It was tough not to be startled by the mood in the away dugout during Liverpool's 6-1 demolition at the hands of a ruthless Stoke City side on the final day of the season. Beleaguered, defeated, deeply disenchanted with life, the torment on Brendan Rodgers' face told the story of a man who is not looking forward to his summer holidays.
The decision has been made; Liverpool will retain Rodgers as their manager for next season. It is a huge decision, magnified by the wreckage that was the Reds' final two games this season, but perhaps a little refreshing considering the revolving door policy operated by an increasing amount of top clubs around Europe.
Some sections of the Kop have screamed for Rodgers' head, while calmer heads have sought to prevail. Whatever way you look at it, Rodgers has a monumental challenge awaiting him this summer.
The first order of business for the under-fire Liverpool manager will have to be the Raheem Sterling debacle. It has become abundantly clear that the once rising star of Anfield has his heart set on departing the club. There should be no butting of heads, no warring words in the media for weeks, Rodgers should cleanse himself of the situation in a swift and firm manner before it begins to impact the other work facing him.
Waving goodbye to Sterling and superseding him with a player of equivalent quality will be extremely beneficial for the mood around Melwood in pre-season. Speaking of quality, Rodgers must focus his energies on recruiting the kind of players that will reinvigorate the club once again. The transfer policy has been a hotly-debated topic in recent times and the decisions made with regards to arrivals will be essential to the rectification of opinion about Rodgers.
Rodgers told doubters to judge him in three years. Three years later and Liverpool have failed to win a trophy and have experienced one chastening experience in the Champions League, where their single victory came in a home game against the unheralded Ludogorets. £210m has been spent, but the squad looks disposable, flooded with unfulfilled potential and frustrating inconsistency.
While Emre Can and Alberto Moreno have done enough to suggest they have futures in the first-team, the rest of last summer's signings have been distinctly underwhelming.
Rickie Lambert was certainly not billed as a replacement for Luis Suarez, but a single league goal has been a disappointing return for a player who has dreamed of donning a Liverpool shirt his entire life. Mario Balotelli, who would have shouldered significantly higher expectations, has been equally insufficient. Meanwhile, Adam Lallana, Lazar Markovic and Dejan Lovren - who cost £65 million between them - have all failed to settle.
Up front is exactly where Rodgers needs to invest heavily. The defence may have looked shambolic against Stoke, but 52 goals compared to 101 last season is too vast a regression to ignore.
Daniel Sturridge's excellent progress has been disturbed by a string of injuries and Liverpool are in desperate need of a genuine goalscorer, a player like Fernando Torres or Suarez, to enchant the Kop with flair, verve and panache. Aston Villa's Christian Benteke has been mentioned and with the right service, his particular skill set could flourish at the club.
Replacing Steven Gerrard appears to be an impossible task, but strengthening in that particular position is of the utmost importance. A player being touted as a key target in midfield is Monaco's ultra-talented Geoffrey Kondogbia, who showed flashes of excellence against Arsenal in the Champions League last-16. While the 22-year-old Frenchman may not possess the attacking prowess of a Gerrard in his prime, he is exactly the defensive shield in front of the back four Liverpool have been missing.
While a few additions may not sound like the rebuilding job a lifetime to everyone, there can be no doubting that Rodgers' future at Liverpool now depends heavily on the fortunes in the coming season. The pressure has intensified, while the expectations have stayed the same; the Liverpool fans want trophies.
If Rodgers oversees another barren season, the exit door looms. A comprehensive tactical review, a focused and effective recruitment drive and a rigorous pre-season training schedule are exactly the ingredients to get Liverpool firing next season.
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