Dick Advocaat has stepped down as manager of Sunderland, with the Black Cats languishing in the relegation zone, without a victory in eight matches, while Brendan Rodgers, who had Liverpool on pace to win its first top flight title since the 1989-1990 season just two years ago, was sacked by John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group after Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with city rival Everton.
Sunderland has been an interesting job. Since the Black Cats return to the Premier League, for the 2007-2008 season, there have been SEVEN permanent managers in charge of the club, and once the next man has signed on, it will be eight. Roy Keane, Ricky Sbragia, Steve Bruce, Martin O’Neill, Paulo DiCanio, Gus Poyet, and Advocaat have all taken the reigns, and all left after less than two years in charge. With all the turnover, it is a wonder that the club has not been relegated since the 2005-2006 campaign. The next manager, and the rumor mill has churned out the names of Bob Bradley (that would be an interesting hire; he could do well in England) and Sam Allardyce, has maybe the toughest job of any of the above names. Sunderland look lost, along with fellow Northeast compatriots Newcastle. At least the Magpies have some talent on their roster, and Steve McClaren should turn around Newcastle at some point. The Black Cats have escaped the executioner so many times over the past few years, and you have to wonder if this season may be the one where their time runs out, and they drop to the Championship. Usually, the three teams that came up are the best bets to go back down straight away, but that is not the case this year. Norwich City and Watford are playing well, so far, while Bournemouth may be in trouble without Callum Wilson. If I had to bet now, I would say Sunderland will get relegated.
Brendan Rodgers took Liverpool as close as could be to winning the Scousers that coveted 19th title, that would have seen them climb closer to Manchester United for top-flight championships in England. If not for a Stevie G slip against Chelsea, that allowed Demba Ba to walk in and score (my second favorite day that year, when David Moyes was tanking United), and a complete capitulation at Crystal Palace, when Liverpool were 3-0 up and kept attacking, trying to even up the goal difference with Manchester City, and gave up three goals in the last 20 minutes, to draw 3-3 and completely throw away the title (Dwight Gayle, a huge United fan, scored the last two, and Luis Suarez was walked off the pitch crying by Steven Gerrard; my favorite day of that season), Rodgers would have a job for life. Instead, less than two seasons later, he is now out of a job.
Rodgers is not totally to blame, as the Liverpool set-up, with its transfer board calling the shots on player recruitment, is not conducive to winning. The fact that it is a selling club does not help either, as in the past two seasons, Liverpool has sold Luis Suarez, the reigning Player of the Year when sold (all Suarez did in his first year for Barcelona was to score the winning goal in the Champion League Final, and was one of the three finalists for the UEFA Player of the Year), and Raheem Sterling, the most promising under-21 English player in the pipeline. That the club wasted the money from those two sales on players that might not help Sunderland did not help Rodgers cause, but once again, that is not all on him.
With the news Friday that Jürgen Klopp has signed a deal to become the new manager, the Scouse fans have now, once again, already started to celebrate. But what does it say about the state of the club that Klopp did not want to go to a big club, but preferred to take on a club with a project? Klopp should have more control over player recruitment than Rodgers did, but at this point, Liverpool have fallen well behind Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United on the English football pole. Will Klopp be able to change that? We shall soon see.
Klopp did a great job at Borussia Dortmund, winning two Bundesliga titles in a row, and getting to the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final, where it lost 2-1 to Bayern Munich. But how much of that was the players that he had? Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski were two main cogs, but what happened when those two players left for Bayern Munich? Dortmund fell off the map, and were in the relegation zone for most of last season.
Watching the scintillating form of Lewandowski right now, maybe it was the players. I think we will find out quickly with Klopp. He has enough time to get Liverpool back into the top four, and with Chelsea a disaster, there may be an open spot.