Brendan Rodgers has done it again. The Scottish manager has managed to fumble Leicester’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League for the second season in a row. The Foxes spent the most time in the top four out of all the teams yet now find themselves in the Europa League.
So, is he really the right man for the current job or the showman nature of his team hides the many flaws of the former Liverpool boss. Liverpool, yes. That is really where Rodgers truly started the business of choking at the most crucial of moments.
MORE THAN JUST A SLIP
Rodgers joined the Reds before the 2012-13 season. At the time he was widely regarded as one of the leading managers around. Having led Swansea to the Premier League followed by a 11th place finish, he was considered the perfect man to replace Kenny Dalglish at Anfield.
That first season would prove to be a stern test of his mettle. Liverpool finished 7th in the league, one position better than the previous season. Though it was nothing to celebrate for a club of this stature, their performances in the cup competitions were even more woeful.
Rodgers was embarrassed by third-tier Oldham Athletic 3-2 in the FA Cup before exiting the League Cup at the hands of his former employers 3-1. The general feeling would have been one of more disappointment to follow, which it did but in the most unexpected sort of manner.
On this day in 2013, Oldham Athletic beat Liverpool 3-2 in the FA Cup Fourth Round.
Talk about upset. pic.twitter.com/hkN9YYlcIe
— ODDSbible (@ODDSbible) January 27, 2017
Propelled by the two leading scorers in the league in Luis Suarez (31 goals) and Daniel Sturridge (21 goals), Liverpool were flirting with top two positions all throughout the season. However, they dropped to 4th after a 2-1 loss to Chelsea which closed out 2013. But the good days were just around the corner. Rodgers’ men went on a 16 match undefeated run, including 14 wins to sit atop the table before a match against the Blues.
Holding a three point lead over second-place Manchester City, Liverpool knew they had to win. Then came the infamous slip by captain Steven Gerrard, allowing Demba Ba to score for the away side. A defensive shutout and a further goal greatly damaged Liverpool’s chances as Manchester City went top due to their superior goal difference. Then came the collapse.
Six years ago today, at approx 2.53pm GMT, the vast majority of the football world cried tears of laughter as big as April artichokes when Steven Gerrard slipped allowing Demba Ba a free run at goal to score for Chelsea against Liverpool in front of the Kop at Anfield. pic.twitter.com/A5RFVS829k
— Mark Worrall (@gate17marco) April 27, 2020
Having gone 3-0 up against Crystal Palace, the Reds crumbled under pressure as Rodger astonishingly failed to see the game through. The Eagles scored thrice in the final 11 minutes of the match to kill any hopes of Liverpool winning their first league title since 1990. The end of the game saw a flood of tears from Rodgers’ players as only the manager knew how such a golden chance had slipped away.
FULL-TIME Crystal Palace 3-3 Liverpool. The Eagles stage a stunning fightback to put a huge dent in @LFC's title bid pic.twitter.com/3rhNRjznKJ
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 5, 2014
A final day win did nothing to ease the pain of losing the league in such a fashion over the final stretch. Rodgers would never scale those heights again, his team conceding nine goals over the final two games of the next season, including a 6-1 drubbing by Stoke City, on their way to a 6th place finish. He would be sacked after just eight games of the 2015-16 season, with the club in 10th.
LEADER OF THE FOXES
During his time away from England, Rodgers picked up the domestic treble twice in his two-and-a-half seasons with Celtic, including an undefeated debut campaign. Hardly a surprise, given the lack of competition in the Scottish top flight, and Celtic being serial winners even before Rodgers arrived.
Celtic Football Club – #inVIncibles pic.twitter.com/ZUDc4Rbay4
— Celtic Football Club (@CelticFC) May 21, 2017
He joined Leicester City in February 2019, taking over from the departed Claude Puel. The Foxes at that time could have made a late push for the Europa League, but a haul of five points from the final five matches was never going to be enough in any season. Thus began once again, Rodgers’ love for a good collapse towards the end of campaigns.
The 2019-20 season would be the season of so near yet so far once again. Leicester would be in the top four for 30 match days straight starting from mid-September. With hopes of Champions League football getting stronger with every passing week, few would have expected what came next in the final month of the season.
FULL-TIME Leicester 0-2 Man Utd
Man Utd finish in third place as Leicester drop to fifth #LEIMUN pic.twitter.com/wlcoRtCkRM
— Premier League (@premierleague) July 26, 2020
Five matches. Four points. Three losses. You do not get to play amongst the European elite with this kind of record. Rodgers’ seemed to be haunted by the number two. Once again, his team dropped the final two games of the season, losing by an aggregate of 5-0 against Tottenham and Manchester United to finish fifth and enter into the Europa League. Tottenham…remember that name though.
TROPHY OR TOP FOUR?
The Foxes started the current season as brightly as anyone. They would spend 36 match days in the top four. They missed out on Champions League football again. But they won silverware. Yes, that kind of season.
Brendan Rodgers' first-ever major trophy in England 🙌#EmiratesFACup pic.twitter.com/xdmgw4AmUT
— Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) May 16, 2021
Heading into May, everyone hoped Rodgers would not do a “Rodgers” again. He did. Leicester picked up three points from the four games, including a trifecta of losses. The last two came against Chelsea, whom they had already defeated in the FA Cup final to win their maiden cup, and Tottenham. The loss against Spurs would particularly be hard to take.
242 – Leicester ended more days in the Premier League’s top four than any other side this season and yet failed to finish inside the top four places (242 days). Unlucky.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 23, 2021
With Chelsea losing, all Leicester had to do was win. They even took the lead on two occasions, before being pegged back each time. Eventually, they ended up losing 4-2 and once again, you guessed it, Europa League awaits. Furthermore, its even less fun considering that Rodgers has never made it past the round-of-32 stage of that competition with ANY team in his managerial career.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE A MUST
With the Foxes winning the FA Cup for the first time in their history, the pressure on Rodgers may not show as harshly as some of his contemporaries. However, he will surely know that Europa League will just not cut it anymore. Leicester have established themselves as one of the top sides in the Premier League and are well poised to run it back again.
Leicester have spent longer in the top four in the last two seasons (567 days) than Elvis Presley has spent at No. 1 in the UK singles charts (560).
— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) May 23, 2021
Rodgers’ peculiar affinity with late-season collapses is as much a part of his legacy as his successful man-management. Even though players have always called him a good manager in the dressing room, the results on the pitch have to start reflecting his potential. Surely, he will be leading this team again next season with the goal of making the Champions League again. A consecutive third miss, however, will definitely spell the end of him as a top European prospect.