by Stuart Moriarty-Patten
Imagine a team who after the first four games of the season has made their worst start in over 100 years, having yet to win with only 2 points on the board. The club is in a poor financial state, and has a threadbare squad which, after years of mismanagement by a succession of hastily appointed and sacked managers, is lacking cohesion and confidence, and struggling to come to terms with the new ideas of yet another new manager. Add to this the fact that the side only managed to pick up 18 points from their last 19 games of the previous season and you would be thinking that is a club that stands a very good chance of going down this season. This though is once mighty Liverpool we are talking about, and some good news for the fans is that only once in 20 years of the Premiership has a team lying fourth from bottom after four games gone on to be relegated. That was Leicester in the 2001/02 season who finished bottom that year with just 28 points.
If Liverpool are going to avoid spending all season looking nervously over their shoulder at the relegation trapdoor the next few fixtures will really define their season. Coming up on Saturday is a home game against Man United, which will be played in a more volatile atmosphere than usual following the emotions stirred up by the Hillsborough report and those chants from some idiot Man United fans at their game against Wigan at the weekend. Following that though are three eminently winnable games against Norwich away, and then Stoke and Reading at Anfield. This spell is wound up with a Mersey derby at Goodison Park.
If Liverpool can get a result against Man United then they can take some sort of confidence into those next three games, and by the time they come to face Everton at the end of October Liverpool may well be comfortably placed in a top half position, but if it doesn’t work out that way how will the fans be feeling? Many Liverpool fans have yet to be convinced that sacking King Kenny was the right thing to do, but most are willing to give Brendan Rodgers time to do a job that is badly needed to be done. However, if, come the end of October Liverpool are still scraping around the bottom four where will the fans anger be directed? At the players, the board, or the manager? Will the board have the patience with a manager who is struggling to turn the fortunes of the team around? Will they deflect the criticisms of their own shortcomings in the transfer market by making the manager the scapegoat? Some bookmakers already have halved their odds on Rodgers getting the sack since the beginning of the season and now have Rodgers as the second favourite, behind the unfortunate Nigel Adkins, as the next Premier League manager to be packing his bags
This is a position that Rodgers knows well. He had moved to Reading from Watford in June 2009 with a growing reputation and a personal endorsement from Jose Mourinho following his time as a coach at Chelsea. However, he failed to get his methods and ideas across to his players and left by “mutual consent” after just six months, leaving Reading just one point clear of the Championship relegation zone. Will history repeat itself for Rodgers? Only time will tell, but what is for certain the next few games are crucial to Liverpool FC and Brendan Rodgers.