The worst part of suffering a heavy defeat on the last day of the season is that you have to live with it for the entire Summer. For Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers, there’s no ‘next week’ to right the wrongs of the performance at The Britannia and, instead, they will likely stew over it until pre-season begins.
Despite some alarmist predictions, Rodgers is supposedly not in danger of losing his job. Regardless of the dramatic twelve-month decline that the Northern Irishman has overseen, his employers apparently remain committed to him, at least in the short-term, and will allow him to lead the side into the 2014/15 campaign.
Superficially, that seems like an opportunity for Rodgers to oversee some Summer rebuilding and to restore his own reputation. He has gone from being an almost revolutionary figure to a source of public amusement in a very short space of time and, naturally, that will be something that he’ll want to correct.
But - and this is purely hypothetical - maybe his time at Liverpool has run its course.
Deep-down, even his detractors probably accept that Rodgers is a capable head-coach. This season may have exposed some of his weaknesses and shone a more truthful light on what he is as a manager, but his promotion and survival with Swansea and his first season at Anfield cannot be completely disregarded.
The trouble is, the more time he spends at Liverpool, the more it becomes apparent that he’s probably been over-promoted and that, wonderful opportunity though it was, FSG gave him this job far too soon in his career.
Football works in extremes: a manager is either a genius or a fraud. In Rodgers’ case, a true assessment probably occurs somewhere between the two. He’s someone who does have a flair for the job and who will, one day, probably belong at this level of the game, but who increasingly looks far too naive to exist there at the moment.
That naivety shows itself in almost everything he does. His team-selections are idealistic, his public profile is laughably hubristic and the problems his sides repeat themselves time-after-time.
The last point is the most problematic. When you think of Liverpool under Rodgers, you of course remember the fine attacking football that he implemented last season. Unfortunately, that’s become a secondary association behind a porous defence. It’s the problem which refuses to go away. Every now and again, Liverpool enjoy periods of rigidity and produce sequences in which they do defend well, but a reversion to their error-prone, unstructured default is never far away.
That is symptomatic of a flawed concept and it has to be attributed to Rodgers.
If players make mistakes, blame them, but if the same players continue to make the same mistakes, over and over again, the coaching staff has to be held accountable. Especially so when those mistakes always seem to occur in the same area of the pitch and when they appear to be the product of collective disharmony rather than individual limitations.
Maybe now is the time for Brendan Rodgers to step back and evaluate his governing philosophies? Liverpool is an enormous club and his employment is a precious opportunity, but if this current season repeats itself next year, he would likely do permanent damage to his reputation. Jobs of this size are scarce, especially so for British managers, and if he tarnishes himself at Anfield any more he would likely preclude himself from ever returning to this level again.
There are asterisks against what has happened over these past eight months - not least the absence of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge - but there have also been a lot of avoidable failures and problems which demand a period of self-reflection for Rodgers.
Maybe it’s better to day that away from such an unforgiving environment, especially considering that his relationship with a large proportion of the fanbase seems fractured beyond repair.
Pride and forgiveness will keep Rodgers at Anfield, self-preservation should make him walk away.
For uMAXit: Steven Gerrard & the cost of overstatement