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Liverpool: O Brendan, Where Art Thou?

David Sheehan discusses Brendan Rodgers lack of foresight and risk avoidance this summer at Liverpool.

“Past performance is no guarantee of future performance” – Standard financial investment disclaimer.

In the 1970’s Shell Oil pioneered a new approach to managing risk in the corporate world. Using ‘Scenario Planning’, a structure that now seems like an obvious strategic policy, the company identified the most likely possible scenarios that would befall the company over the short, medium and long term.

They then set about putting processes in place to ensure that Shell was profitable regardless of changes in the economic or regulatory environment. Shell became so effective at scenario planning that they could even profit when oil prices fell.

Luis Suarez scored 31 goals in 33 league matches for Liverpool last season. His wife Sofi’s family have lived in Barcelona for over a decade, her father relocating the family there from Montevideo to further his career in banking, and Suarez was sighted numerous times last season in the Spanish city before his move to FC Barcelona in the summer.

In terms of potential risk facing Liverpool at the end of the 2013/14 season, Brendan Rodgers effectively found himself on deck as his Titanic sailed towards a giant glacier.

Not only did Suarez’s goals spearhead Liverpool’s challenge on the title last season, but the entire ethos and footballing philosophy of the side was based around his movement up front and will to win. If ever a club needed to plan for a scenario when one player was no longer present it was Liverpool this past summer.

The June 19th clash between England and Uruguay at the World Cup this summer, was notable for Liverpool fans, not only for Luis Suarez’s two goals (he was then officially still a Liverpool player and only two-time biter), but also for the fact that the England starting line up featured five Liverpool players and a further two on the bench (Lambert had already signed and surely the club knew that Lallana was on the way).

However, rather than in a seat in the Stadium Corinthians in Sao Paulo, Brendan Rodgers was in New York, keeping a close eye on his new girlfriend, 31-year-old Charlotte Hind, Liverpool’s former travel manager.

The couple were photographed walking hand-in-hand hours before England took on Uruguay (it should be noted that Rodgers denies that they are in a romantic relationship,  however, if you have an example of walking hand-in-hand with a member of the opposite sex that you are not in a romantic relationship with, then power to you).

Everyone is entitled to a holiday, but the failure to be present when eight of your first team squad are competing on the highest stage is borderline negligent.

The 2014/15 season to date has shown that Liverpool failed to prepare adequately for life post-Luis Suarez. The summer search for a replacement consisted of a botched attempt to sign Loic Remy with Liverpool pulling out of the deal at the last moment due to a failed medical (the player apparently has a lifelong heart condition which appears to have been unknown to Liverpool until the medical) and the ultimate signings of Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli – two players at the opposite end of the spectrum to Suarez in terms of movement on the pitch and in Balotelli’s case, attitude.

Contrast Liverpool’s approach to replacing their main striker to that of Southampton’s this summer. Southampton’s director of football, Les Reed, gave an interview with the London Times last week, advising of how the club had their targets to replace Rickie Lambert identified even before Ronald Koeman came in as Southampton’s new manager .

“We knew all about Graziano (Pelle) because again, trying to be ahead of the game, when you look at Rickie Lambert and his age, you think down the line at some point – it’s not some conscious decision to replace him this summer but it happens – who are the contenders who fit into our team and are able to deliver as Rickie does and maybe even better…?

“Graziano was one of those players on those lists, and when Ronald comes in and says ‘I like Graziano’ we are in a position to say, ‘Yeah, we know all about him, that’s not a problem. Let’s go for it.”

Risk foreseen and avoided.

Liverpool and particularly Steven Gerrard suffered a trauma in the manner of how they lost last season’s title. The recovery process from a traumatic experience is well documented by psychologists. Recovery requires that the painful emotions be thoroughly processed. The feelings cannot be repressed or forgotten and if they are not dealt with directly, they can replay over and over in the course of a lifetime preventing the person from functioning effectively – the condition of post traumatic stress disorder.

Steven Gerrard has been a shadow of his former self this season and has spoken in the past couple of weeks of the ‘missed opportunity to achieve a dream’ and ‘the pain and hurt’ associated with going so close to the title last season. The tactical nous of Brendan Rodgers has seemed to evaporate – he has reverted to the one up front approach that resulted in a seventh place finish during his first season in charge. Missing in action is the man whose diamond formation outwitted opposition managers last season and who was drawing comparisons amongst Liverpool supporters to Bill Shankly.

Liverpool failed to adequately plan for a post-Luis Suarez future, either through negligence or as a result of the trauma of last season’s defeat stifling their ability to function normally in the summer market.

While Liverpool have been standing still, the rest of the Premiership has moved on. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool need to realise this quickly and move on from last season.  It is a situation that the club’s hierarchy needs to monitor closely. If Rodgers and co are unable to shed the baggage of last season’s near miss, then the only option may be to install a leader who is not scarred by the ghosts of a campaign past.

Past performance is no guarantee of future performance. This is a both a blessing and a curse for Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool given last season’s heroics and the current malaise.

His removal is still some way off, but Liverpool’s manager must deal with last season and rediscover his ability to function as a leader soon if he is to fulfil the promise that last season showed or forever find himself defined as the man who nearly won the league.

David Sheehan, Pundit Arena.

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Author: The PA Team

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