Brendan Rodgers arrived at Liverpool after turning Swansea City into one of the most attractive Premier League sides to watch play football. What is his plan for Liverpool and where is he taking them?
Brendan Rodgers quickly became one of the favourites to replace Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager following the way he had got his Swansea City side to start playing football like Barcelona. There was massive debate over whether he had enough experience to take over at Liverpool but he’s in the job and has started taking the side on a journey where patience is the main necessity for Liverpool fans everywhere.
The first thing Rodgers had to do as Liverpool boss was adjust to a different infrastructure. Since Liverpool fell into American ownership, originally in February 2007, the emphasis at the club has been to run everything like a business in a similar way to Arsenal. This did not change when the Fenway Sports Group spent £300 million on the club in October 2010.
The change was too great for Rafa Benitez who lost control and patience. Dalglish was always football first but went through the exit door because he couldn’t produce the results to drive Liverpool forward as a business and this brings us to where Rodgers is at. The Northern Irishman has already had to spend his first summer watching nine players leave and only three come in as Liverpool’s aim remains to balance the books and create a profit.
So what are Rodger’s options? What can he do and what can he create at Liverpool football club?
Since he came in through the door at Anfield it has been apparent that he wants to try and get Liverpool playing the best football in England. He is using the same processes that he used at Swansea and it’s only natural that it’s going to take a set of players time to adapt to the philosophy of a new manager.
The decision to let Andy Carroll go out on loan to West Ham United was not a poor one considering the sort of football that Rodgers wants to create at the club. It is only considered poor because he was not able to sign anyone else to replace the big Geordie before the transfer window closed. American Clint Dempsey was close to signing but chose to stay in London and signed for Spurs.
So where are Liverpool as far as their quest to play like Barcelona goes? The side is 17th on the Premier League table after suffering defeats away at West Brom and at home to Arsenal. A superb draw was secured at home against Manchester City to go with a 1-1 draw away at Sunderland which really should have been a win.
If John Henry can resist dropping the axe over Rodger’s neck then expect Liverpool to get better. Using the draw at home against Manchester city as an example, Liverpool showed that they can get stuck in and match a big side when it comes to effective football. In that match Liverpool shaded possession with 51% and created 15 shots at goal so Rodgers must be doing something right. They have a big match against Manchester United this weekend and at least fourth place is a realistic possibility.
“I'm under no illusion, there's a lot to be done. You can't hide away from the nuts and bolts, which is about hard work and honesty. It will take a wee bit of time to get it how we want it. I know where we want to end up,” he told the BBC website when he first joined as manager.
Bear in mind Liverpool are playing with Luis Suarez as the only heavyweight striker with Fabio Borini still proving himself in the red shirt. It’s about the philosophy of pass and move, quick football. The introduction of Rahim Sterling proves this because the teenage winger is never going to brush Yaya Toure off the ball. What allows Rodgers to pack his side with talented and slight touch players is the fact he has Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Sebastian Coates in the defence. Let them do the bullying and allow the front six to try and pass the ball into the net. Add the experience and presence of Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing, Joe Cole and Lucas into the mix and it makes for a pretty nice recipe.
As Liverpool get stuck into their Europa League campaign, fans are going to start asking whether they want a brilliant domestic season or some European glory. Instinct would suggest that Rodgers wants to make Liverpool one of the best teams to watch and hardest to beat in the Premier League.
Expect more experimentation in the Europa League, expect some big nights at Anfield but it’s clear Rodgers is in the process of creating his version of total football on a domestic level because getting back into the Champions League is the ultimate sporting and business aim for the club.
Can Rodgers take Liverpool back into the Champions League? Can he lead them to a win tomorrow?