We glossed over it last week when the story broke, but it's worth revisiting. Brendan Rodgers called out both Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique in the press, questioning their dedication and fitness.
Now it's not unusual for a new manager to hang someone out to dry in the press. It's a way to assert your authority and establish a hierarchy or motivate a player by embarrassing him. It tends to not work more than it works but you get why managers do that. But with Rodgers and Downing, it appears to be the final lever to pull.
When the real games started, the first Europa League qualifiers, Downing was in the lineup for both games against Gomel. He even scored in the first leg, though his overall performance left a lot to be desired. But you can see where Rodgers came in and thought that Downing had something to offer more than anyone else in that position.
But then he was passed by Sterling and Suso and now probably Assaidi. And whatever else, those three certainly work harder than it looks like Downing has. And from what you can glean, Downing hasn't responded in training by putting his head down and working to get his place back. He's apparently been entitled in his ways and refusing to see that the kids deserve that place more than he does.
And it's clear that's something that Rodgers won't accept. He's trying to remake the club here, and everyone has to prove they can be part of that. This isn't an immediate shunning like it was with Andy Carroll. Rodgers thought Downing had a part to play, and Downing played his way out of that thinking.
He's been offered the lifeline of left-back, but appears to make brussel sprout face at that possibility. Rodgers wants him to be part of the squad, but he also wants Downing to prove he should be part of the squad. He hasn't, and now he's pulled the rip chord. Liverpool look like they could go places. Does Stewie want to go with them?
With Enrique, it's a bit different. He had some sort of injury that no one can identify. And Rodgers was questioning either his fitness, pain-tolerance, or desire to come back from injury. And that cuts a little deeper. That goes right to a player's heart instead of maybe his form. An athlete can handle being told to play better more than he can being called "soft." That's essentially what Rodgers has done.
But Enrique responded the right way and has said he will work for his place. Maybe behind closed-doors he is fuming, but at least he hasn't blown up in the press.
Either way, it's clear that Rodgers has established his way and that he's the boss. I don't see the other players turning against him because of this, and it sets a baseline for all the young players. It's not just if you work hard you'll get a chance, but that if you don't you'll be jettisoned just as quickly.