By Charles Ong
Around this time seven months ago, Brendan Rodgers shed a tear as he prepared to quit Swansea City to embark on the biggest challenge of his professional journey: managing Liverpool FC. FSG saw him as a visionary - a young manager cultured towards a certain stylistic philosophy of football - and embraced his ideals.
They employed him as the man to realise their vision for Liverpool, with many accepting that this would be Year Zero and that the club would now seek long-term stability after a whirlwind period that involved changing four managers in two seasons.
Nineteen games on, Liverpool are firmly in mid-table and closer to the bottom than the top. Yet despite a record which matches Roy Hodgson’s in 2010, there is no real talk of a crisis at Liverpool. Rodgers’s job isn’t under immediate threat, even if the Reds could miss out on Champions League football for a fourth consecutive year.
It is clear as broad daylight that there is a huge mismatch between the results and the stature of the Merseyside club, but this is a period of transition where Liverpool are still recovering from the boardroom turmoil of Hicks and Gillett, in addition to the luxury purchases of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing and Jordan Henderson for a combined jaw-dropping £71m.
The last 19 league games under Kenny Dalglish saw Liverpool rack up 11 defeats and a combined 18 points, so 25 points under Rodgers signals progress despite an unusually shallow strike-force, with the Reds only boasting Luis Suarez as their main threat up front since October.
Four strikers left Liverpool in the summer with the Reds failing to bring in any adequate replacements, so with January knocking and Liverpool only eight points adrift of the final lucrative fourth spot, a push is possible if they strengthen well in the upcoming window.
Contrary to public opinion, I do feel that Liverpool have punched above their weight especially in terms of performances, but a lack of a clinical touch means that the side have been restricted to just six domestic wins.
Liverpool boast arguably the least number of strikers throughout England and Europe, yet have admirably showed guts and grit to put in battling displays to actually play well – and more often than not registering more than 65% possession and far more shots than the opposition.
It’s a solid foundation to build on and going forward, Liverpool need to be creative and astute in the transfer market. The supposedly sealed deals for Daniel Sturridge and Tom Ince are uninspiring, and Liverpool can do better than that.
Take this non-scientific logic for example: If England can never perform at the highest level in international tournaments, what is the point of signing players who can never seem to make this squad?
That was exactly what happened when Dalglish signed Carroll, Downing and Henderson, and Rodgers seems set on offloading the trio but bringing in two who share the common inability to break into a poor England team.
A wiser option would be to look beyond the shores at Spain and Germany which are top international footballing nations and assess their fringe players before looking towards signing them.
They often don’t ply their trades at the top sides, are undervalued in addition to being relatively unknown quantities. Take for example Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina, both of whom were exactly just that when Rafa Benitez brought them to Liverpool.
The Reds have shown glimpses of potential and Rodgers is a good manager who needs time to stamp his authority on Liverpool, but going forward, what will make or break Rodgers’ reign is the ability of the management to operate with imagination in the transfer market.