In what has been a week to forget for Liverpool, it is unfortunate that Brendan Rodgers has come out of it with his reputation damaged amongst some supporters.
Since his appointment in 2012, Rodgers has often preached about giving players a chance that were worthy of an opportunity, which made his team selection against Chelsea all the more baffling.
Given that Rodgers had insisted he was in no means disrespecting the Champions League or indeed the Liverpool supporters with his team selection against Real Madrid last week, it seemed that those who had taken the opportunity to impress would surely be rewarded with a start against the league leaders.
Kolo Toure was the obvious choice, given he performed superbly against arguably the best attack in world football. Yet it was Dejan Lovren – the man who has made more individual errors than any other player in the division – that was selected alongside Martin Skrtel once again.
Whilst Adam Lallana, Fabio Borini and Lucas Leiva could also perhaps feel aggreived not to be given a start, the omission of Toure has made Rodgers look hypocritical to put it mildly.
If a player keeps Cristiano Ronaldo quiet for 90 minutes and still can’t get in the starting line up for the next game at centre back, then Toure may as well pack it in all together. What more can he do to get a start?
Rodgers was adamant he chose a team in midweek he felt could win the game, and labelled it as ‘disrespectful’ to describe the likes of Toure and Adam Lallana ‘reserves.’
That comment would have been far easier to take seriously if either had made an appearance against Chelsea, with the fact Joe Allen was picked ahead of Lallana to come on from the bench another baffling decision on Rodgers’ part.
Allen has previously changed games from the bench in fairness to Rodgers – think the 3-2 win over Tottenham in March 2013 and the 4-3 win over Swansea in February 2014 – but Chelsea is an entirely different calibre of opposition.
Why would you leave a proven playmaker – someone who was signed for £25million in the summer – and someone who was part of the PFA team of the year last season as an unused substitute when chasing a game at home?
The fact that Rodgers also took off Emre Can and Philippe Coutinho – the Reds two best players on the day by a country mile – saw supporters show the first signs of turning against their manager, as whistles rang around Anfield.
The way in which Chelsea comfortably saw out the win at Anfield, suggests Rodgers has plenty to learn before he can consider emulating former mentor Jose Mourinho – as much as that pains me to say.
It is still ridiculous to suggest Rodgers should be under pressure however. After Swansea’s Garry Monk, he is the youngest manager in the Premier League, and he is bound to make mistakes.
His work last season is worthy of all the plaudits he has recieved, but like Gerard Houllier and Rafael Benitez before him, the Northern Irishman is struggling to build on the success of a campaign in which the Reds narrowly missed out on the Premier League title.
And what is perhaps of biggest concern is the way Rodgers is showing signs of the stubbornness that ultimatley proved his predecessors downfall.
His persistence with Mario Balotelli as a loan striker has proved costly, and the way in which he insisted he had no regrets over his team selection in the Bernabeu was also worrying.
Whilst his success last season should afford him time and backing to turn the situation around, Rodgers has certainly not helped himself over the past week in particular, and has contributed to the pressure he has found himself under with some strange decisions.
It is by no means too late for the Reds to enjoy a succesful season, when you consider the aim before a ball was even kicked was to achieve a top four finish and to win a trophy.
After a nightmare start and with Daniel Sturridge returning after the international break, the Reds still find themselves only three points behind Arsenal and one behind Manchester United – the two teams we will surely be competing with for those final Champions League places come May.
We are also just a win away at Bournemouth away from a Capital One Cup semi final, whilst wins against Ludogorets and FC Basel should see us progress to the last 16 of the Champions League, whilst an FA Cup campaign is still to come.
Rodgers has time on his side to turn things around, but what is important is that he learns from the mistakes he has made, and in doing so does not force unneccessary pressure on himself again with such strange decisions at important times.
How costly have Brendan’s decisions been lately? Would you consider him under pressure? Do you back him to turn things around? Let us know your thoughts below.