Liverpool’s most recent defeat to Everton was the moment when the majority of fans lost patience with their manager.
Whilst the Blues remain an impressive and competitive Premier League force, they are still pretty inept at doing the one thing that their fans crave above anything else – namely beating that lot who play in red from over the other side of Stanley Park.
Ten Merseyside derbies have passed in league and cup since goals from Tim Cahill and Mikel Arteta beat a Liverpool side containing Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Paul Konchesky, Joe Cole, Milan Jovanovic, David Ngog and a disinterested Fernando Torres five years ago this month.
The visitors were distinctly second-best at Goodison Park that afternoon, and so supporters were in no mood for punches to be pulled.
They wanted anger, they wanted passion, but instead they got Roy Hodgson claiming that this was his team’s best performance of the season, that a ‘result’ (probably meaning a draw) would have placed the Reds in ‘Utopia’ and that success was just around the corner.
It turned out it was another s word – the sack – which was on the way for Hodgson less than three months later, and it is hard to escape the notion that the same fate lurks in Brendan Rodgers’ future if his team slip to a similarly meek defeat at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon.
Rodgers remains resolutely convinced that he is the right man to lead Liverpool forward, but the Northern Irishman is increasingly finding that his voice would begin to echo in a room of those who share a similar belief.
Backed into a corner, Rodgers is displaying similar traits to Hodgson when he saw his brief Liverpool reign unravelling. He is resorting to denial, shifting the blame onto his players and reminding everyone of past glories. With Hodgson it was some obscure achievements in Scandinavian football and a UEFA Cup final with Inter Milan, whilst for Rodgers it is the fact that he ‘nearly won the league’ in 2013/14.
That the Liverpool manager chose to refer to that near miss in his bullish statements following the messy win over Aston Villa last week was particularly unfortunate.
Ever since Steven Gerrard’s stumble in the infamous loss to Chelsea 18 months ago that has been a familiar refrain from the club’s rivals, with Manchester United supporters in particular taunting Liverpool fans over what, however depressing it may sound, was their club’s big chance at earning a status they’ve craved for over a quarter of a century. Champions of England.
Everything since then has been tinged with a sadness, or a sort of hangover, from what went before. No longer do we see the team bus snaking down Anfield Road to the sight of flags, banners and flares as expectation hangs in the air. Now there is a sort of nothingness, as fans quietly ponder just what formation the manager has picked this time.
Rodgers has been unfairly criticised in many quarters, but the fact that he has become a sort of cartoon character for the social media age is only adding to the angst surrounding the club.
It is wrong to compare his entire reign with Hodgson – a dour man and manager who was never suited to the Liverpool job – but the feeling that the pair may be coming to very similar ends on Merseyside is inescapable.
Rodgers will believe that with a few tactical tweaks here, a ‘False 9’ there, maybe even an inspirational performance from a ‘nine-and-a-half’, as he called Daniel Sturridge once, will save him, but few others buy in to his long-term strategy now.
Liverpool might beat Everton on Sunday, but there’s a sense that that will only paper over widening cracks.
Far more likely is a loss, a manager refusing to accept that the end is nigh, and an ever-increasing number of angered supporters.
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