There's no overstating how important this weekend's Merseyside Derby is for the future of Liverpool and their manager Brendan Rodgers. Even the most supportive, optimistic Liverpool fans want Rodgers gone at this point, and if he loses to Everton, the cries for his sacking will be so loud that John Henry hears them across the Atlantic Ocean in Boston. With Jürgen Klopp and Carlo Ancelotti sitting unemployed, likely ready to take over at Anfield if given the right combination of money and control, Rodgers needs to start winning fast to rescue his managerial career.
Liverpool can take one of two paths this season, depending on the result of the derby. They look something like this.
THE WORLD WHERE EVERTON WINS 4-0
In retrospect, it was clear that Rodgers was a fraud all along. His misuse of his squad was as consistently baffling as his press conferences. It's incredible that Hicks and Ian Ayre allowed him to continue on with his job after "The Slip" and the Crystal Palace debacle, two entirely avoidable collapses of Rodgers' making. Instead, they allowed him to halt the progress of the club with one-and-a-quarter more poor seasons.
The Everton loss was painful, but it was necessary. Without it, Rodgers would have hung on longer, perhaps for the entire season. But thanks to inept tactics and Romelu Lukaku's hat trick, FSG knew they had to act fast to save the club, sacked Rodgers and offered Jürgen Klopp full control of the club's youth setup and transfers. It's a move that will pay dividends for years to come and getting a manager of Klopp's pedigree was a massive coup for the club.
He didn't produce amazing immediate results and dropped more points against mid-table sides than supporters liked, but there could be no doubting that the club had a cohesive strategy and an identity after Klopp's appointment. His win over Manchester United and run to the FA Cup semifinal was a real positive, too.
Liverpool might have only finished sixth, but that's hardly Klopp's fault. No one could reasonably be expected to completely make their mark on a club after being hired in October. He's made positive changes, and their goal for next season will be top four.
THE WORLD WHERE LIVERPOOL WINS
Another year, another disappointing Liverpool season. Rodgers managed to avert outright disaster, but no one can say he did a good job at the helm. In a weak Premier League, Champions League qualification was the minimum expectation, but he failed to achieve that goal despite significant investment in the club by the owners over the summer.
How Rodgers managed sixth, no one has any idea. His player selections were inane and his tactics were inept for the entire season, but he somehow lucked his way into a run to the FA Cup semifinal and a late-season win over Manchester United. It was an entirely undeserved finish and there's no doubting that FSG were right to let him go at the end of the season and replace him with Klopp.
Klopp is certainly an amazing hire for the Reds, but imagine what could have been if they'd made the move back in October? Liverpool probably would have salvaged their season and scraped fourth place. Instead, they'll have to endure another season without Champions League football, and their goal for next season will be top four.