Liverpool fired Brendan Rodgers on Sunday evening just 18 months after leading the club closer to the Premier League title than in any season since 1990.
The team released a statement on the club's website saying “Liverpool Football Club has announced that Brendan Rodgers will leave his post with immediate effect after having his contract terminated.” Translation: don’t let our revolving door hit you on your way out and don’t bump into Jürgen Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti, who, we really, really, hope will be coming through in the other direction.
It’s not Rodgers's fault that Luis Suárez left or Steven Gerrard grew old. It is his fault that he has not been able to build a team with the expensive replacements the club has bought.
Sunday’s typically scruffy and ill-tempered Merseyside derby suggested that Everton is closer to where it wants to be than Liverpool. Everton, it’s true, has lower, more realistic, ambitions but it also managed some of the few passages of joined-up play in the 1–1 draw. The result left Liverpool in 10th place in the EPL standings.
Both goals were gifts. Danny Ings put Liverpool in front with a header from inside the six-yard box. Everton's goalie Tim Howard is a solidly constructed 6'3". Ings is 5'10". Howard could have taken one step and plucked the ball off the striker’s head without even jumping. Yet he stood and watched.
“It was a great to get a header,” Ings told Sky. “I’m only a little man.”
Romelu Lukaku’s equalizing goal was unwrapped and laid at his feet by bumbling defending from Emre Can and Martin Skrtel. That panicky incompetence in the heart of the Liverpool defense was hardly surprising but it must have made disheartening viewing for Liverpool fans and executives. Rodgers has not been able to sort out some chronic problems.
Maybe the Fenway Sports Group, could move Rodgers to the Boston Red Sox. If he could turn that club into a .500 team, which is what he has done with Liverpool, it would be progress.
WENGER HATERS It took Arsenal less than 20 minutes to explode the early season euphoria surrounding Manchester United.
From the start at the Emirates, Santi Cazorla, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and, above all, Alexis Sánchez, made United’s midfield trio of Bastien Schweinsteiger, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney, look old and pedestrian, which they are. The United defense could not make a tackle as Sánchez and Walcott slalomed through.
“We lost every duel, every second ball, we were not tight on their midfielders,” Louis van Gaal, the United manager, told Sky, which broadcast the match in Britain.
Sánchez, twice, and Ozil provided the cutting edge with three fabulous finishes. After 19 minutes, the game was won. It hardly mattered that Arsenal did not manage another dangerous strike until Alex Oxlade-Chamberland hit the United bar in added time.
“We decided to start strong,” Wenger told Sky. “After that we were disciplined."
United steadied. It tested Petr Cech, the Arsenal goalie, a couple of times. Over the 90 minutes it had 62% of possession, an impressive stat away to a passing team like the Gunners. That will please Van Gaal who cherishes possession. By then, Arsenal had exposed the weaknesses in his team.
The question for Arsenal was where this team was on Tuesday when the Gunners lost 3–2 at home to Olympiakos in the Champions League. Eight of the same 11 started that game on the field, but not all of them played (we are looking at you Ozil).
“We missed maybe our game in midweek,” Wenger said. “The performance was certainly not disciplined enough.”
“It’s focus,” Wenger added Sunday. “Subconsciously we think we turn up in the Champions League maybe and it will work.”
In the Champions League, Arsenal’s next two games are against Bayern Munich. The Gunners awful form European form could be a fiendish plot to finish fourth in its group, leaving it free to focus on the Premier League. The danger is Arsenal finishes third and has to play on Thursday nights in the Champions League, though starting the shell-shocked David Ospina in goal would quickly end that inconvenience.
Arsenal moved into second, overtaking United on goal difference. United, though, will grind out results against lesser teams. There will be games when Ozil and Arsenal will fail to turn up again.
For now even the most ardent Wenger haters among the Arsenal fans could have nothing to complain about.
“All #WENGEROUT tweets are temporarily suspended with immediate effect. #AFCvMUFC,” tweeted Piers Morgan.
MOANING MOURINHO José Mourinho is so competitive with Wenger, he’s even trying to beat the Arsenal manager to the sack.
Mourinho’s reaction to Chelsea’s 3–1 home loss to Southampton on Saturday was even by his standards, breathtakingly headline grabbing, egocentric and, it has to be said, articulate.
Tossed a softball opening question by Sky, which had broadcast the game in the UK, Mourinho responded with a cool, calculated seven-minute rant.
Mourinho, as always, blamed the officials, though with even less justification than normal; Southampton should have had two penalties, Chelsea none.
Mourinho dared owner Roman Abramovic to buy out his contract. The manager also rounded on his players.
“They have their responsibilities and they are players who are playing really, really bad individually, ” Mourinho said.
In attack, only Willian is going down landing punches. Eden Hazard is a shadow of the player he was last season. Cesc Fàbregas is not even a shadow. He’s invisible. Diego Costa, again absent suspended, seems to trying to kick and scratch his way out of English soccer. Pedro, after a promising start, looks dazed.
The offense is poor. The defense is far worse. Graziano Pelle bullied Gary Cahill and John Terry. Sadio Mané danced round Cahill, Terry, Ramires and the truly awful Branko Ivanovic at will. Mourinho sent Nemanja Matic on to shore up the defense then yanked him off again.
It’s not clear whether this problem can be fixed, but the solution is probably not publicly berating and humiliating the players. It’s also not clear if Mourinho is the man to fix it.
“if the club sacks me, they sack the best manager that this club had,” Mourinho said.
Mourinho is from the Bela Guttman school of management. The mischievous Hungarian made four stops in Portugal during a peripatetic career, the last at Porto when Mourinho was 10. Guttman famously said: “The third season is fatal.”
Mourinho is very much the mechanic who comes in and fine-tunes squads expensively assembled by someone else. The demands he makes, like nitro fuel, achieves results can burn out the engine quickly. On Saturday Chelsea, again, looked as if it was running on empty.
For Chelsea’s long-term health, Abramovic should call Mourinho’s bluff. The owner should ask for a list of underperforming players, unload them in the January transfer window, and tell Mourinho to build from the club’s stacked youth system. Mourinho, obsessed with his annual trophy average and lacking the patience and generosity to nurture young players, would probably head for the door.
But, like Mourinho, Abramovic is a win-now type of guy. He is probably reaching for his checkbook. The question is whether the first one he fills in has Mourinho as the payee.
MAGIC TRIANGLE Manchester City’s defense remains almost as bad as Chelsea’s. With better finishing, and better officiating, Newcastle could have scored four in the first 40 minutes at the Etihad on Saturday.
At the other end, however, City can blow away any team, especially one as neurotic and fragile as Newcastle. Sergio Agüero was back to his lethal, voracious, best as he scored five in 23 minutes. Kevin de Bruyne sparkled again, and scored again. But the principal difference between this 6–1 victory and last week’s 4–1 loss to Spurs, was that David Silva was back. He was masterful as he pulled the strings and created space for the two men ahead of him. Silva helps turn Agüero and de Bruyne into pure gold.
ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? Leicester could have buried Norwich on Saturday, instead the Foxes ended the game clinging desperately to a 2–1 victory.
Claudio Ranieri didn’t care. “I am an old defender,” the Leicester manager told the BBC. “I like when there is a battle on the box.”
Ranieri could not stop grinning. And well he might smile. The victory lifted Leicester, briefly, to fourth in the table. The exhilarating way it attacked showed that its position is not false.
Alan Pardew, who is reportedly eyeing the England job, tries to project a more serious image. After Crystal Palace dispatched West Brom, 2–0, the Palace manager faced the BBC cameras to talk about the victory. He praised his chairman and his predecessors saying, with a deadpan expression: “It's been great for me to put the cream on the top of this particular trifle.”
Pardew fretted about future injuries and loss of form. When a smile threatened to break across his face anyway, Pardew visibly bit his lip to stop it.
Come on Alan, you are allowed to grin. Palace is deservedly in the top four. Like Leicester, Palace is just three points behind Manchester City, in first, and looking down on Tottenham, Liverpool, and, in the far distance, Chelsea. That’s worth a smile.
PERFECT TIME TO SAY “HOWAY” Dick Advocaat resigned as Sunderland manager on Sunday. His timing may be perfect.
Sunderland finally looked like a Premier League team in the first half on Saturday when it scored twice and could have doubled that against West Ham away. Yet, after Jeremain Lens, followed a brilliant goal with two asinine yellow cards, the home team was fortunate cling on for a 2–2 draw.
After the game, Advocaat, looked spent. Just as he started to turn the team around, he quit. Yet a glance at the fixture list suggests this might be the moment for Sunderland to blood a new boss. The club’s next home match, on Oct. 25, is the Tyne-Wear derby.
After Paolo di Canio took over, in March, 2013, his first victory, in his third match, was away to Newcastle. Gus Poyet’s first victory, in his second game in charge in October 2013, was home to Newcastle. Advocaat’s first opponent after taking over last March, was Newcastle at home. He won that match.
Sunderland has stayed in the Premier League the last three seasons because it keeps beating its neighbor.
Even if Newcastle was not playing badly, history suggests that Sunderland should change managers before every derby. It was time for Advocaat to leave.