The 40-year spent most of last season introducing himself and his ideas at the club and on the team and, in many ways, undoing the damage done by his predecessors at Anfield. Liverpool finished 7th last term – a one-place improvement on their 2011/12 position and with 9 more points on the board as well but this season the Reds have really emerged as a Premier League superpower once again.
Rodgers’ biggest task was largely undoing the mistakes made by Kenny Dalglish who, even though a Liverpool legend, made a number of costly errors in judgment – most prominently in the transfer market.
Dalglish brought in top striker Luis Suarez, of course, for £23 million from Ajax but that was somewhat overshadowed at the time by the wasteful signings of Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, and Charlie Adam (amongst others) for a cost as a foursome of £73.5 million and have all since been sold by Rodgers for a combined return of just £37.5 million which is very nearly half the price they were collective bought for.
Meanwhile, rather than focus on the negatives, Rodgers put his best foot forward in the transfer windows since his arrival and brought in some of the best signings Liverpool have made in years. Joe Allen, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho especially were brought in between the summer of 2012 and January of this year for just £35.5 million, which represents some of the best business in the league.
To acquire such an enormously gifted prospect and talent like Coutinho for just £8.5 million is a demonstration of Rodgers’ exceptional eye for brilliance. Sturridge has been nothing short of sensational and Allen has improved tremendously in the last year or so.
This summer’s additions of Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure, Simon Mignolet, Mamadou Sakho and Tiago Ilori have also paid dividends overall and the squad seems to have the ideal balance now of youth and experience, top quality and cultured professionals and eager youngsters with potential.
Meanwhile, the team’s style has been slowly and gradually changed from a disjoined and dysfunctional team reliant on one or two star players into a high-functioning total footballing machine that works even without the key stars like captain Steven Gerrard, and strikers Suarez and Sturridge as we’ve seen this season when one or more of them has been unavailable for a run of games.
The system facilitates the players to play regardless of who makes up the starting XI and that means it’s the philosophy that rules them, that’s their main aim in the game, every game, to stay true to the concept and the way Rodgers wants them to play no matter what happens over the 90 minutes of a match or the 38 games of a season. They stay true and, as we saw against Tottenham in Sunday’s 5-0 demolition job, there really is no stopping them when they believe in that way and stick to the scripted system knowing it won’t fail them.
This Plan A and blueprint for success that Rodgers has spent the last year and a half indoctrinating the players with and improving the implementation of gradually now has them high in confidence that they can beat anyone. Again, the win at White Hart Lane last weekend is an apt demonstration that this team knows what it wants and now, crucially, knows how to achieve it and that has many players in the team and the squad playing above what we knew their technical capability was.
If we look at the performance of Henderson and Allen in the absence of Gerrard we can see that Rodgers has these young players motivated to show the best of themselves and give their all for the team and the badge. He’s a fantastic man-manager in the way he brings the best out of the individual for the benefit of the whole. I could name a dozen players who are benefitting from working with Rodgers – Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Jon Flanagan, Sturridge, Coutinho and Suarez too and as a result the team and the club are benefitting overall.
Confidence is half the battle won but the other half is consistency – if Liverpool are to win titles again and reach the great heights the club has seen in its history once again, the players need to be consistently functioning individually and as a team at their top level of capability over 90 minutes of a match and 38 games of a season and, at the moment, that is exactly what Rodgers is working towards.
The Reds currently sit 2nd place in the Premier League just two points off Arsenal after losing just 3 games (the same number as the Gunners) and taking 33 points from an available 48. By the same point last term they had put just 22 points on the board and were down in 10th place, which shows you, what a remarkable and rapid transformation has occurred in the last 12 months under Rodgers. They’d scored 22 goals and conceded 20 by this point last term – this season they’ve scored 39 goals and conceded 18. Their goal difference was plus two after 16 games played last season, this time around its plus 21.
I’ve spoken about the confidence but what’s equally as important is the belief, which I believe is where Rodgers has succeeded most admirably at Anfield. The boss of the current leaders Arsene Wenger once said ‘If you not believe you can do it, you have no chance at all’ and I make him right on that assertion.
Not only has Rodgers given young players opportunities, struggling players patience and faith, star players increased motivation and desire but he’s given the players, the team, the fans and the city overall the belief that Liverpool can and will be English and European superpowers again under his reign and, because they believe they can, I have not a shred of doubt that they will realize that dream in the years to come so long as they stand by their man.
image: © bernard-chan