Losing 3-1 at fierce rivals Manchester United is always a bitter pill for any ardent Liverpool fan to swallow, but the manner of defeat has only led to more questions as to whether Brendan Rodgers is the right man for the job.
Christian Benteke’s outstanding overhead kick merely papered over the cracks of what was a disappointing performance, particularly in the second half when they conceded three goals that could have been avoided; although Anthony Martial announced himself to the Premier League with a superbly-taken finish, Martin Skrtel did not exactly cover himself in glory as he got turned inside out by the young French striker.
It was the latest in a line of uninspiring performances that belittled the fact that Liverpool were the third-highest spenders in the Premier League this summer as Rodgers strengthened the team in an effort to challenge for the title. Bookmakers.co.uk have pointed to the fact that Liverpool are as short as 6/4 to finish in the top four this season, but they will have to perform much better if they are to achieve that feat. Although they made an unbeaten start to the season prior to the back-to-back defeats against West Ham and Manchester United, Liverpool have flattered to deceive and failed to reach the heights that many expected. Rodgers’ side were far than convincing in victories against Stoke and Bournemouth, and although the first half showing at Arsenal did show signs of what they are capable of, they failed to make their dominance count and were ultimately fortunate to walk away from North London with a point.
Spending just over £78 million (a figure which excludes Danny Ings’ tribunal fee) was a clear indication that Rodgers took a pro-active stance in the transfer market in an effort to address Liverpool’s shortcomings last season, but although the Northern Irishman has received praise for the calibre of players that he has managed to bring in, he has already created a rod for his own back.
The £32.5 million acquisition of Benteke from Aston Villa has created a fine line over whether it can be considered a shrewd buy or a major gamble, and although the big Belgian does have the right attributes to be a top striker, it has already made Rodgers change the way his team play which may prove to be his, and Liverpool’s, downfall. Liverpool have enjoyed considerable success in recent years with strikers who play on the shoulder of defenders and look to run in behind – Benteke is simply not that type of player.
Playing the ball up to a tall, powerful striker may be effective in getting the likes of Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Adam Lallana into the attack, but changing their entire philosophy on one player who, for the money they spent, is not a marquee signing have raised questions over Rodgers’ decision to go from a style of play that almost won the Premier League in 2013/2014 to one that has shown no signs of being equally effective.
The 2015/2016 Premier League may only be five games old, but with Bookmakers.co.uk keeping tabs on Rodgers’ odds shortening to be the next top flight manager to be sacked, it illustrates just how much pressure the Liverpool boss is to convince fans that he is the right man in charge at Anfield.