Could FA Cup exit force Fenway Sports' hand at Liverpool?
With Arsenal taking their place at Wembley on May 30th for the FA Cup final the previous evening, the smart money was on LIverpool to join them at the showpiece event to take place just six weeks later.
Aston Villa however, had not read the script. Tim Sherwood's attacking ploy worked handsomely for his side, in toppling The Reds on Sunday afternoon. Despite taking the lead at Wembley through one of their only sparks of late, Philippe Coutinho, after the Villans equalized Liverpool had no answer to the surprising amount of pace Villa had, even without the injured Gabby Agbonlahor. In spite of the returning Steven Gerrard, the Merseysiders huffed and puffed and Gerrard's fairytale exit was not to be.
Liverpool's shock exit leaves Brendan Rodgers in a rather tricky spot. With Champions League qualification looking forlorn, his charges may well be left once again with Europa League duty, in tandem with another trophyless campaign.
It comes 12 months after Rodgers oversaw an unlikely title charge, with Liverpool falling at the final hurdle, with their captain's infamous stumble to hand Demba Ba and Chelsea the lead at Anfield. The Reds never recovered from what would have been their first Premier League crown. Come the end of this term, Brendan Rodgers will have been at the helm for three seasons, having been appointed as out-going Swansea boss on June 1st 2012.
Liverpool have now gone nine years - their last win being the FA Cup the year after winning the Champions League - without silverware and the drought shows no real signs of ending. Rodgers should by no means be held accountable for his three barren years. However the Liverpool faithful are beginning to show signs of restlessness.
The LIverpool boss has a contract on Merseyside until 2018 - deservedly so - on the back of last season. The Northern-Irishman has revitalized his flagging charges and his man-management skills have been a great asset to the club. Nevertheless, after a difficult season-post Luis Suarez, the club's owners' Fenway Sports Group may still assess Rodger's time in charge and ask; has Rodgers done enough?
Statistically, Rodgers has won 93 of the 169 games he has managed for The Reds; a 55% win ratio. Compared to Arsene Wenger - albeit with a vastly greater number of games - is less than 3% behind the decorated Frenchman. FSG are unlikely to look at the statistics however, when making a decision on their manager.
Questions do have to be posed about the players he has recruited over the summer. Dejan Lovren has been able to take the step up to a bigger club. Lazar Markovic has only shown fleeting glimpses of excellence and Mario Balotelli is still yet to score a league goal for the club. On the flip side, Jordan Henderson , Joe Allen and Mamadou Sakho have taken strides forward in progress at Anfield.
As documented, it was always going to be a thankless task replacing Suarez. Not just his goals but his work ethic. Add to that Daniel Sturridge still struggles to return to full fitness and Raheem Sterling has dipped in a out of form, even before his latest contractual rumblings.
The point needs to be reiterated though; Brendan Rodgers helped LIverpool evolve tactically and after finding a system that suited them, the wheels have just come off somewhat toward the end of the campaign. Rodgers has earnt the chance to be at least given the 2015/16 campaign and the former Swansea and Watford man a fair crack at the whip after judging what needs addressing.
There is however, an X factor in this equation.
With Jurgen Klopp departing Borussia Dortmund this summer, his services will be in high demand across Europe. As the fans begin to itch, even if as an over-reaction, could FSG decide to pull the trigger on Rodgers? There is no doubt that Liverpool Football Club could lure a manager of Klopp's ilk, especially given the German's history in reinvigorating Dortmund towards back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
Could Jurgen Klopp's decision to leave Germany force Fenway Sports' hand?