that he has since recalled Downing, and had dalliances with 4-4-2 and 3-5-2, and since signing Daniel Sturridge, he has displaced arguably the 2nd best player in the league right now in Luis Suarez to playing as a "false winger" to accommodate another central striker - exactly what he refused to comprehend at the start of the season.
With seven months of the season gone; Liverpool have been knocked out of the League Cup at home by Swansea, and were knocked out of the FA Cup by League One Oldham after scraping by non-league Mansfield thanks to a Suarez handball. Not only this, but they don't have a single "signature win" to their name. They have failed to record a single win against Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal (last season's Champions League clubs), Tottenham, or city Rivals Everton - and in fact, have also failed to defeat Swansea, Stoke, and West Bromwich Albion, leaving them without a win against a single team in the top half of the division all season. Yet somehow the Rodgers media bandwagon has spun this all time low season into a narrative of 'progress', despite the spending of £40m on new acquisitions to an already expensive squad.
As Liverpool are no longer a Champions League club and are looking ever more dysfunctional by the season, with a continually bloated wage bill in dire need of being trimmed after a succession of bad signings by multiple managers and different owners, the number of managers who might otherwise be interested in succeeding Rodgers is minimal.
The bookies (Paddy Power) list the 5 favourites as Roberto Martinez (6/1), Laurent Blanc (9/1), Jurgen Klopp (9/1), Frank De Boer (12/1), and Martin O'Neill (14/1).
At this stage of his career, O'Neill looks as if he's lost the once trademark bounce in the step and drive that characterised his teams on and off the field, and since moving back to the English Premiership has failed to produce teams that attack with any fluency on a regular basis despite generous transfer budgets at Villa and Sunderland to achieve these ends. It may be that one of football's most energetic characters has finally burnt out.
Laurent Blanc would not be a popular appointment as an ex Man Utd player, and having courted racial controversy in the past, one would have thought the Liverpool board would have to be crazy to rekindle the troubles of 11/12 with such an appointment. One of the few benefits of the Rodgers regime has been the favourable media Liverpool have received in comparison to previous seasons.
Frank De Boer has had a good start to his managerial career at Ajax, but is inexperienced, and would represent something of a gamble. Having been approached before merely to interview, were they to want to secure him; Liverpool would have to offer the job unconditionally if they were to take De Boer away from his hometown club. In England, any appointment or signing from Ajax is treated with great reverence, but Eredivisie to Premier League is a steep learning curve. De Boer could turn out to be a fantastic manager; but he realistically at 42 would be better served learning his trade for a while longer.
Jurgen Klopp, at 45, has 12 years’ experience as a Manager, and has enjoyed great success at Borussia Dortmund, and is clearly one of the more coveted coaches in world football. With German football on the up, and a challenge of going up against Pep Guardiola at Bayern on the horizon, plying his trade in an excellent league for a huge club in the Champions League, it seems doubtful that he would be eager to move anywhere. The only envisionable scenario is one where, for example, Bayern Munich run away with the title this year; and Dortmund sell Robert Lewandowski to them at the end of the season, as rumoured possible, which would perhaps terminally undermine his position.
Roberto Martinez is much more realistic proposition; and a manager who is immersed in English footballing culture, with a continental twist. Rightful doubts exist about his ability to manage players of a higher quality, as other than getting the best out of Tom Cleverley, Antonio Valencia, and Victor Moses; Martinez has never had much to work with at his disposal. Wigan's inconsistency and failure to kick on has been maddening, and they have never finished outside of the relegation race in his time in charge. However; on paper, their squad always looks amongst the weakest 3 or 4 in the division, and they have proven capable of doing what they need to do to survive; by playing as [B]more than the sum of their parts[/B]; which is one of the intangibles that surely a manager must be given most credit for. Martinez' tactical flexibility has been impressive with limited resources and players of very poor quality. He would be a gamble; but also in his favour is the fact he has shown a strong propensity to develop young players, and is the sort of manager that is interested in the entire set up of a club; rather than just the first XI ala Redknapp. With many young players on the fringes of the first team, the Next Gen events and the local pride associated with the Liverpool academy; Martinez fits this bill. He would be a gamble; but a gamble on an intelligent young manager with a positive approach to the game. I make no secret of my admiration for him.