London – by Steven Griffiths (AFP)
Brendan Rodgers admits he must restore Liverpool’s shattered morale quickly after a dismal 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace raised questions about his job security.
Rodgers’ team hit a new low in an already troubled campaign at rain-lashed Selhurst Park on Sunday as they crashed to a third successive loss in the Premier League.
Rickie Lambert had given Liverpool the perfect start with his first goal for the club in the second minute, but the Reds surrendered their advantage in lacklustre fashion with Dwight Gayle equalising before late goals from Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak gave Palace their first win since September.
The last time Liverpool faced Palace in May — a 3-3 draw that virtually ended their title challenge — they were in the midst of a fine season which ended with them finishing just two points behind champions Manchester City.
But after this latest setback, they trudged away from south London trailing leaders Chelsea by 18 points and sit closer to the relegation zone than the Champions League places.
With Liverpool’s season teetering on the brink of a full-blown crisis, Reds manager Rodgers acknowledged he will start to hear more criticism and calls for his sacking unless he can reverse the downward spiral immediately.
“I’m not arrogant enough to think I will be in the job through anything. Any manager will tell you they have to win games,” Rodgers said.
“I have a great communication line with the owners. We’ve been honest with each other.
“But ultimately you have to get results. They have to see development on the field and, barring this period, I think our development has been good and very fast.
“I can only do my best and fight even harder and take responsibility. Any pressure now comes on to me. It’s my responsibility as a manager to pick the best team that I think can win the game.”
– Transition –
The hangover from their unsuccessful title bid, combined with the departure of star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona and the injury problems suffered by England forward Daniel Sturridge, have left Liverpool a shadow of the team that played in such vibrant style last season.
Rodgers’ new signings have so far struggled to adapt to his system and the Liverpool boss conceded his players are short of confidence and unity at present.
“We were nowhere near the levels we would expect. You saw a team with no confidence,” Rodgers said.
“Our passing was a wee bit tentative and we made mistakes that you wouldn’t expect from a team at this level.
“Overall there wasn’t that intensity and togetherness. When you don’t get results the confidence is affected, there’s absolutely no doubt.
“We are in a transition phase, but whatever phase it is we have to be better than that.”
An anonymous display from England winger Raheem Sterling summed up Liverpool’s underwhelming efforts of late and, with a crucial Champions League tie at Ludogorets Razgrad looming on Wednesday, Rodgers has to work fast to rebuild his squad’s belief.
“Raheem is a mirror of the team at the moment. It’s a difficult time and so his confidence and intensity isn’t so high,” Rodgers said.
“They are all doing their best but the confidence is low. Some of them are very young and won’t be at their best for a few years, but they have to be better. It’s up to me to manage that.”
After taking only one point from their last five matches, Palace climbed out of the relegation zone with their best performance of manager Neil Warnock’s second spell in charge.
“That was a real Neil Warnock team performance. I thought the weather helped, it was an old-fashioned kind of day,” Warnock said.
“I’m pleased to get three goals but if anything I’m disappointed we didn’t get more.
“That’s this league in general. If you take anyone lightly you can get turned over.”