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Sunday 11 December 2016

Ronnie Whelan: Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers is all alone with Reds in a bad place

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers at the end of the match
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers at the end of the match

I won't hesitate to say that this edition of the greatest rivalry in Premier League football was the worst I have had the misfortune to watch in my life. Macnhester United and Liverpool were dreadful.

An awful first half was followed by a depressing second and Brendan Rodgers is now looking like a very lonely man indeed, standing as he is, directly in the firing line.

At least Manchester United supporters had the consolation of seeing their team win eventually and another very expensive signing give some indication that he might actually be worth the money.

But all over the pitch, I saw players who are over-rated, over-hyped and very clearly overpaid. Someone tweeted that Rodgers and Louis van Gaal had spent almost £750m in the last three years. That's three-quarters of a billion!

I saw no evidence of that kind of spending. Entirely the opposite if I'm honest and I believe that Liverpool, in particular, are in a very bad place right now.

Rodgers looked like man at the point of a gun. Every time the camera lingered on the bench, it showed Sean O'Driscoll and Gary McAllister, stony-faced and quiet.

FEAR

To me, they all carried the look of fear and you could see that in the faces of the players as well.

I wonder did Cristian Benteke suddenly realise that he was a Liverpool player in the lion's den, carrying the weight of millions of people all over the world? He played like that.

I felt dreadful for Joe Gomez, a great player and competitor who has clearly been over raced and needs a rest. He's too young to be playing for his life in every fixture.

Emre Can is the same. He has bags of talent but on Saturday, he didn't seem to know where he should be playing. When he plays for Germany he doesn't look rash and wild and when he played as a sweeper for Rodgers last season, he was one of Liverpool's best players.

I searched in vain for a pattern to Liverpool's game and couldn't find one. It was depressing to see old problems reassert themselves like the ones created by Martin Skrtl's lack of pace, something I've been talking about for a long time now.

There were moments when Skrtel and Dejan Lovren tried to pass the ball around the backline and my heart was in my mouth.

And just when Benteke had a miraculous moment, pure pace and a trick from Anthony Martial left Skrtel floundering and highlighted the weakness at the heart of the Liverpool defence.

Rodgers is in trouble, there is no doubt about that. If his bench and players are showing fear, what must it be like for him?

I must say, there has been very little comment about the fact that Rodgers lost his own backroom team in the summer, replaced by two former managers, O'Driscoll and McAllister.

Imagine if that had happened to Alex Ferguson all those years ago when he was close to the point of no return at Old Trafford. I think he would have walked out.

Looking at the body language of the people around Rodgers during this game, I didn't see a great deal of communication. He seems to be on his own.

Rodgers has many indignities heaped on him since he took the job, Mario Balotelli the worst of them, but the assumption this summer was that he was spending money on players he wanted.

To be fair to John Henry, and the other owners, they has made cash available - plenty of it. The problem has been the way it has been spent.

I find myself just five games into the new season asking the same questions I've asked for several seasons now. Where is the value for money?

After spending truly enormous amounts of money, I struggle to list any players other than Luis Suarez who have earned their fee and wages.

Stevie Gerrad was home grown and I wonder what he was thinking watching this game in LA.

For a few dollars more and a coaching role, he could have been at Old Trafford and even on one leg, he would have been better than some of the players on show on both teams.

£750m! Amazing.

 

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