By Duncan Castles
Liverpool have responded to a debilitating start to their season by exploring options to replace Brendan Rodgers as manager, Goal understands.
According to sources involved in the process, potential successors have been contacted to assess their suitability for, and interest in, the position.
The Premier League club's approach, which is described as “very informal”, included questions about management style, training methods and philosophy. That the process began several weeks ago is an indication that Liverpool's American owners are considering radical measures should their expensively restructured squad's underperformance continue.
Rodgers was rewarded with an improved four-year contract after overseeing a wholly unexpected second-place finish last season. The Northern Irishman was also permitted to lead a £117million summer spend on transfer fees as Liverpool sought to wrestle the Premier League title away from Manchester City this campaign while qualifying for the Champions League again.
Eighteen points adrift of leaders Chelsea having lost half of their opening 12 Premier League fixtures, the title is already unattainable, leading Rodgers to focus resources on what has become a more open race than usual for fourth place. Fenway Sports Group's plan upon taking control of the club was to be benefiting from Champions League revenues from 2015 onwards.
Rodgers was not John W Henry's first choice as manager when FSG last changed coaches in the summer of 2012, only winning over the club's principal owner with his performance at interview and a 180-page “document on the culture, philosophy and game plan going forward” that Rodgers claimed to have “been piecing together” for 15 years. It is understood that Henry has had to be talked down from dismissing him as manager on at least two occasions since.
Should a definitive decision be made to change manager again, FSG are expected to appoint a young, forward thinking coach. Roberto Martinez was initially Henry's preferred canditate for the role in 2012, though his position at Everton and renowned loyalty to employers mitigate against him this time around.
Andre Villas-Boas - who has led Zenit St Petersburg to an eight-point advantage at the summit of the Russian Premier League - was also short listed two years ago, but is not keen on coaching in England again. FSG have been impressed by Jurgen Klopp's achievements at Borussia Dortmund and are well aware that he has begun positioning himself for a job in England.
Asked this week if any Premier League club had contacted him, the German evaded the question. “Sometimes timing is very important,” said Klopp. “In each part of life, I think.”
Rodgers, meanwhile, has seen bookmakers radically shorten odds on his dismissal. “They obviously expect me to lose my job,” he said yesterday.
“It's as simple as that. That's football. A few months ago, I was manager of year and now I'm favourite to get the sack. It's part and parcel of this wonderful life of working in football. It's short-termism. All you can do is focus on the immediate job and what you can control. It's about working with the players, really consolidating, defining and providing even more clarity in their roles.”