Liverpool FC’s Leader under pressure

Brendon Rogers

Brendan Rogers’ performance as Manager of Liverpool Football Club is now under scrutiny. There’s a sense of disunity and tension between Manager and the club’s passionate supporters

by Paul Hinks

It was just 12 short months ago that the uncharismatic Rogers was crowned League Managers’ Association Manager of the Year. Yet, before Liverpool’s recent home game against Queen’s Park Rangers [May 2nd 2015], The BBC reported that a Liverpool supporters group chartered a small plane and flew a banner over Anfield reading “Rogers out, Rafa in”.  A clear message symbolizing the desire from some fans for the Liverpool hierarchy to make changes and re-instate previous Liverpool Manager, Rafa Benetez.

Liverpool FC remains in a state of perpetual transition

With the close of the 2014/15 season. Rodgers will become the first Liverpool manager since the 1950s to fail to win a trophy over three seasons in charge. The closest came last season when the club finished second in the Premier League. Rogers and Liverpool appear to have dropped back this this season.

Getting it Right … then Getting it Wrong

Rogers did well in the previous campaign. but coming close is often not good enough. A slip by the team captain Steven Gerrard at an inopportune moment in a crucial game against rivals Chelsea gifted a chance for Chelsea who subsequently won the game. Liverpool’s title challenge fell away.

This season, Liverpool and Rogers have never really reached what Tuckman describes as the ‘perform and norm’ stage of team development.

Tuckman’s team development model

Tuckman’s classic model provides a framework usually applied to project teams to help team members better understand the different phases of team development. Manchester Business School’s MBA Global Events and Leadership module uses the framework to help students learn more about team dynamics and their overall effectiveness as a team.

I suggest that Tuckman’s model can extrapolated and applied to Rogers’ and Liverpool’s season.

Rogers has proven man-management skills

The BBC recently provided a balanced assessment of Rogers’ ability to manage the big names providing insights into his leadership style:

“He proved he could handle Luis Suarez, coaxing the best season of his career from the combustible Uruguayan as Liverpool almost won the league after getting tough with him when he wanted to leave in pre-season.

Rodgers also helped Daniel Sturridge to deliver the finest form of his career when he was fit after unfulfilling spells at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Steven Gerrard’s departure was always going to be a hospital pass for one Liverpool manager and it landed at the feet of Rodgers. The debate about whether he was offered a contract early enough continues and is more of a question for Liverpool’s hierarchy but the brutal truth is Gerrard’s form this season proves the time is right for club and player to part ways.

As for Raheem Sterling, it is hard to see how Rodgers could have handled him better. He even allowed him a break in Jamaica at the turn of the year to recharge his batteries.

It is clear Sterling’s relationship with the club itself is now fragile but it is tough to see how the blame could be pinned on Rodgers, who has been nothing but supportive. The idea that Sterling has become disaffected by being played out of position is also a myth.”

Reflecting on a season of ‘Storming’

Liverpool’s season has can be reflected on as having plenty ‘storming’ – both on and off the pitch. Individual Liverpool players have tested Rogers leadership skills. Think Balotelli, or perhaps even Sterling.

Balotelli in particular has struggled to fit into the Liverpool team and its high tempo style. Conversely, Rogers and Liverpool could be accused of being unable to successfully leverage the talent that Balotelli undoubtedly has and play to his strengths. An interesting dilemma itself.

Balotelli’s rebellious streak can be seen in the way that he typically labours around the pitch, rather than demonstrating a level of commitment and high tempo work ethic associated with previous Liverpool stars. A classic example of a team member not being utilized effectively for the benefit of the team?

Liverpool’s team need to grow together if they are to succeed. Rogers must motivate and nurture his team of highly paid talent and get them to gel in such a way that they break through the barriers of mediocracy and start to perform to their potential.

Moving beyond normal levels of Team Performance

As Chelsea clinched the title this weekend [May 3rd, 2015], Liverpool fans maybe forgiven for casting an envious eye was towards Stamford Bridge and the achievements of Jose Mourinho. Recently criticized in the media for playing boring football, Mourinho has motivated and galvanized the Chelsea team to deliver success in the currency that Liverpool fans can relate to.

Where Mourinho effortlessly relates to ‘his’ Chelsea team and Chelsea supporters, its clear that Rogers now needs to build and foster emotional attachment with both his Liverpool players and the Liverpool supporters.

Football is frequently described as a ‘results’ driven business. The better run clubs support their appointed manager in different ways: funding for new players, providing adequate training facilities to allow their players and team to develop, the list goes on. The BBC’s reporting of support for Rogers from Liverpool’s former chief executive Rick Parry is timely – Rogers and Liverpool will need to break out of the ‘storming’ phase of Tuckman’s model and reach the elevated standards of previous Liverpool teams

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