Anyone that saw Liverpool’s line-up on Saturday would have been drawn to the defensive shape of the team - four players whose natural position is at centre-half, with Kolo Toure and Mamadou Sakho filling in at full-back.
Those who are familiar with the Gerard Houllier days will have probably drawn parallels with the Frenchman’s regular line-up in the season where Houllier led Liverpool to a treble of the League, FA and UEFA Cups along with a league finish that led Liverpool to Champions League qualification.
One thing that is always essential to Rodgers’ attacking set-up is how he plays the full-backs. It was understandable for the Liverpool manager to include Kolo Toure given the unconvincing nature of Andre Wisdom’s performances so far this season and with Glen Johnson out injured. But with Jose Enrique on the bench for Sakho to play left-back did seem right. Rodgers has since claimed, however, that Enrique was benched to protect a niggling knee problem the Spaniard has.
But Sakho rarely got forward, and that stifled a lot of Liverpool’s attacking play against Southampton at the weekend. That particular experiment against Southampton went awry, but there were parallels with Houllier’s style in the win over Manchester United at Anfield, where, in the second half, Liverpool opted to sit deep and never looked in real danger.
Houllier himself liked that, telling Sky Sports: 'I was impressed by their solid resilience and team spirit. When you win 1-0 you can’t say the result is easy; you’ve got to fight and they’ve showed they’re capable of doing that'.
Houllier’s Liverpool side conceded the fewest league goals in his first full season in charge, so it's probably no surprise that Rodgers is trying to embrace some of the stronger aspects of the Frenchman’s game.
At its best, Houllier had a side that was effective on the counter-attack. Rodgers, however, seems to have added more pace to the team - notably in Victor Moses, an effective player to have in such a side.
During Rodgers' second season in charge, are we going to see more Houllier-esque experiments ?
image: © Bernard C