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.
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.
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.