Brendan Rodgers has already skilled the defining second of his managerial profession. Rightly or wrongly, the Leicester City supervisor’s achievements will all the time be considered by way of the prism of what occurred in spring 2014, when his Liverpool staff of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Raheem Sterling chanced on the house straight of the Premier League title race and completed second having appeared sure to finish up as champions.
Historical past has judged Rodgers harshly ever since. Regardless of bouncing again from his Liverpool disappointment by successful seven main honours in underneath three years as Celtic supervisor, Rodgers has nonetheless to persuade his doubters that he has what it takes to step as much as the elite degree of coaches, which is why the ultimate two weeks of the 2020-21 season have turn into so essential in signposting the following stage of his profession.
If Rodgers can information his faltering Leicester staff to a top-four end, an FA Cup remaining win or each, then he could have silenced his critics with an emphatic show of success. But when Leicester miss out on Champions League qualification once more and lose to Chelsea at Wembley this Saturday (stream LIVE at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.), will probably be arduous to flee the fact of one other late-season lack of type and perception underneath Rodgers’ administration.
If Gerrard’s notorious slip towards Chelsea in April 2014 was the fruits of Act 1 of Rodgers’ profession — the slip allowed Demba Ba to attain, setting Chelsea on the right track for the 2-0 win that derailed Liverpool’s title bid — Leicester’s finish to this season is the important thing second of Act 2.
Beginning with Tuesday’s Premier League conflict with Manchester United at Outdated Trafford, when the house facet are anticipated to relaxation a number of gamers forward of Thursday’s rearranged encounter with Liverpool, Rodgers should by some means discover a approach to re-ignite a season that’s in peril of going horribly mistaken for Leicester a yr after they simply missed out on Champions League qualification.
It’s a easy equation within the league. Seven factors from their remaining three video games will assure a top-four end. Fewer will suffice if Liverpool fail to win all 4 of their remaining video games, however Leicester’s three remaining league video games are towards United, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur, which is a frightening schedule for a facet who’ve received simply two of their final seven league fixtures. So can Rodgers arrest Leicester’s droop and get the job completed?
The 48-year-old can construct thrilling groups that play trendy soccer. He places his religion in younger gamers — Sterling at Liverpool, Wesley Fofana at Leicester — and he unquestionably improved his three earlier golf equipment — Swansea Metropolis, Liverpool and Celtic. He’s clearly following the identical sample at Leicester, who’re battling for Champions League qualification for the second season in a row and getting ready for his or her first FA Cup remaining since 1969.
However Leicester’s latest lack of type is a mirror picture of final season’s collapse after they surrendered a Champions League spot on the ultimate day of the marketing campaign having been within the prime 4 all season. While you consider Liverpool’s misplaced title in 2014, when a Rodgers staff as soon as once more didn’t recover from the ending line, it’s not tough to establish the largest query mark over his status: why cannot his groups ship when it issues most?
It’s a query that may solely go away as soon as it’s answered in a constructive trend, which is why the ultimate two weeks of this season are as essential because the run-in to Liverpool’s title race in 2014. Again in 2013-14, Liverpool missed out on the title regardless of successful 15 and drawing three of their remaining 19 video games of the season. The one defeat, towards Chelsea, opened the door for Manchester City to say the title with a two-point successful margin.
So to recommend that Liverpool fell away underneath Rodgers can be harsh. In most seasons, Liverpool’s type within the second half of the marketing campaign would have assured a title. Their undoing was finally their defensive document, with the staff conceding 50 targets in 38 video games in comparison with Metropolis’s 37. However regardless of Liverpool’s statistics suggesting that Rodgers maintained robust type all through the second half of the season, the top end result was failure and it continues to hang-out him at Leicester.
Final season, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a 100-day suspension of the Premier League marketing campaign, Leicester received simply six of their remaining 19 league video games. A final-day defeat towards Manchester United noticed them slip out of the highest 4 for the primary time. Simply 4 league wins after New Yr’s Day brought about Leicester’s downfall, however Rodgers misplaced key gamers James Maddison, Ben Chilwell, Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira to long-term accidents and an absence of depth contributed to the run of unhealthy outcomes.
It has been the same story this season, though the droop has been shallower and fewer extended, with seven wins and 5 defeats from 16 video games within the second half of the marketing campaign. Accidents have once more been a central issue, with Maddison, James Justin, Harvey Barnes, Jonny Evans and Jamie Vardy all lacking essential intervals.
Latest outcomes have highlighted the previous Rodgers flaw of defensive points, with 12 targets conceded in seven video games. When the time involves shut up store with a extra pragmatic game-plan, Rodgers tends to stay together with his attacking rules, regardless of the dangers. It’s maybe why he has but to be provided one other probability to handle a “Huge Six” membership, or a serious European staff, as a result of the power to defend correctly is simply as essential as producing a facet that excites the supporters.
But when the Rodgers model of soccer is ready to ship success within the type of trophies or Champions League soccer, membership house owners will regard him as a chance price taking. He simply must discover a approach to take that subsequent step. Rodgers and Leicester can do it collectively over the following two weeks, however will probably be a giant check of his teaching abilities to make it occur.