“The Chihauhaus” of this season’s horse-themed title race according to Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool have exceeded everyone’s expectations this season and now find themselves at the end of their five year period in the doldrums, competing at the business end of the Premier League table once again.
But are they really title contenders? Rodgers himself doesn’t think so (at least not publicly) but the fans are allowing themselves to dream that the 24 year itch may soon be scratched and the long and painful wait for title number nineteen may soon be at an end. It’s a wait that has seen them usurped by their fiercest rivals as the most successful side in English football history.
Liverpool have been phenomenal at times this year, particularly in the past month. The way they tore Arsenal apart at Anfield was a joy to behold for the neutral and for fans of fast-paced attacking football. Even Arsenal fans present at Anfield that afternoon must have known they were witnessing something special. The speed at which Liverpool were able to break from their own defensive third to Arsenal’s penalty area was other-worldly at times. The 4-0 half-time scoreline didn’t flatter them at all. It should have been more.
This same attacking mentality saw them stick four past Everton and five past Swansea in recent weeks and they now have replaced Manchester City as the Premier League’s leading scorers this season. It’s quite possible that both sides could reach the 100-goal mark this season, a feat that’s only been done once before.
Liverpool’s rise this season is largely thanks to the form of their two prolific strikers who have really taken it in turns to bask in the limelight as Liverpool’s main man. Danny Sturridge started the season well scoring in practically every game. Luis Suarez then returned from suspension and duly began scoring in practically every game. Sturridge got injured and missed the entire festive program allowing Suarez to effectively etch his name of the PFA Player of the Year award. Since Sturridge returned, he’s scored in literally every game since whilst Suarez has become more of a creator.
Both strikers have more league goals than starts this season which is a very telling statistic. The strikeforce is undoubtedly of Premier League winning standard, what about the rest of the side?
Rodgers has until recently failed to find a settled starting XI this season. Aside from Henderson (who has found himself playing in several different roles depending on the formation), Gerrard and Mignolet, the starting line-up has been drastically rotated and the formation changed throughout the season. One player who found himself very much on the fringes until about December was Raheem Sterling. He regained a place in the line-up mostly due to the injury to Sturridge and his form has been so impressive since that Rodgers cannot justify leaving him out.
Coutinho and Henderson are two that seem to have found their positions shifted around quite a bit this season. Both have been asked to play wide roles at times despite being more naturally central players. Lately, with Rodgers incorporating Sterling into the attack, either Suarez or Sturridge has been asked to play a wide role, leaving Coutinho and Henderson to play in the middle with Gerrard behind as an anchor.
Steven Gerrard has been excellent this season and his career-long wait for that elusive Premier League winners medal may be nearing an end. He’s been playing in a new holding role recently allowing Henderson and Coutinho to get forward and support attacks. He’s contributed seven goals this season (mostly penalties) and nine assists from his new deeper role but his average of three tackles per game is where he’s helping to make a bigger difference.
It’s obvious Liverpool’s defence is their weak link. A weak link that has recently cost them four points against Aston Villa and West Brom, exactly the margin between them and the summit at the moment. Winning games 4-3 like they did against Swansea last weekend is fantastic entertainment for the fans but not really sustainable in terms of a title charge. What happens when Suarez and Sturridge have a relatively off day and don’t score more than one goal between them? Points are virtually guaranteed to be dropped.
Martin Skrtel, Kolo Toure, Glen Johnson, Mamadou Sakho and Simon Mignolet to name but a few have not pulled their weight this season. I don’t think Rodgers knows his best back four, I don’t think he can select a settled one and the result is that Liverpool have conceded 35 goals in the Premier League this season, more than West Ham, Hull and Southampton.
So can they win the league? I don’t think they will this year. They have some of the elements in place but never has the side with anything like the 10th best defence in the Premier League found themselves placed 1st at the end of the season. The strikeforce is the best in the country at the moment (Manchester City may take issue), the midfield is finally settled and has an excellent balance to it. The only thing letting them down is their leaky defence and error prone goalkeeper who cost them some valuable points in the big clashes with Chelsea and Manchester City over Christmas.
I think, ultimately, Brendan Rodgers will be the man to bring the league title back to Anfield. How long it takes remains up for discussion. Next year may prove a case of taking one step back before they take another forward. Liverpool’s success this year means they will have the added challenge of Champions League football next campaign, which may hinder their league form. There are steps to be taken and they must begin this summer if Rodgers’s fantastic work so far is to be continued.
What they need:
A more reliable keeper. I don’t think Simon Mignolet is solid enough to be first choice for a title winning side.
At least two new quality defenders. This may in turn lead to the sale of Martin Skrtel and a few others. Having a squad bloated with sub-standard players is generally not a good thing.
A bigger squad. Liverpool have a good first eleven but do not have enough quality in depth to maintain the fight on more than one front next season.
Another striker. Aside from the possibility of injury to Suarez and Sturridge whom they depend so heavily on, they will need some games off from time to time. Rodgers will need at least one more striker to be able to carry the can when they need a rest. When City need to rest Negredo or lately while Aguero has been injured, they can call upon Dzeko or Jovetic who are both dependable for goals.
Right now, Liverpool have the bones of what will be a very good side for years to come, in the attacking department at least. Henderson, Coutinho, Sterling and Sturridge are all still 24 or under. Suarez is now entering his peak years and they have him tied down to a long term contract. The only are of concern right now is the defence and Rodgers will have to address that in the summer. A man who sat under the learning tree of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea is bound to know a lot about defensive coordination. He will sort it out. Liverpool’s future is looking increasingly bright.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s new autobiography was released this week which details the past 14 years of his Manchester United career. Some of the biggest talking points has been the criticism of former players Roy Keane and David Beckham.
Ferguson talks about what happened in the dressing room when he kicked a boot at Beckham’s head and reveals conversations that were had amongst the players after Keane singled out certain individuals following United’s 4-1 defeat against Middlesbrough in 2005.
Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers, has taken exception to Ferguson’s approach and accused Britain’s most successful manager of all time of lacking “old school values”.
“Anyone who’s been in football knows that whatever is said behind closed doors and in the changing room is something you wouldn’t want to hear again,” Rodgers said. “It’s something that’s vitally important. You want to know as a human being that you can speak openly and communication is honest, and hopefully wouldn’t get repeated. You would like to think you would still have some old school values and ethics that whatever is said you take it on the chin and keep it behind closed doors and move on.”
Whilst some might say Rodgers has a point, it’s strange that the comments have come from him, given he invited cameras in to the Liverpool dressing room to film what was said for the documentary on the club, Being Liverpool.
Luis Suarez has admitted to diving, namely that embarrassing occasion against Stoke City, but claims the media make more of a fuss about him cheating because the media is controlled by Manchester United.
“Sometimes you do things on the field that later you think ‘why the hell did I do that?’ People say I throw myself all the time inside the box. They said that when we played against Stoke, for instance, and in that case they were right. I invented a foul because we were drawing against Stoke and I wanted to win.”
Suarez said he got more attention than other players who cheated because his name sold newspaper,
“The name of Suarez sells papers,” he said. “The media make up a lot of things about me because they want to sell papers. I say to the media: you should talk more about football, not about other stuff. But as I have said: Manchester United controls the media, they are powerful and the media will always help them.”
You would think that Suarez was used to being an unpopular player, after being banned for 7 games for biting an opponent when he played in Holland, costing Ghana their place in the World Cup semi-finals after using his hand to stop a goal in the dying minutes of extra time, and being found guilty of racially abusing an opponent. It’s odd that he would think that the media target him because they’re controlled by United, rather than accepting the truth, that is a deeply unpopular person because of the way he behaves on the football pitch.
Regardless, Brednan Rodgers has reacted angrily to Suarez’s admission of cheating.
“I think it is wrong,” he said. “It is unacceptable. I have spoken to Luis and it will be dealt with internally.”
You can only assume that Rodgers didn’t see Suarez’s dive against Stoke, because it’s not as if the Uruguayan has revealed anything we didn’t already know.
Brendan Rodgers is doing a fine job as Liverpool FC manager and should finish in the top half of the Premier League but we’ve got some great tips that will help propel the Reds higher up the table. Here are some handy helping hints which should increase those possession percentages further and help Liverpool get even better this season.
1) Play Luis Suarez between the sticks Stewart Downing has been employed as a left-back and Jose Enrique was practically a striker against Tottenham. Why stop there? Luis Suarez demonstrated during the 2010 World Cup that he could make a good goalkeeper after the Uruguayan palmed a Ghana shot over the crossbar to ensure his team qualified for the semi-finals. He’s also so good at diving that between the sticks is surely his natural position.
2) Adopt a rugby-style scrum against opponents Possession is very important according to Brendan and a great way of keeping the ball is to “scrum down” and mow down the opposition until the ball crosses the goal-line. We can just see Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Jamie Carragher powering a front row of Joe Allen, Glen Johnson and Raheem Sterling, while bossy boots captain Steven Gerrard could help bark orders as the Liverpool scrum descends on goal.
3) Request a refund for Stewart Downing What happens when you buy something from a shop and it doesn’t work properly? You take it back to the shop, give someone a piece of your mind and return home with your money. The same should be applied with dud football players and Liverpool could rake back their £20 million spent on Stewart Downing by getting in touch with Aston Villa right away.
4) Make sure the Liverpool players are rewarded for “brilliant performances” It’s a fact that Liverpool should be top of the Premier League right now rather than languishing in 12th place. After all, they have served up fourteen “fantastic performances” this season according to Rodgers, with particular highlights being the 3-0 dousing at West Brom, the 2-0 home reverse against Arsenal and the spectacular draw at home to Stoke City. When people say the table doesn’t lie, it’s they who are lying.
5) Make a DVD and send it to the FA According to Rodgers, the challenge by Moussa Dembele on Steven Gerrard was “bordering on assault” and the Liverpool manager has every right to be paranoid about his team not winning stonewall penalties. It’s not as though Gerrard and Luis Suarez have a reputation for theatrics – come on refs sort it out! The club need to bring their victim complex to the fore on this one and a 10-hour DVD of Suarez and Gerrard tumbling in the box should convince the FA they are being harshly treated. At least 27% of these tumbles are guaranteed to be legitimate fouls.
Just how much do we actually know about the man who has replaced Liverpool legend, Kenny Dalglish, as manager at Anfield?
Rodgers moved to England to play for Manchester United’s youth team after being spotted by their scout, Eddie Coulter, who more recently can be credited with finding Jonny Evans, although was released soon after and joined Reading. He played for the Reserves there but retired when he was 20-years-old due to a genetic knee condition and the realisation that even when fit, he wasn’t good enough to make it at the level he aspired to.
Rodgers went on to learn his trade at Chelsea Football Club, having been headhunted by Mourinho to coach the youth team, before making the step up to the Reserves. Rodgers believed that Mourinho took him under his wing because he saw “something different” in him. It’s not just Mourinho who rated him but Neil Warnock too, with Rodgers once reflecting on the current Leeds manager telling him: “you can be a top manager” when he got the Reading job. He lasted just 23 games there though, losing 11 of them, before being sacked.
It was a desperately disappointing time for Rodgers, particularly given that he had burnt his bridges at his first club, Watford, for the opportunity to manage Reading.
“When I am asked about other clubs, people are questioning my integrity and one thing I have mentioned is I always have integrity,” he said at the end of the 2008-2009 season whilst still at Watford. “I am loyal and find it disloyal when I am asked about other clubs when I am the Watford manager. There is nothing that has changed in that respect.”
Five days later it was announced he had left Watford for Reading with his new club having to pay £1m in compensation.
A Watford Supporters Trust statement read: “Having recently made statements stating that the speculation linking him with the vacant position at Reading brought his integrity and loyalty into question, his subsequent decision to talk to Reading about their vacancy has severely damaged his reputation in the eyes of Watford fans.”
After the disappointing spell that followed at Reading, he turned down the opportunity to join Roberto Mancini’s coaching staff at Manchester City and went on to make a name for himself at Swansea. They finished 7th in the league the season before he took charge, just outside the play-off spots, and made the jump up to 3rd in his first season. They secured promotion to the Premier League after beating Nottingham Forest and his former club, Reading.
Swansea were the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League and despite predictions they would be relegated at the end of the season, Rodgers lead them to a very impressive 11th placed finish, five points behind Dalglish’s Liverpool.
Dalglish was sacked and Liverpool began their mission to find a new manager, which turned in to a bit of a farce, with Fabio Capello, Frank de Boer and Roberto Martinez all reportedly turning the job down. Liverpool’s co-owner, Tom Werner, insisted that Rodgers had always been their first choice though. “We engaged with a number of very experienced football people whose names have never been mentioned,” he said. “We ended up focussing only on Brendan Rodgers. We never made an offer to any other manager. We were extremely impressed with Brendan, with his thoughtfulness and devotion to Liverpool. Brendan was the only candidate to whom we offered the position.”
However, this contradicts recent comments from Martinez, who claimed he had been offered the job but opted to stay at Wigan. “We must educate people,” he said. “In five or six years, we [Wigan] reap the benefits. Maybe I won’t be there then. But this is not why I stayed, when Liverpool made me an offer. I stayed because my chairman is unique.”
Regardless, Rodgers got the job, and came out with the guff expected from anyone making a move to Liverpool FC. This suggests he’s no idiot. Roy Hodgon has a much better pedigree than Rodgers and was booed out of the club after just 31 games. The fans that once used to be proud of the loyalty they always showed the manager are now on to their fourth in two years, with Benitez, Hodgson and Dalglish all failing to meet expectations and being shown the door. If not for the fans, Hodgson might have been given longer to prove himself and Dalglish might have been kicked out earlier. Whilst the final decision isn’t theirs, they certainly have more influence on the owner than most sets of fans, which Rodgers is clearly aware of. If he gets them onside, he might buy himself more time. However, It takes a special type of manager to claim they will fight with their life for the people of the city and refer to the job as a “quest”. This is football management, not signing up to slay a dragon or reclaim the Golden Fleece from Colchis.
“I’m blessed to be given this opportunity,” he said after being named manager. “I want to thank John Henry, Tom Werner and FSG for the opportunity to manage such a great club. I’m really excited and I can’t wait to get started on this incredible project going forward. I promise to dedicate my life to fight for this club and defend the great principles of Liverpool Football Club on and off the field.”
It didn’t stop there though. He has gone on and on, waxing lyrical about the status of the supporters, the history of the club and the importance of the shirt.
“Liverpool Football Club is the heartland of football folklore.”
“I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life.”
“I will leave no stone unturned in my quest – and that quest will be relentless.”
“This is a club that is historic for the identity, style and DNA of its football.”
“When you come to a club like this one the shirt weighs much heavier than any other shirt.”
“There is an imbalance at the minute. You’ve got some of the world’s best supporters here and the playing group is not quite at that level yet.”
My personal favourite: “All I’ll ever do is all I’ve ever done in any job, and that’s promise to fight with my life for the supporters and the people of the city.”
And finally, following his first game as Liverpool manager in the Europa League qualifier against Gomel in Belarus, Rodgers wrote an open letter to the supporters.
“It was a privilege to acknowledge your support on the evening at the ground, as we did following the full-time whistle, but I wanted to reiterate our thanks with this brief message,” he said. “It was a special night for me personally and it was great to see you in the stadium and in great voice; you made me proud and you made the players proud. You are an integral part of this team. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
Writing an open letter is brilliant in itself, but signing it off with YNWA? You couldn’t make it up. (He has form for this though, having written an open letter to Swansea fans not long before, claiming the club would live in his heart for the rest of his life.)
It has gone downhill for Rodgers since Gomel though, with Liverpool enduring their worst start in the league for 50 years, following a 3-0 defeat against West Brom, a 2-2 draw with Manchester City, and a 2-0 home loss against Arsenal.
He’s also had a nightmare in the transfer window, with Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy being sold and just Fabio Borini brought in as a replacement. There was also the bizarre decision to loan out another striker, £35m Andy Carroll, to West Ham, which backfired massively when their plans to sign another striker amounted to nothing.
Since arriving at Liverpool, Rodgers seemed determined to get rid of the most expensive English player in history, without giving him the opportunity to show what he could do, although repeatedly changed his mind on whether a loan deal was an option. The £35m player (or -£15m player if you ask Dalglish) was not wanted.
July 10th 2012: “It’s something I would have to look at, I have to be honest. I’m not going to sit here and say I will never let anyone go on loan, then come in here in two weeks and a player’s gone, and you’re saying ‘you said you wouldn’t let them go’. There are many things to going on loan. Is it going to be beneficial for the club, that’s the most important thing? Sometimes a player going out on loan – in general, not just Andy – can benefit the club in the long term. I have spoken to him on his holidays, he knows exactly where he stands.”
July 18th 2012: “There has been a lot written and spoken about him but first and foremost Andy is a Liverpool player. To consider a loan period for someone the club spent £35million on isn’t something we’re looking to do at this moment in time. Andy will be the same as every other player – if there’s ever an offer that comes in we’d look at it as a club and see if it’s going to be worthwhile for the club and the team as a whole. The club invested £35million in him. People talk about whether he can fit into my style or not, but if you’re a club and you spend £35million on a player you’d like to think he can fit into whatever style the team plays.”
July 20th 2012: “There has been a lot of unfair criticism of Andy, there has been a lot of speculation in the press in terms of not being able to fit into my style of play. I think that’s unfair. If a club spends £35m on a player, you would expect that player to be able to fit into whatever style a manager will bring in. I’ve spoken openly and honestly with Andy in terms of where he is at, but I have done the same with all of the players, I have spoken to all of them, I have had communication with all of the group. Maybe others may not see him fitting in with me, but for me he is an important part of the group. There is talk of him going on loan, but there is absolutely no way I would be looking to loan a player like that, especially after the investment the club have paid. But his condition will be the same as every player. If an offer comes in for any player at the club we would either look at it, or dismiss it, and Andy’s no different to that.”
August 23rd 2012: “There is absolutely no chance [of a loan deal]. We have got a very small squad as it is. We have lost a lot of players this summer and I have not replaced them, as of yet. That is the reality of where we are. I need a minimum of three strikers. Once the window shuts, that is it until January. I have got Suarez, Fabio Borini, and Andy Carroll. I would need to be a nutcase even to consider at this moment to let Carroll go out.”
The most damning remarks relating to Carroll came the day before the transfer window closed, with Rodgers essentially saying he wanted rid of him (amongst others) and suggested that if Carroll didn’t leave for regular football elsewhere it was because he wasn’t willing to part with the salary Liverpool paid him.
“You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see Andy’s been a cover player but he’s been excellent in his attitude and acceptance of where he is at,” he said. “But, as a club, I’m not sure we are in a position to have £35million players as third-choice strikers, or a winger on £5-6m a year. There’s still a wee bit of thinking time, and it’s hard to walk away from here. The ones who want to play will probably look elsewhere, irrespective of finance, because that’s their passion. The club financially needs repair. So to sign the players linked, unfortunately I don’t have the ability to do that – not in this window anyway. This is an incredible club and some players, even if you want to move them on, won’t walk out. I can only ever be straight with players. I’ve made it clear my group will be made up of starting players, cover players who can come in, and development players who can progress. If you feature outside of that I will tell you and then it is up to the player what they want – do they want to play football?”
Later that day Carroll travelled to London for a medical and a loan deal was agreed with West Ham. With just two goals scored in their opening three games, there is now an awful lot of pressure on Luis Suarez to step up to the plate and improve on the eleven goals he scored in the league last season.
With rumours already circulating of a rift behind the scenes between the manager and owners, something both parties deny, fans are being given an insight to what really goes on behind the scenes thanks to a fly-on-the-wall documentary, ‘Being Liverpool’ which will be shown on Fox Sports in America later this month. The papers have been afforded a sneak preview of the footage and there are certainly some interesting revelations.
“You train dogs,” says Rodgers . “I like to educate players.” Part of that education includes meditation, with the Liverpool players attempting to fight fits of giggles when carrying out the set exercises. During one exercise called ‘the cat’ one unseen player sends the rest of the squad into hysterics by making a quiet ‘miaow’ noise.
“Every player I see as my own son,” Rodgers says in the documentary. “I want to do the very best for them. I want to be able to push them in their lives so they can do it for their children. We do everything in life for our kids. I don’t want to ever miss the chance of letting players understand that this is why we do it.”
At the end of the ‘Being Liverpool’ trailer, the voice over claims 2012-2013 will be “the season that will change their lives forever.” It’s not unlike the Americans to be over dramatic, let’s be honest, but does Rodgers have a chance of making this season even half decent, let alone life changing?
Looking at his managerial record to date, his very successful period at Swansea is sandwiched between 32 games in charge of Watford (lost 38% of them), 23 games at Reading (lost 48% of them) and the worst start to a season Liverpool have made since 1962 (which can partly be explained by the strength of opponents they have faced). It’s not very inspiring.
I’m sure Rodgers isn’t too dissimilar from lots of managers though. To varying degrees, they all must have big egos, say things to impress the fans, have the ambition of creating a philosophy and make mistakes in the transfer market, but there’s something a bit ‘David Brent‘ about Rodgers, and maybe that would be easier to forget or ignore… if we didn’t now know he has a portrait of himself in his house. Rodgers is guilty of fairly awkward and cringeworthy comments but the jury is still out on whether he is the man to bring the glory days, the “bread and butter“, back to Liverpool Football Club. For Rodgers to get away with his persona, in the way that Mourinho, Ferguson and Wenger have been forgiven for their failings, he has to do a bloody good job at the club. Does he have the makings of a world class manager? Time will tell.
I’ll be honest. I never used to like Brendan Rodgers. I used to think he thought he was special, because of his training under ‘The Special One’, but since he’s taken the helm at Liverpool, I’ve started to like him. For the way he plays his football (I knew this before of course, but I was still under the illusion he thought of himself as special) and the kind of things he’s saying in press conferences. In my opinion, it’s so far so good for Rodgers, but how will he fare, in the long term, at Liverpool?
I think, first of all we need to talk about the situation Liverpool are in, after the sacking of Kenny Dalglish at the end of last season. Liverpool are a good side, with some extremely good players, who had an inconsistent season last year. However, I don’t think they’re average. They had an average finishing, by their standards, but I think if you look deeper, and more specifically at the stats, you will see they did quite well, they were just inconsistent.
On average, they had 55% possession every game, so they dominated the possession, which I’m sure Rodgers will be glad about, as he knows he inherits a squad who can keep the ball. As well as this they had a solid defence, the third best in the league, as well as conceding the third least average amount of shots a game. So, as you can see, there is no problem with the defence, but the attack is different.
Liverpool could create chances at will, with an average 17.6 shots a game, the fourth most in the league last year, yet only managed 47 goals, the 10th worst/best in the league. Creating opportunities to score isn’t an issue but finishing these chances is. This could be fixed, as strikers Suarez and Carroll have now had their first full season, as well as quite a few midfielders who are supplying them, so they could be a bit better this season, now they’ve had more than enough time to ‘acclimatise’. Rodgers has probably gone out to try and solve this by signing young striker Fabio Borini from Roma, who he had on loan when he was manager at Swansea. Borini got 9 goals in 20 starts and had a chance conversion of around 19%, which isn’t too shoddy and should help Liverpool’s fire-power this season.
Now, back onto Rodgers.
The first thing to mention would be his style of play. He likes to play Tiki-Taka football, like Spain and Barcelona famously do. He instilled it into his Swansea players with great results, their midfielders passing stats were amongst the best in Europe and Ashley Williams had some of the best passing stats in the Premier League as well, which shows how they played it from the back. They averaged slightly more possession than Liverpool, with 57.6%, but with Rodgers methods at Liverpool, they’ll probably get more than both of them. If the players buy into his methods, which they should. Rodgers plays entertaining football that is all based around possession and Liverpool have enough technically gifted players to play this way. They have the ‘sweeper-‘keeper’ in Reina, the defender who can play it out from the back in Daniel Agger, the midfielder who can win the ball and pass it on in Lucas and then Gerrard and Suarez to create and score. That’s just the obvious spine, but it is a good spine. These players, in my opinion, will do great with Rodgers methods. Liverpool and Rodgers’ football go together and can only lead to good things. I mean, wasn’t there a song? ‘Pass and move, it’s the Liverpool groove…’
Next, Rodgers has to win the fans over. This is tough at a club the size of Liverpool, as they have lots of fans and more specifically, lots of expectant fans. However, what he’s saying in press conferences has to be winning them over, as it’s winning me over and I’m not a Liverpool fan!
“I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life.”
“The reality is that this is a club where I need to align the playing group with the supporters. There is an imbalance at the minute. You’ve got some of the world’s best supporters here and the playing group is not quite at that level yet.”
“Whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, then my life is devoted, it’s all part of the dance.”
A crucial part of how well he will do, will be judged on transfers. Kenny Dalglish’s biggest downfall was probably his transfers, paying extortionate fees for relatively average players. Rodgers won’t be the same. I think Rodgers, in general, prefers to be more shrewd, as I don’t remember him ‘breaking the bank’ for Swansea, or the other clubs he’s been at. His only signing so far is Borini for around £12M, which is decent, considering he’s only 21 and is a good striker.
They’ve also (inevitably) been linked with quite a few players, who would appear to be shrewd buys, in my opinion. The first was Gylfi Sigurdsson, a player whom he had at Reading and on loan at Swansea, who showed his class in his loan spell for Swansea with 7 goals in 18 games. He would have been a great buy for Liverpool, however, he chose to go to Tottenham instead. The next player they’ve been heavily linked with is Gaston Ramirez, from Serie A side Bologna. He’s a 21 year-old attacking midfielder who can play on the wing as well. They have just sold two of their wide players in Kuyt and Maxi and the wings are probably their weakest area. They have Craig Bellamy, Stewart Downing and Joe Cole, then they only have younger players like Raheem Sterling. So if Ramirez can play on the wing, as well as centrally, he’ll be providing much needed quality and versatility. He scored 8 goals and got 4 assists last year for Bologna, which is decent and he’s still only young. If you add Rodgers’ style and the better players he will have around him, it should be a good buy. The only bad thing is it’s reported Spurs also want him, so there’s a chance it could be Gylfi: Episode Two. But, we’ll have to wait and see. The last player I’ve seen them linked extensively with is Joe Allen. There was meant to be an agreement with Swansea that said Rodgers can’t sign any of their players for twelve months, but it seems that has gone out of the window. All the papers are saying Liverpool would pay £12m-£15m for Allen, which has led to the jokes about Liverpool over-paying for average British players. But is that fair? Is Joe Allen average? In my opinion, no, far from it. He has the 9th best pass completion in Europe with 91.2% and completes 60.5 passes a game on average, the 38th best in Europe. He does this for a mid-table Premiership team at the age of 21. If you watch him, he really is great, technically superb and values possession and retaining possession. He is a joy to watch. Then, you have to think about it from Swansea’s position; they won’t want to sell a key-player, with those stats with lots of potential, for cheap. So, I think £12, is a good buy, I know if you look around you’ll see great deals for the same kind of money, but I just rate Allen highly and the stats speak for themselves. Also, he can help implement Rodgers’ style of player into Liverpool, which could be extremely valuable to them.
If they sign the above players, they will have a great starting XI.
Finally, I think the biggest thing that Rodgers will face and have the biggest say in whether he is a success or not at Liverpool is pressure. Will he handle the pressure? He’s done a decent job at the majority of clubs he has been at, but they don’t come with the same amount of pressure as Liverpool. He now inherits a huge club that will expect to compete in the cups and in a couple of years, the league, which is an entirely new situation for him. A bit of pressure has been taken off, as the board have said that top 4 isn’t a minimal target and they want stability first, which is a good way forward. However, there will still be a lot of weight on his shoulders, at Swansea it was acceptable to drop points at certain games, and even be outclassed (although they weren’t very often) but at Liverpool that isn’t acceptable. Dalglish got away with a lot more than any other manager would have because of his status amongst the fans. Dalglish lost 29.7% of the games he took charge of at Liverpool, compared with Roy Hodgson’s 29%, yet the latter was hounded out of the club by the supporters.
So, how will Rodgers fare at Liverpool? In my opinion, he’ll do well. I think he has enough about him to handle the pressure and win over the fans, I think the players are good enough and have the right footballing abilities to play the way he wants to play. So, if you’re a Liverpool fan, I think it’s all shaping up nicely. The future looks bright for Liverpool, let’s see if Rodgers can deliver a bright future in the long term, because what’s the point in hiring a 39 year-old manager without an eye on the long term future at the club?