Jan Molby

Title charge can wait, top four should be Liverpool’s goal again

Jan Molby

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Brendan Rodgers has rewritten his job description and rightly been rewarded with a new contract.

He has delivered success to Anfield ahead of time – getting them back into the Champions League – and an improved long-term deal is the reward.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the contract was still loaded with clauses for both sides to get out of the deal, but the contract is a statement: the owners are 100 per cent behind Rodgers.

The owners admire him not only as a manager, but how he conducts himself as a person. Rodgers looks set to stick around for the long haul.

But forget thoughts of a sustained period of Liverpool dominance. The 70s and 80s are gone and it’s unlikely they’ll return. Task one was to get back in Europe’s top competition. Task two is staying there.

Next season will prove tricky for Rodgers. A minimum of six Champions League games will have a knock-on effect to at least 12 domestic fixtures. It’s those games before and after European nights that will determine Liverpool’s league position – and that’s why it will be hard for Rodgers to improve on second place.

If Liverpool can enjoy a run in the Champions League and maintain their top four spot, then I think the fans will still be happy. It’s as much an exercise for Rodgers in how to balance the squad, as it is for the players to adapt to top football in Europe before returning to the English game.

Of course, the Reds can still dream of another Istanbul. Although Liverpool do not look capable of winning the Champions League at present, something strange happens to Anfield on European nights. They might not hit the heights of 2005, but I think they’ll surprise a few teams.

Then, possibly the following year, attention can turn to having a right crack at winning the Premier League.

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The manager’s new contract might be a sign of intent from the club to commit to a project and I hope the club now doesn’t start signing players for £40-50 million. That wouldn’t be the right move.

Liverpool need three players and I would go for Southampton pair Dejan Lovren and Adam Lallana and Bayer Leverkusen’s Emre Can.  They should make those three their summer targets as they’re used to the Rodgers mould of high-tempo football, with and without the ball.

The transfer window is perhaps the one area that hasn’t gone 100 per cent for Rodger since he started. But he’s good at extracting talent over time – as we’ve seen with Joe Allen recently – so major overhauls aren’t necessary.

Quite a few fans will be dreaming of a first Premier League title next year after going close this time around, but with the other sides set to strengthen and Liverpool having to juggle European matches, it will be a big ask.

But Rogers is building something exciting.

Four Liverpool managers currently rank above him: Bill Shankly, Bob Paisley, Kenny Dalglish and Joe Fagan. And yet, aside from Shankly, they had easier circumstances.

Rodgers has built a brand of football that gets fans out of their seats. That’s why people believe Brendan could be the man to deliver a title back to Anfield.

Liverpool probably won’t enjoy a prolonged stint of domestic success, but Rodgers signing a new contract is a sign that the club are committed to a long journey – one that might just yield a Premier League title.

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