Rodgers fights back
LIVERPOOL — Brendan Rodgers has suggested his recent struggles have been down to a lack of quality in the Liverpool squad, telling reporters: “If you give me the tools, I’ll do the work.”
Rodgers, who oversaw a first win in seven games as Liverpool beat Aston Villa on Saturday, has found himself under pressure after failing to build on the promise of the 2013-14 campaign, when his side finished two points behind champions Manchester City.
Liverpool sold Luis Suarez to Barcelona that summer, while a series of injuries saw Daniel Sturridge — who scored a brace against Villa — make only 18 appearances in 2014-15 as they ended the season in sixth.
Steven Gerrard has also now left for MLS side LA Galaxy, and Rodgers said: “I am the same guy who nearly won us the league, but better.
“I think I have shown in the early stages of my management — without being arrogant -- that with a talented group of players I can compete at the top end of the league. I know how to manage top players. If you give me the tools, I’ll do the work.”
The former Swansea boss took charge of Liverpool in 2012 after Kenny Dalglish’s return ended with the team eighth in the Premier League, their worst finish since the 1993-94 campaign.
“There are very short memories in football,” Rodgers said. “The team was eighth when I got here. We built a team to excite people throughout European football, that should have won the league.”
He added: “All the good work gets forgotten. That’s how it works. It seems the focus has not been on what’s gone on and what we’ve been missing, but more about getting me out of the club. That’s sad.”
Jurgen Klopp has been heavily linked with Rodgers’ job, with the Daily Mail having reported that the former Borussia Dortmund boss would want the club’s transfer committee to be scrapped if he were to take charge.
Carlo Ancelotti, who left Real Madrid in the summer, is another to have been linked with the post but Rodgers, who has claimed outsiders want him out of the club, said he has not spoken to the Italian.
“No. If I spoke to every manager we’re linked with, I’d speak to 13 managers,” he said. “I’d be busy ringing.”
Meanwhile, James Milner has delivered a resounding endorsement of the underpressure Rodgers by describing him as a “top-class manager” who can take Liverpool back to the top.
Rodgers’s position is under threat after Liverpool made a slow start to the season, but the former Manchester City midfielder opened his account for the club to set up a 3-2 victory over Aston Villa.
And the 29-year-old believes Rodgers’ thoroughness, tactical nous and knowledge of the game mean he is the man who can help Liverpool realise their ambitions.
“I’ve been really impressed with him,” Milner said. “Preparation is second to none. We go into every game with a gameplan.
“Training is very good and any problems as a player you can see on the pitch, he has seen them as well rather than him not knowing what the problem is. I’ve talked with him after a game and whatever I’ve thought he has already said ahead of me so I think he is well on top.”
Milner was part of the City team that pipped Rodgers’ Liverpool to the Premier League title in 2014, and the England international believes that, after a series of key players left Anfield, the Northern Irish- man deserves the time to rebuild his team.
“A lot of things that have been said are disappointing and frustrating really because you see how close they went to winning the league a couple of years ago,” he added.
“And then with the players that have left the club it is going to take time to get back to that point.
“But with patience he has shown he is a top-class manager and with the players we have we can get to where we want to be.”
Milner is adamant that Liverpool’s form has not been as bad as their critics insist, arguing: “There are people giving criticism from outside the club but I think Manchester City have lost more games than us this season so it is so early in the season. Someone has told us we are five points off the top so... I think things change so fast in football and if we can put a couple of good wins together then it will different.”
Milner has been standing in as Liverpool captain and said the speculation about Rodgers’ future has served to bring the players closer together.
“You have to stick together and that is the way football is now — social media and Sky Sports apps, and everything like that,” he explained.
“There is so much scrutiny but that comes with being a footballer now. It is important that we pay no intention to that whatsoever and focus on the work we do on the training ground which is ongoing.”
In a related development, Liverpool and Chelsea are said to be considering a shock move for Manchester United goalkeeper Victor Valdes. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is worried that he could face a major goalkeeping crisis if Asmir Begovic picks up an injury and joins No.1 keeper Thibaut Courtois on the sidelines.
Begovic is currently filling in for Courtois with the Belgium No. 1 unlikely to return until December at the earliest following surgery on a knee injury, and Mourinho fears losing Begovic to injury or suspension would leave a major hole in his side.
Liverpool are also considering their goalkeeping options with Simon Mignolet coming under recent scrutiny following his mistake in the 1-1 draw with Norwich last weekend.
Mignolet was dropped midway through last season before reclaiming his place soon after following an injury to Brad Jones, and there are continued doubts over the Belgian being the long-term answer to Liverpool’s goalkeeping problems.
As a result both Liverpool and Chelsea are monitoring Valdes’ situation at United, with the Spaniard still out of favour at Old Trafford.
Valdes has been frozen out of the firstteam picture at United after a falling out with Louis van Gaal earlier in the summer, with the Dutchman claiming it was Valdes’ refusal to play in an under-21s match that resulted in him being omitted from his plans. The former Barcelona star has less than a year to run on his contract at United and with David De Gea signing a new fouryear deal at Old Trafford, it seems unlikely Valdes will be returning to the first-team fold.
Valdes has not been handed a squad number this season and was only named in United’s Premier League squad to conform to Premier League rules on 25-man squad quotas. However, it remains to be seen if Van Gaal would be willing to allow Valdes to join a Premier League rival even though he is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. — ESPN
Brendan Rodgers gives instructions to midfielder Phillipe Coutinho.