Liverpool are about to enter the final ten games of their strange first season under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers. All ten are Premier League fixtures, for the Reds are no longer involved in the Europa League or the FA Cup, but those 900 remaining minutes will be crucial to the former Swansea boss, his players and the future of the club.
Supporters are hardly baying for his blood, but Rodgers is yet to fully convince fans that he is the right man for the job. The Anfield outfit have performed inconsistently this term – recent comfortable wins over Swansea City and Wigan Athletic have been outweighed by desperately disappointing defeats at West Brom and at home to Aston Villa. Liverpool lost the chance to retain their League Cup trophy after slipping to a loss against eventual winners Swansea in the fourth round. Worse still, lowly Oldham humiliated their illustrious opponents in the FA Cup. And despite an impressive second-leg display last month, the Reds were knocked out of the Europa League by Zenit St. Petersburg. Rodgers is on middle ground. These final ten matches could enhance or hurt his reputation on Merseyside.
The players, too, have every reason to perform between now and May, despite the fact that there may be no silverware in sight and their chances of finishing in the top four and claiming a Champions League spot are slim. However, Rodgers will continue to shape the squad in his vision this summer and with money unlikely to be available in abundance, he will have to sell to buy. How his players perform over the next ten games could help him decide who should stay and who should go. The players’ futures are on the line.
But there is also the bigger picture. There may not appear to be much difference between finishing fifth, sixth or seventh in the Premier League table, but Liverpool’s final position could help or hinder their chances in the transfer market this summer. Some supporters treat the Europa League with indifference in these parts, but qualifying for the competition could help to keep Luis Suarez at the club or play an important role in attracting other targets.
Perhaps of more importance is that Rodgers needs to gain experience on the European stage. This was the first season he had managed a club in a European competition and Liverpool performed averagely. While some would suggest that failing to qualify for the Europa League would be a blessing in disguise as it would give the Reds a better chance of competing for a top four spot next term, others might look ahead to the future and ask what use that would be if the manager is not prepared or equipped for the challenge. Locking horns with foreign sides, albeit in the Europa League, would help Rodgers to expand his knowledge of the game and prepare him for the Champions League, should Liverpool ever qualify for the elite competition under his leadership. Just ten games remain in the Reds’ season, but the outcome of those ten games could make a big difference.
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