Is Brendan Not A Fire-Starter?

Alex Livesey

Does Brendan Rodgers have a starting problem?

Since the Man U loss, there's been a lot of talk over whether Brendan Rodgers is simply a reactive manager. That is, he's had to make some changes at half (or before) to alter performances that may or may not have been hindered by his plans and lineups to start a match. There have been a few instances cited to try and prove this.

I do not think this is Bob Bradley in South Africa, who kept tossing Ricardo Clark at us and then had to keep making up for that mistake when that led to the US being behind and had to go for it. I think most of these instances are unique. Let's look at them.

The first one is the draw at Goodison Park. But I'm not so sure this was a response to a putrid first half outing. After all, Liverpool were up 2-0. Yes, Everton were rampant after that, but it's not as if Everton are the inmates of Cuckoo's Nest when they're at home (or anywhere). And the changes were a response to a specific problem, that being Mirallas's rampaging on Wisdom's side. It was a switch to change that specific problem, going to a back three. While giving up a two-goal lead within a half is never acceptable, I don't think anyone would say that the first half performance was completely a shambles.

Away to Chelsea is another mentioned. While Liverpool weren't a threat in the first half, outside of Terry's header from a set piece in the first half they had nullified Chelsea as one as well. Away from home at a top four club, you can't say that wiping out the home team from being an attacking force is a complete failure. This was also the reaction to a player just not up to the pace, as Sahin was not (nor ever, really). It may qualify, but wasn't the complete turnaround I think it's being portrayed as. Also, Liverpool had come into that match trying three at the back before and that's the formation that had won there the previous two seasons. So starting with that made total sense.

Wigan at home is the next, where Suso was hauled off before halftime for Henderson, pushing Gerrard farther forward. Personally, I've always wanted to see Suso as the sharp end of the midfield stick, so I understood Rodgers trying it. But it's hard to argue with this change not being the catalyst for a winning surge. Fair play.

And of course, last Sunday. But Rodgers's changes didn't bring about the change in momentum. For the first 15 minutes of the second half, even with Sturridge on, Liverpool were nowhere. Only when United went 2-0 up and stepped off the gas, and Liverpool had no choice but to go hell for leather did things turn. Was it the score or Rodgers's changes that led to the shift? You could argue either way.

And I'm not going to get on his case for being reactive. This is something he obviously got from Jose Mourinho, who was almost canonized for doing some of this stuff. Of course, the squad and results The Special One got cause a different perspective, don't they?

I obviously had a huge problem with Rodgers's starting midfield at Old Trafford. But that's the only time I've gotten apoplectic about a starting lineup. I've had issues before, but never major grievances. And a manager who isn't afraid to demonstrate that he knows when something's not working isn't a bad thing. It was one of Benitez's major faults, he really had to be pushed to change things around. Dalglish only had like-for-like subs in his pocket.

And I don't think Rodgers is constantly fucking up from the start. Considering the squad and talent level he has and the injuries he's had to deal with, constantly juggling and experimenting was always going to be on the cards. More than anything this season, Rodgers has to figure out who can do what and from where. Some of it was always going to not work and call for adjustments on the fly to gain points.

This isn't to say there aren't problems, but at worst the jury is still out if Rodgers is merely reactive instead of proactive. I don't think he is, though.

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