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Wasteland: A First Look

Liverpool's slow, steady decline into mediocrity

At the end of last season, I wanted Brendan Rodgers sacked by Liverpool.

Like most things in life I didn’t get what I want.

Even after the haunted look that Brendan Rodgers had after that 6-1 defeat at Stoke City, it seemed he’d lost his way, his players, and the fans. But somehow he survived an end of season review with Fenway Sports Group by sacrificing his back room staff and bringing in new coaches, including a legendary player in Gary Mcallister, who as a veteran help guide Gerard Houllier’s young team to a cup treble of FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup in 2001.

Thus far it’s been hard to judge what sort of impact he’s had. Last summer, Liverpool bought in eight players once Luis Suarez left. This summer saw Steven Gerrard (sniff), Raheem Sterling (hhmmm), and Glen Johnson (ha ha) depart and six new players come in.

It’s hard to build any consistency with so much player turnover. Brendan Rodger’s sometimes baffling tactical decisions and formations havne’t helped. When he adopted a 3-5-2 in Mohamed Sakho’s first season, it was seen as a good way to integrate him into the team and English football. Plus it allowed Liverpool to play Sturridge and Suarez up top together. This obviously worked amazingly well, especially when the switch went to a 4-4-2 diamond with Sterling as a No. 10, but was weakened by Steven Gerrard as holding midfielder. Which was not and never was his position.

That lack of attacking and defensive balance probably cost Liverpool the league two seasons ago.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 07: A Manchester City fan holds a message for his team referencing Steven Gerrard's slip against Chelsea during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Aston Villa at Etihad Stadium on May 7, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)Michael Regan/Getty Images

So that brings us up to the present day. It pains me to say this, but most of Liverpool’s team is essentially incredibly average players, some of whom may become good to very good, while many will disappear to smaller clubs, a few years in a middling Liverpool era the highlight of otherwise inconspicuous careers.

Since the top flight in England was rebranded in 1992 as the Premier League, Liverpool has been on a slow decline from its pinnacle in English football, punctured every few years by glorious years of trophy winning or title charges. With so many teams now able to challenge not just in England but across Europe for the best players—and fewer genuine world class players available—the gulf will get wider.

Even Liverpool’s huge global fanbase and prestigious name isn’t enough. When elite players are considering which club to play for these days, they seem to have certain criteria:

  • Trophies
  • Star teammates
  • A proven manager
  • Location and club history
  • Money

Sure, 90% of players probably have money up or near the top of that list. But we’re talking about the genuine world class players, the ones who are motivated by success and legacy. Even with huge money and champions league football on offer after Luis Suarez left, Liverpool couldn’t sign the real deal superstars. Alexis Sanchez chose arsenal, though Liverpool offered more salary. You have to expect that Arsene Wenger, Mezut Ozil, and London had something to do with it—as opposed to Brendan Rodgers, Adam Lallana, and Liverpool.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 10: Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal speaks with Alexis Sanchez of Arsenal as he is substituted during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Leicester City at Emirates Stadium on February 10, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

So what can liverpool do about it?

Well the obvious thing that liverpool can control right now is the manager. Several elite managers were available this summer and the owners missed a trick in not acquiring one. That’s not a personal attack on Rodgers per se. Okay, fine. It is. But I wonder which players would have considered Liverpool this summer had it been Jurgen Klopp making the phone call and not Rodgers.

But the club has stuck with Rodgers and in terms of supporting him with transfer money for new players, so he can’t complain.

What will happen?

Nothing. Liverpool will continue the slow descent into mediocrity.

But it’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. I have been resigned to Liverpool sliding down the ladder of world soccer for some time. I won’t stop loving it.

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