The Face

The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

It still haunts me to this day. Sometimes I have nightmares of the image, making me wake up the next morning sweating profusely.  They say in times of distress is where the true makings of a person are revealed. If we take that saying at face value, then the character of Brendan Rodgers is summed up in this vine.

There’s so many things that need answering: Why did he make that face? Was this an intimidation act? Who taught him that face? What did Carlo Ancelotti think when he saw Brendan do this? How did Carlo manage to remain cool during all of that?

If there’s anything that symbolizes Brendan Rodgers’ in 2014-15, it’s that face. It’s freaky, it has no rhyme or reason for existing yet it’s something that I would think he takes pride in whenever he sees it. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Brendan practiced that face ahead of time. I mean how else could one explain someone making that face among meeting someone that they don’t dislike.

2013-14 Brendan was one of charm and class. For the most part he said the right things, looked like a player’s coach and fostered combustible talent into a near title winning side (we’ll ignore the part that pretty much every person in that squad was shooting fireballs out of their ass). Sure he was tactically naive in the Chelsea match and presided over the most comedic choke job from a title contender since the 1995-96 Newcastle side, but he managed perhaps the most entertaining EPL side of the last decade so that counts for something.

2014-15 Brendan has been a caricature of his former self. You could even argue that this really started in the last few weeks of last season. He said that the FA Cup and the Premier League were the goals  for this season, despite Liverpool’s ethos of grand European nights and buying “squad depth”over the summer for their return to the Champions League. He’s alienated player after player, and will probably lose his prize possession this summer in part because he’s acting as if treating 20 year olds in 2015 is the same as it was in 1995. It’s almost as if he was the puppet all along and Luis Suarez was his ventriloquist.

No matter what happens in the remaining games of this season, Liverpool are stuck in a rudderless place that’s not too dissimilar from where they were post Fernando Torres. Sure there’s more talent on this squad compared to the Kenny Dalglish days, but the residual damage of the last half decade or so can be seen in the list of players who have rejected Liverpool. Who knows what their future lies and how long Brendan Rodgers will be there to steer the sinking ship (that he helped sank), but if I had to sum up Liverpool’s 2014-15 season in two words, it would be:

The Face

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Reviewing the Liverpool/Spurs Comparison

The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

On July 22nd, I wrote an article arguing that this year’s Liverpool would avoid the same fate that the 2013-14 Tottenham side underwent after selling their best player. As part of our Brendan Rodgers celebration, let’s take a look back at the article to see what I got right and what I got wrong.

An increasingly prevalent opinion that’s developed recently amongst the media and fans alike is Liverpool will be this year’s Tottenham. Liverpool sold their best player just as Tottenham did in the summer of 2013, and Liverpool is now buying several lesser quality players to replace their best player, again just like Tottenham. But there are some key differences that should be noted here as to why Liverpool won’t find themselves in the same conundrum Tottenham found themselves.

Maybe.

The first difference is Gareth Bale was much more important to Spurs in terms of contributing to goals than Suarez. In the 2012-13 season Tottenham scored 66 EPL goals. Bale was responsible for 30 of the goals, either by scoring or providing the assist. The second biggest contributor to Tottenham was Jermain Defoe, who had 11 goals and four assists, or half of what Bale brought to the table.

Last season Luis Suarez was responsible for 43 goals out of Liverpool’s 101 goals. Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge contributed 28 goals, about a third less than Suarez. It should be noted that Sturridge also did this in seven less starts than Suarez. Mr. Slip himself, also known as Steven Gerrard, also had 26 goals he scored or set up.

While Suarez was obviously crucial to Liverpool coming a slip away from the title, Bale was more important to Tottenham when you consider who was scoring goals other than him. I mean c’mon, Jan Vertonghen was the fourth top scorer for that team.

This to me is still a completely valid point. In terms of the sheer number of goals, Tottenham found themselves in a worse position than Liverpool did in terms of the goals they were trying to replace. Suarez flourished last year because there were other decent players around him. Bale flourished two seasons ago because he was pretty much able to put Tottenham on his back by himself.

How long ago this has seemed.

However, Liverpool’s second and third best goal contributors have had significantly worse seasons than they did last year. Daniel Sturridge has been bothered by constant injuries, and currently only has four goals and two assists in his 12 Premier League appearances. Last year he had 22 goals and 7 assists. It’s quite likely a full season of Sturridge won’t produce the same numbers he had last year, but his injuries this season have made it impossible to figure out just how good Sturridge is as the go-to-guy, not Suarez’ sidekick. Liverpool’s transfers to add depth for Sturridge also have thus far colossally backfired. Rickie Lambert simply hasn’t been very good this season. And for Mario Balotelli, I’ll defer to Jeremy’s post on that whole ridiculousness.

Even Raheem Sterling, who at least on the pitch has been one of Liverpool’s bright spots, has had his production decrease. Last year he averaged a goal once in every 247 minutes, this year it’s every 419 minutes.

Liverpool didn’t get anywhere close to the production to they got from their 2nd and 3rd best goal scorers and assisters, but Brendan Rodgers’ striker transfers certainly didn’t help that process.

Additionally, Brendan Rodgers is a much better manager than Andre Villas Boas. He managed to turn Sturridge, previously someone who reeked of unreached potential, into one of the Premier League’s top scorers. He also made two pieces of smart business in the purchases of Coutinho for £8,500,000 and Sakho for £15,000,000.

Rodgers led Swansea to Premier League promotion and an 11th place finish with a side that was a popular pick for relegation before leaving his Welsh side for Liverpool.

In terms of the Tottenham v. Liverpool comparison, this is still correct. Rodgers’ turning Sturridge into a Premier League quality striker is something that never managed to occur at Chelsea and when his tenure at Liverpool is done, that will likely be one of the most impressive things he did. Coutinho also continues to look like a great purchase, as he put in some dazzling performances and scored some absolutely great goals against Southampton and Manchester City this season. Sakho’s been a bit worse this season than last, but of the 17 games he’s been fit for, he’s appeared in 15 of them. Rodgers also did lay the foundation for Swansea’s stability and relative success in the Premier League. The Swans have finished 9th, 12th and currently look like a relative lock to finish 8th this year.

Transfers take more than a season to fully evaluate. But with that being said, the only transfer Rodgers made this summer who has already made a major positive impact is Emre Can. The 20-year-old has a bright future at Anfield and has already made great contributions to Liverpool’s team this year. But other than that, none of Liverpool’s summer purchases have made the same sort of impact. Adam Lallana has just 4 goals and 3 assists in 21 appearances, after getting 9 goals and 8 assists while appearing in every game for Southampton. Dejan Lovren…oh boy. 22-year-old Alberto Moreno and 20-year-old Lazar Markovic are the most interesting transfers, as they were bought for both their current ability and their potential. They’ve shown glimpses of what they can do, but not enough for a team that had intended to contend for the top four again this season. Balotelli and Lambert were already addressed above.

Brendan Rodgers also helped harness Steven Gerrard’s meandering runs. For most of his England and Liverpool career, Steven Gerrard was the prototypical English midfielder: a very intense runner who tried very hard and played a lot of gung-ho football. Needless to say, those aren’t the type of qualities you need in your defensive midfielder, which Gerrard hypothetically was last season. This piece highlights a lot of the ills of Steven Gerrard.

Gerrard has regressed quite a bit this season. The problems with Stevie G go beyond just Rodgers, but most of the progress Rodgers has made has quickly been lost as Gerrard has returned to his prior shenanigans and need to be the hero.

So in conclusion, Liverpool have largely suffered the same fate as Tottenham from last season. They looked to clearly be in better shape than Tottenham was last year, which makes the same outcome for them look even worse.

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Mario Balotelli’s Winter of Discontent

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The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

Where were you on August 21? The day the great Mario Balotelli returned to England? And the day Brendan Rodgers began to destroy one of the most fragile strikers in world football?

Yes, it was a glorious occasion, one I wrote about here. Balotelli’s move from Milan back to England at the end of the summer transfer window was viewed as a win for Rodgers, who was putting the finishing touches on a Luis Suárez-less Liverpool squad. Purchased for 20 million euros, Balotelli had come off the best full season of his career for a poor Milan side; he scored 14 league goals for a rossoneri side that could only manage eighth place. After a disastrous end to his time at Manchester City, he was eager to return to the Greatest League in the World™ and settle in to a Liverpool in transition.

Of course, the 24-year-old has always been known as somewhat of a…erm…powder keg. We know his time on the blue side of Manchester was wracked with tension, thanks to his various pranks and occasionally outrageous hijinks. But Brendan Rodgers (or BRENDAN RODGERS) is a disciplinarian, one of the best in Europe at handling and transforming young players (just look at how Raheem Sterling has managed in the face of his renewal saga!). Balotelli’s only full season at Milan last year and his half-season in 2013 were both successful, and he’d had experience in England before. He was about to hit his prime. The stage was set.

Fast forward to today, April 16. There’s a pretty good chance Balotelli will not be wearing the iconic red of Liverpool after the Premier League season ends on May 24.

So. What the hell happened?

This question can be answered a few ways. One is…well, he just hasn’t been great. It’s been more than a mild surprise to see Balotelli ride the bench for large portions of this season, 01_D05NW1_1100108kbut the truth is that some of it IS deserved. He’s scored but one goal in 14 appearances, six of which began with him on the bench. It certainly hasn’t helped matters that his projected strike partner, Daniel Sturridge, has been injured for almost the entire season, and the other strike options at Anfield are…Ricky Lambert. What’s Fabio Borini up to these days?

But more than that, Balotelli has failed to fit into Rodgers’ system (more on that later). You know what Balotelli likes to do when he’s on the pitch? Shoot. He does that quite a bit. In league play this term, he’s averaged a whopping 5.5 shots per 90 minutes. He’s played 800 minutes total. But perhaps in a testament to his frustration and desire to just get something on the board, the majority of Balo’s attempts are inefficient shots from outside the box–more than half his attempts at goal originate from longer than 18 yards away.

If Balotelli hoped that leaving Italy would provide him at least some respite from the obscene racism he experienced there, he was mistaken. Balotelli is as polarizing a character as ever, and it doesn’t seem to matter where he plays; the #takez from pundits, former players and frustrated supporters always follow. It’s frustrated him so much that he recently let loose in a very emotional Instagram video, calling out his haters and offering yet another glimpse into the fragile ego he tries to cover so often.

He seems to have established a friendship with Sturridge, and he is most often the teammate we see on his Instagram. Take this, for example. But as far as we know (not a ton), Balotelli hasn’t established much of a rapport with the rest of his teammates. This was never more evident than when his captain criticized him for taking a penalty against Beşiktaş in the Europa League. Never mind that Balotelli is probably the best in AFP 532888481 S SOC GBR GREurope at converting spot-kicks. Steven Gerrard, the flaming idiot himself, was insistent that Jordan Henderson was the man to take that penalty. The fact that Balotelli’s own captain is against him speaks volumes.

But it doesn’t stop there. Not only is Gerrard clearly in the anti-Balotelli faction–but so is BRENDAN RODGERS, his manager. Yes, Brendan, tactical visionary and staunch defender of the Liverpool Way, gave up trying to fit Balotelli into the team in November, eschewing his mercurial forward for a 3-4-3 that usually has not featured an out-and-out center forward. Rodgers’ tactics until Manchester United washed Liverpool at Old Trafford in mid-December were startlingly similar to the tactics he used during the 2013-14 season–with Suárez as his star. Rodgers tried to fit Balotelli into his team like a square peg into a round hole. Unsurprisingly, it failed. By the time he made the necessary tactical adjustments that will more than likely see the Reds compete in Europe again next season, it was too late. Balotelli was nothing more than an afterthought.

Now, Rodgers could have stopped there. But this is why he’s got a whole week dedicated to him. Nothing he does is quiet, and nothing he does is without motive. He just HAS to go to the media with his problems. Since December alone, Rodgers has complained about Balotelli’s inability to fit into the 3-4-3, his training methods, and his work rate. He’s experienced serious buyer’s remorse, and this is how he’s dealt with it: by blasting a forward with an extremely delicate ego. Balotelli’s failures at Anfield can be mostly tied to his manager completely losing faith in him after a couple appearances without a goal.

We can only hope the situation improves for Mario Balotelli–wherever that may be. Maybe he tries to stick with it at Liverpool–if the Reds start slow again next year, Fenway could act swiftly and sack Rodgers. Maybe he does go back to Italy–there have been links with Roberto Mancini’s Inter and Siniša Mihajlović’s Sampdoria. But wherever he continues his career, there has to be belief.

And Brendan Rodgers has not truly believed in him since day one.

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Brendan Rodgers: The Walking Contradiction

The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

Politicians and football managers are very much alike. They lie, flip flop, make promises and dismiss them rather than fulfilling them. Fact checkers dissect a ton of quotes. Well, guess what? I dissected a handful of fantastic Brendan Rodgers quotes, starting with this glorious quote. From The Guardian:

“You are not a 20-year-old boy and you pick up the phone and ask to speak to the BBC”

After Arsenal’s 4-1 eradication of Liverpool, every bookmaker known to man started having an unadulterated field day trying to lure people in on the best odds for Sterling not returning to Liverpool.

That’s Brendan Rodgers putting full blame on Sterling’s agents after Liverpool’s loss against Arsenal. Of course, he wouldn’t blame his own player publicly, because he defends the team no matter how horrible the overall team performance was. Brendan said that Liverpool dominated Arsenal for the first 15 minutes of the game before getting steamrolled. But the quote above sounds more like someone’s strict, unattachable father that doesn’t believe his kid can make it in the real world.

Because that’s what Rodgers is doing. He’s acting like an authoritative 1950s father that wants (and forcibly so) his son to walk along his father’s path. Hell, I’m 18 years old, the time in your life where you’re deemed as being old enough to be completely independent, whilst making your own decisions, because you’re officially an adult. Simply put, BR is babying Sterling.

Two things about this that are making me insane (and probably Jamie Carragher):

  1.  Why would Sterling, who’s in the midst of a media mess, want to speak with the BBC?
  2.  One does not simply call the BBC. I can’t even call my local news network.

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I may be taking this a little too literal, but it’s very difficult not to take something like this literally. Brendan Rodgers would be the world’s worst spy. He’d be the guy that possesses the enemy espionage and ends up giving it to the enemy spy. From the same Guardian article:

“The only thing I will say on Raheem’s situation is anyone can see through his football development, and financial, Liverpool Football Club is the best place for him.”

BUT, BRENDAN, YOU JUST BLAMED THE PEOPLE THAT ULTIMATELY WORK OUT THE FINANCIAL WORK FOR THE CLIENT. THE AGENTS WILL BE MORE PISSED OFF THAN RAHEEM HIMSELF WHEN TRYING TO NEGOTIATE A NEW DEAL. NO WONDER WHY HE ALREADY REJECTED $100K A WEEK WAGES.

In baseball free agency terms, that’s like having Scott Boras, perhaps the most prominent American sports agent, as your agent while saying, with conviction and confidence, “screw you, Scott, for not getting me the best contract, although, I just rejected Giancarlo Stanton contract money. No big deal.” Or like getting a job interview and completely throwing out the opportunity in the trash by dressing up in a wifebeater and ripped jeans.


“He has played in a number of different positions, which has improved him tactically and technically.”

When playing up front, Raheem Sterling is versatile. He’s a free roaming midfielder that can wreak havoc and can also be used as a false nine in some instances. But at wingback?

Cole highlighted this in his Brendan Week piece. Sterling had been deployed as a wingback against Manchester United, perhaps the paramount game of Liverpool’s wild season, to counteract against Louis Van Gaal’s four-in-the-back, in order to drive his transfer stock price up. Instead, it backfired.

Liverpool fans adore Rodgers’ borderline insane 3-4-2-1 formation, because the team had gone on a 13 game unbeaten streak when the tactics were implemented. But it hasn’t benefitted for Sterling in any way, shape or form, who was forced to deploy himself as a wingback on other occasions than the United game.

We at Zlatan Day don’t have access to what goes on behind closed doors, but nobody would be surprised if Sterling expressed his disdain to Rodgers for playing in a wingback role in the locker room privately. If something like that leaked, it’s miraculous that British tabloids haven’t gotten a hold of it (the Mirror would jump on that like vulnerable prey)

As a matter of fact, it’s not only Sterling that is rejecting lofty offers; a couple of other counterparts have followed suit. Jordan Henderson, heir to Stevie G’s throne, and Jon Flanagan have reportedly rejected new contracts just over a week ago. That doesn’t mean they’ve left out Liverpool from the equation, but it’s surely not an auspicious thing to hear from a Scouser’s perspective regarding the next few years.

Who can blame Sterling for trying to stand up for himself? But remember, guys, BR makes the decisions in all areas for him. Whether it’s lobbying for a new contract or calling a major news network, leave it to Brendan.

From the Telegraph:

“They don’t have to sell. You have a choice. Maybe Southampton’s objectives have changed. They were looking to be a Champions League club, I believe. They obviously wanted to change. I suppose Liverpool have taken three players but Arsenal have taken a player [defender Calum Chambers for £16m], Manchester United have taken a player [England international Luke Shaw for £27m]. There might be one or two others who leave. It’s just the way it works.”

Yes, Southampton’s objectives have changed, such as being responsible buyers and sellers and taking advantage of Rodgers’ transfer negotiation mindset. Receiving a ₤4 million high ball transfer return for a 33 year old Rickie Lambert is impressive. Adam Lallana was on the fritz in contract negotiations and once Ronald Koeman stepped in, Lallana’s hot headed demeanor took over, departed for Merseyside. Dejan Lovren, who had such a fantastic season the year before (it helped that he got coddled by playing with Jose Fonte and Morgan Schneiderlin, but that’s a story for another day), had thought his market value had tripled and hijacked Lallana’s greedy mindset during negotiations. Luke Shaw? The Saints board room knew to pull the trigger on United’s bloated £27M offer for a 19 year old England prospect. Shaw recently admitted to having a harrowing first season because of nagging injuries.

When you’re playing a 3-4-2-1, there is no way anyone will see Lambert playing as the lone man up front. When you’re playing 3-4-2-1, with three center-halves and Lovren (who has only started 17 Premier League games this season) not as one of the starters, that doesn’t seem to help either. When you’re playing 3-4-2-1, there’s a pretty big chance that traditional defenders won’t play great in the right system. Not playing great is one thing, but an expensive signing bench warming for the lion’s share of the season is, well, bad.

As for being a potential Champions League club, they were up there for the majority of the season and are almost currently there. They’re one point behind you. You’re pretty lucky to have had that 13 game unbeaten streak, Brendan, because you would have been in steaming hot water (I mean, maybe you still are, but who knows?) if you remained below the top 10, even the bottom 7.

From the Mirror:

“I think the pressure is if you’re Manchester City or Chelsea, and you’ve spent that money and you expect to win the league. That’s probably pressure. I don’t think there’s pressure on us, other than what we have from within. Look at Tottenham. If you spend more than £100 million, you expect to be challenging for the league.”


*record scratch effect*

Hindsight is a beautiful specimen. When you think of it, sports is hindsight. Immediately, when Southampton had held second place behind Chelsea, with Liverpool sitting at 12th in November, every paper (shoutout to the Mirror) dug up the most mucky dirt anyone could ever find on Rodgers (like I am right now).

Considering that Rodgers spent in excess of $100 million on transfers this past summer, (very nice job allocating the Luis Suarez transfer profits…), changing your mind by lambasting FFP and other clubs (with that oil money though!) isn’t exactly the best idea, nor did his statement bode well when Liverpool was sitting in 12th place back in November. Meanwhile, Ronald Koeman is flourishing and overachieving in his first season as the Saints skipper with suitable, successful replacements.

Brendan Rodgers will run his mouth for however long he wants. Nobody will stop him, not even Robbie Fowler, Kenny Dalglish or Jamie Carragher (well, maybe Carragher). And until then, Darren Farley will also be having a field day with Brendan impression videos. Masterful technician.

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Matamatically It Doesn’t Make Sense

The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

Like many managers, Brendan Rodgers has a habit of speaking his mind about anything and everything. If you were to ask him about the current UK elections, he’d probably go off on a tangent about that – as would any “top” manager, to be fair. Mourinho, for example, will talk about the perks of living in a city like London over say, Madrid or Milan, while you could probably ask Arsene Wenger for help on your taxes. And of course, they would all gladly talk about football.

None of them, however, speak as openly as Liverpool’s manager. Brendan Rodgers will speak candidly about Manchester City’s current form, for example, and in his spat with England manager Roy Hodgson, he holds nothing back. None of these topics, though, is on the level of his “war of words” with Louis Van Gaal.

Last summer, when Manchester United hired Louis van Gaal as their manager, fresh off the heels of a World Cup semifinal with a Netherlands team many predicted wouldn’t make it past the group stages, Liverpool manager (and I’m guessing, self proclaimed Barclays Premier League expert) Brendan Rodgers had a few words of advice for the Dutchman in August:

“I think what he’ll find is the competition in this league will be different from any other league that he’s worked in,” said Rodgers. “In a lot of the other leagues there are one or two teams and those are the teams that are expected to win.

“This is a league where the top team plays the bottom team and on any given day you can lose. You don’t get that a lot in the other leagues. I think the competition will probably take him by surprise and that’s from foreign managers I have spoken to over the years.”

“I’ve worked closely with foreign players who have come in and that real physical competitive nature will be different from anywhere else he’s worked before.”

Fair enough. Brendan decided, as the runner up to Manchester City last year, that it was his prerogative to warn Louie, a man who has won in Holland with Ajax, Germany with Bayern Munich, and in Spain with Barcelona, that the Premier League would be different, that unlike these other leagues, there are no guarantees in the tough world of English football. I get that. I don’t quite see the logic in it, but it’s fine.

But to do it again, in March, when the Dutchman has already beaten you 3-0? I mean, come on.

“Even he would say that coming into the Premier League is different to where he’s worked before. The competition in this country is far greater.

“He’s shown over his career that he’s a top-class manager. He’ll have seen coming into this country for the first time, the challenges of football here.

“This is the most competitive league in the world. If you’ve spent your career in the Premier League, it’s different to the other leagues.”

I get that Brendan fancies himself the BPL’s welcoming committee, waxing lackadaisically about the virtues of the greatest league in the world™. But at some point, you gotta look at yourself in the mirror and realize that Louis van Gaal is not a man you want to engage in a war of words. Especially not after he’s exposed your tactics not once, but twice.

I think, contrary to popular belief, that Brendan Rodgers is a fine coach. Where Brendan gets in trouble a lot of the time is when he decides to bite off more than he can chew, where it’s no longer Brendan Rodgers who’s doing the talking, strategizing and picking of the lineup, but BRENDAN RODGERS, direct disciple of Bill Shankly and protector of the Liverpool Way.

That guy gets into a lot of trouble.

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After the first game against United in December, Rodgers, fresh off a 3-0 beating, praised his squad and said that Liverpool were the better team team that day. We laughed then, but for a while, until Rodgers met Louis again, Brendan was laughing. Liverpool’s Boxing Day run was nothing sort of extraordinary, but to me, it always looked like the work of a snake oil salesman (and added fuel to the fire that is BRENDAN RODGERS, protector the realm of Merseyside).

Under Brendan’s tutelage, the Reds of Merseyside were always a team of momentum, with a few wins energizing them to pick up more and more. Couple that with a tactics wrinkle that not many teams in the Premier League were ready to pick up on, and you get the sort of run Rodgers had been able to engineer.

Unfortunately for Rodgers the snake oil salesman, he ran into a merchant of spin in Louis van Gaal – not to mention a tactical genius.

There was only one way this was going to end.

Matamatically, Brendan stood no chance.

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Breaking Points

The staff here at Every Day is Zlatan Day are proud to present our latest project: #BrendanWeek with a daily post all this week dedicated to Liverpool’s umm… eccentric manager. The man, the myth, the legend himself (just ask him). Whether it’s been his run-ins with other managers or the incessant myth making he creates with every press conference, or even the Hitler like celebrations he busts out on the touchlines, every facet of Brendan is hopefully covered. We hope that you enjoy it.

We’ve all asked this question whether it’s a friend, acquaintance, group project teammate, or even former lovers.

At what point are you no longer worth it?

It’s a question that shows two sides of the human nature. There’s the part where you show you care about someone, especially someone that you’ve had a connection with at some sort of an emotional level. Then the flip side showing we all have our breaking point with anybody. No matter how much we adore another person, there’s always a point where it becomes too much to handle.

It’s probably time that Liverpool and their fans ask this question with Brendan Rodgers, the man they idolized for his brilliance last season and whose tactical astuteness brought the Reds out of the muck this season with their post-Boxing Day run that is only replicated in FIFA 15.

Since then, however, it’s come to a crashing stall. Brendan didn’t switch up his tactics to play a United side that was fully ready to handle the three-in-the-back pressing system (much similar to his negligence in the Chelsea match last season: the parked bus was coming and seemingly only Rodgers didn’t care to address it), which resulted in the club losing what many believe to be the season defining match. (If you’re keeping count at home, that’s also twice in two years that Steven Gerrard has cost his team.)

He also decided to play Raheem Sterling at wing back in the same United game, a move that was  already confusing without context, as a power play to show the English attacker his place in his current contract situation. Putting the contract issues aside — for now — the timing of Rodgers’s decision was deplorable. It’s the season’s defining match, and he decided that a little mind game with the club’s best player would be the best course of action. It’s one thing to show Raheem a little power against Hull City’s bite-less attack, but with a Champions League spot in the balance Brendan opted to show dominance over his player.

As for the contract issues, it’s easier to ignore if just Raheem Sterling seemed disinterested in continuing his Liverpool tenure longer than he needed to. While he’s clearly Liverpool’s biggest talent, he’s one player and a 20-year-old kid. Youth can be fickle and wanting greener pastures. It’s not the situation Liverpool and Rodgers want to be in, but it’s understandable. However the situation is another can of worms if Raheem, Jordan Henderson, and Jon Flanagan are all denying contracts with rumors swirling about that Rodgers had an altercation with centerback Kolo Toure.

The first two issues just show that Brendan is a flawed manager, and Raheem may just be something out of his control, but this makes the man seem toxic. If the manager was running out marginal players for lack of playing time or a similar issue, fine. It makes sense and is a common issue. However it’s tough to find another current manager that is running two of his three best players out of town, and Rodgers is accomplishing just that.

(He also runs his mouth in the media and sticks his foot in it regularly, and has made a complete mess of the Mario Balotelli situation. Those are more “normal” manager problems so it’s merely a side note. But they’re there.)

So at what point is Brendan worth it? Does a season where Liverpool finished second on the coattails of Luis Suarez’s magical season give the manager immunity for another summer? Maybe if this black cloud around him didn’t exist, sure. However if the return on Rodgers doesn’t increase for the dues the club must pay in all the nonsense he brings with him, it’s not hard to believe that his days are starting to look numbered.

Just look at the most recent Champions League spot he (and Steven Gerrard) selfishly flushed away.

Posted in English Premier League | Tagged | 1 Comment

The NYCFC Diaries: Subway Greetings, Drunken Stupors and Sporting KC

The Subways

The New York City subway system is a primary source of inconvenience, vexation, and everything in between. If you’re lost, stranded or just not sure about your destination, MTA workers are either not interested in your failures or they’ll gladly assist you; it’s very much 50-50. This time around, I was stranded and time was not on my side. The devil was the clock and the angel was…well, the devil took over both of my shoulders.

It’s 6:25, the 7 train I’m on from Flushing to Queensboro Plaza is delayed because of train traffic ahead. Every passenger is exasperated. One guy blurts out a very direct fuck this, which every passenger young and old can hear throughout the whole subway car. It wasn’t a good sight.

Thankfully, the stop I had to get off was the very next one. But at the same time, the perturbing train ahead of us wasn’t helping.

***

Sports is a topic matter that can lure people into conversation. Talking to strangers about sports can sometimes be a nuisance since you never know who you’re going to encounter. I’ve listened to some of the strangest conversations about sports betting on trains.

This past October, some guy asked his law school buddy if he should bet on the Orioles sweeping the Royals in the ALCS. I can assure you that the end result wasn’t so pretty. I wanted to say something, but I realized it wasn’t worth it, because these guys just sounded like complete jackasses, so I didn’t bother.

I don’t have the ability to morph into Dr. Phil. I can’t magically dissect a random person’s psyche unless someone is making it very obvious. Someone could be having a bad day or they’re just looking for someone to talk to and you just don’t know it. Just ask my mom, she’s an expert at both (I hate when she tells strangers how cute I was when I was little. God, no).

There are always three fundamental types of sports people you’ll encounter: the casual, the die-hard, or the straight pessimist-optimist that wants the whole team to be traded after one bad performance (see Yankee fans). Step into any bar or restaurant – no matter if it’s a Dave And Buster’s or a T.G.I Friday’s – and you’ll encounter at least one of the three.

This time I was lucky enough to meet three die-hards on the subway.

Enter Pantellas, David and Chet, three of the most ordinary, passionate football fans title_ny_6thaveanyone can ever run into on an NYC subway that wasn’t a homeless guy or talented street performer (by the way, you need a license to be a subway performer). They’re three major football fans, Pantellas being a Chelsea supporter dating back to pre-Roman Abramovich (also known as the time before Chelsea was even founded), David being a QPR supporter that’s sat through copious amounts of financial troubles and management mishaps and Chet, a fellow Gunner that only spoke when Arsenal was brought up. He is also perhaps the staunchest Arsene Wenger apologist I’ve ever heard. Maybe I’ve seen his name on the interwebs on an Arsenal fan site at one point.

I glanced at Pantellas’ scarf, only to discover that he was wearing a Chelsea scarf over his New York Jets sweatshirt. I was also wearing my Jets beanie, so we hit it off about the Jets. “You’re a Jets fan?” I asked. “Huge, since 1986,” Pantellas said. “Back in the days when we had the gunslinger…Ken O’Brien.” I continued. “And Wesley ‘Legally Blind’ Walker!” Pantellas chucked. “At first, I might’ve had a personal vendetta against you for Chelsea, but then I saw the Jets logo on your sweatshirt.”

But before we discussed football, we all had the same nuisance we all had to get rid of: finding the 4 train to Yankee Stadium.

In the first post, I wrote about how I’d never went to Yankee Stadium for anything whatsoever, except for maybe once when I was too young to function (at approximately 18 months old). But despite never going there, I had no problem with the subway maps for the inaugural home opener; I swooped right in with no problems at all. So, being the over-confident person that I never am, I assumed the first trip was going to be the same routine for every home game. Not so much.

Here’s the thing: everything gets iffy when you have no alternative stratagems for a conflict. The modified version of Douglas MacArthur’s “island-hopping” entitled “subway platform hopping” was in dire straits.

“Where’s the fucking track? I thought it was here,” Pantellas said. “I think we just ran in circles,” said David. (Chet was a man of no words unless the topic was Arsenal. He was just following our scrambling lead.) “You can’t make this shit up,” Pantellas continued. “I know the Queens subways better than anyone, but man, screw the Bronx, the Yankees, the MTA…” Dude just went on and on. His heavy New York accent made it even more jocular. It’s like Andrew Dice Clay roaming the subways.

Finally, we had found the track and caught the train at the last second and tried settling while being squished by other subway goers. For the length of the ride, we all discussed footballing talking points, like who should win World Player of The Year, the Premier League title race, our general feelings about FIFA (all of us said “corrupt as fuck”), Eden Hazard’s prowess and, of course, the game.

“I think Eden Hazard is a class player, man. He’s so much better than Ronaldo and Messi,” Pantellas declared. “You biased son of a bitch,” I said, sarcastically. David let out a big laugh. “I can sense the bias in that one,” David said. “If anything, Robert Green deserves a shit ton of recognition.” We all laughed in unison.download (2)

David started doing a pretty good impression of ‘Arry Redknapp. “OH, ROB GREEN? TRIFFIC, TRIFFIC PLAYER. SO TRIFFIC.” We all laughed incredibly hard. Every other subway passenger? They gave him death stares, much like Kobe Bryant’s.

Unfortunately, we had to drift away from each other, because of seating arrangements (wow, how surprising is that?) Pantellas was in the same set of seats, but was far away. In the middle of trying to get into the stadium, David had an extra ticket he was desperately trying to get rid of, so he took more time trying to scalp it outside of the stadium and Chet – well, I honestly have no clue. He probably found American Gooners somewhere.

The Match

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NYCFC was going up against Sporting Kansas City.

Sporting is a good team to root for if you’re looking to get into MLS for a few reasons:

1. Their fans are incredible. The Cauldron rocks Sporting Park almost every game. Sporting Park is the place to be at.

2. Matt Besler and Graham Zusi (yes, they count as one reason when combined).

3. The Midwest is an American soccer hub.

4. They have a nice club history, dating back to when they were the Kansas City Wizards.

Their best success was in 2000, mainly because of Tony Meola (he won MLS MVP, Goalkeeper of The Year and MLS Cup MVP that year) post mullet and their MLS Cup win in 2013 against Nick Rimando’s Real Salt Lake.

This was the first time manager Jason Kreis had to deal with altering his player selection, due to injuries and international callups. He kept his 4-4-2 intact, but with very different faces. David Villa was scratched because of an adductor strain, super sub Khiry Shelton was called up to the USMNT U-23s, and target man Adam Nemec – or the Slovakian Jozy Altidore to NYCFC supporters – was also on international break for his native Slovakia. Patrick Mullins, who scored NYCFC’s second goal in the home opener off of a David Villa 2699731_n_VIR6cross, got the start up front with Javier Calle.

Sporting KC was NYCFC’s first real test, because of their stifling, stonewall defense. The center back pairing of Matt Besler and Ike Opara stifles many strikers who attempt to venture through the middle. Ask any Sporting fan and they’ll tell you that the Besler-Opara twosome shellac opposing forwards on a consistent basis.

I missed the first seven minutes of the game when fortunately, nothing really happened 0utside of hearing scattered “Red Bulls suck” chants outside the stadium (they ended up beating the Columbus Crew 2-1). Matt Besler was being booed by the NYCFC home crowd during a long throw in that eventually lead to the first and only goal of the entire contest.

You all know what happens when you antagonize somebody that’s really good: they capitalize.

Besler’s throw in was a killer, placed with such astonishing accuracy. Kwame Watson-Siriboe, NYCFC’s tallest player, had Ike Opara marked perfectly, but Opara’s vertical was far too much for Watson-Siriboe and beat Josh Saunders with the header, with Saunders not even attempting to dive for the save. That people were complaining about Yankee Stadium’s FIFA-shortened dimensions (by, like, two feet and two inches) after the goal was hysterical. They couldn’t have thought of a better excuse.

The Hot But Pestering Girl

Remember Danny from the first post, the guy that faded away into obscurity with his friend after the first half at the home opener? He disappeared, again. I don’t know what goes on in his head; this guy has to be a steadfast user of telepathy. He’s definitely playing with me.

One day, I’ll find out about his telepathy schtick that no one else in our section knows about (well, other than his accomplice). Maybe the two fine, attractive women that sit right behind me know about it. Speaking of…

During halftime, two women, who seem to be in their early-to-mid 20s, were on drunken stupors with their decently tempered boyfriends (I don’t know how they can handle so much embarrassment in one sitting). But my goodness, they’re Grade A. One of them sLmkIoPcould qualify as Eugenie Bouchard’s doppelganger. That right there earns you deity status. “Hands Down” by Dashboard Confessional started playing in my head when I turned back around. I made one slight modification to the lyrics: “Hands down the best two drunk looking women I’ve ever seen.”

“Where did you get that jersey?” one of them asked. I lied and said I got my phony AliExpress David Villa jersey off of eBay for $50. “That’s cool. We were thinking about buying jerseys in the stadium, but they’re fucking assholes for trying to make us pay a shit ton of money.” The girl’s speech was so slurred, even the most highbrow drunk pig Latin scholar couldn’t make out the crass jibber jabber.

My beanie is a relatively tall one. If it’s half way above my forehead, chances are a relatively short person wouldn’t be able to see, like someone wearing a top hat at a movie theater with no stadium seating. Being six feet tall doesn’t help, either.

The unknown girl kept tugging on my beanie throughout the second half, as if she was trying to make a move on me (in my dreams). The first time the beanie was blocking her view, she was playfully shouting “I can’t see! Can you pull it down?” I had no idea if she was serious or not. I pulled it down out of respect.

So much for respect. She kept tugging away. At that point, I just ignored her, until the boyfriend finally jumped in to control her beanie-tugging escapades. He apologized to me. “Sorry man” he said. This is what I have to deal with every time we go out.”

Fantastic. I was liberated from the alluring Eugenie Bouchard stunt double. I didn’t see her for the rest of the game and her friend was lonely without her. She later followed her and the boyfriend. I forgot that the game was even going on during that 10 minute time frame of beanie pulling.

 The Aftermath

Questionable call after questionable call was perhaps the mantra of this game, for rather everyone. The Third Rail (normally on any foul call) acted as if the referee was like a politician flip flopping from spectrum to spectrum on major issues. He called for a handball and, consequently, wasted at least three minutes. The titantron displayed the moment perfectly. Jeb Brovsky was desperately trying to win the referee over, with Seth Sinovic, the Sporting defender who committed the alleged handball, saying the opposite. The referee discussed with the linesman, and finally reversed his decision. The handball was no more.

Following the handball call-to-no-call, the bulk of NYCFC’s possessions essentially went like this: Pass, pass, pass, turnover, pass, back pass to Josh Saunders, pass out wide to the fullback, back pass back to Josh Saunders again, reset. Rinse. Repeat. Stoppage time produced some decent chances, but, again, not good enough.

NYCFC’s quest to become the MLS Invincibles ended. The contest showed that sans the primary attacking options, there was nothing in sight. Of course, if David Villa was playing, maybe Besler and Opara and or the fullbacks would try to close down Villa, like Orlando City did in the franchise debut.

But NYCFC fans can scrutinize “what-if” scenarios all they want. The team was stymied by the defense and groggy from the Sporting counterattacks. The backline did the job, though. Watson-Siriboe and Chris Wingert both did outstanding jobs clearing balls to the flanks when a Sporting attack was launched. Wingert got man of the match, and deservedly so.

NYCFC have back-to-back fixtures against the Union this week, who just lost to Sporting KC 3-2. Villa, Nemec, Shelton and Sebastian Velasquez are definitely going to be back by then. So will Eugenie Bouchard 2.0, her boyfriend and her quiet friend (I hope).

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