Rodgers fights back

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

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