Liverpool have spent an awful lot of money to not go very far during recent times, last season’s League Cup triumph scant if admittedly silver-lined consolation for a team who reached two Champions League finals in the previous seven years. While having insisted to the contrary, January could be a busy month for Rodgers in the transfer market.
The true test, though, will come in the summer. The Northern Irishman will have had a season in which to assess his squad and at least six months in which to pinpoint targets and begin preparing deals.
Until then, many of his current charges remain on trial, with a smattering of fringe players likely to step in for those drained by the hectic festive schedule when Liverpool begin their FA Cup campaign at non-league Mansfield Town on Sunday afternoon.
“We need more competition in the squad,” admits Rodgers.
“I said when I came here that my objective was to build a competitive squad. We have some top players but we also have a gap that needs to be filled in order for us to compete. With the New Year comes the opening of the transfer window and we’ll be aiming to carry out a bit of business to hopefully enable us to have a good second half of the season.”
Liverpool’s infuriating Premier League form will offer hope to Mansfield, who have been fighting to get out of the Conference since relegation out of the Football League in 2008.
“We’ll be aiming to find a consistency of performance in the weeks and months ahead,” admits Rodgers.
“This year we must show courage and consistency as a team in order to progress. In my opening six months here we have shown that on our day we can compete with the best in the league. But what we must do is to make our performance level much more consistent and this will come from an improved mentality – one that understands that every single day you need to be at your best.
“We need to be able to put a run of games together. If not we will keep taking two or three steps forward and then one or two back again.”
Liverpool have played Mansfield only twice before, held to a goalless draw at Field Mill in a League Cup second round tie in 1970 and then needing extra time to win the replay 3-2. Sunday’s clash will realise a dream for Mansfield defender John Dempster, a boyhood Liverpool fan whose deflected header in the replay win over Lincoln City ensured the Stags would welcome Rodgers’ men.
Dempster’s father was born in the next village to Bill Shankly in Scotland and he says: “I have just followed in his footsteps. I went to Anfield seven or eight times as a schoolboy before I signed as a professional for Rushden & Diamonds at 18. Then I had to concentrate on playing for the team that employed me, though Liverpool’s was the first result I looked for afterwards.
“My best experience was on my 13th birthday when I went to Anfield to see Liverpool beat Newcastle 4-3, which was voted the best Premier League game of all-time, which was an unbelievable experience.”
It is the first time Liverpool have been drawn away to non-League opposition since arguably the worst defeat in their history, a 2-1 defeat at Worcester City stage in 1959.
But assistant manager Colin Pascoe says: “The opposition doesn’t matter. Whether you’re playing a Premier League or non-League team, the objective is simple: to progress. It’s still a trophy that the big teams want to win.”