Liverpool: Can Rodgers oversee the reds revolution?
This weekend saw the confirmation of the second signing for Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool as he brought in Welsh midfielder Joe Allen in a £15million deal, which was a record breaker for Swansea. This added to the acquisition of striker Fabio Borini, both players that the Northern Irish manager knows well from previous stages of his career, and both players Rodgers feels are key if his short, quick passing philosophy is to be implemented on Merseyside. The last few years have not been good for Liverpool, and the last season that could be classed as a success was the 2008/09 season, when they finished second, just four points off Man Utd. since then however they have failed to qualify for Champions League football, a competition that is in Liverpool’s DNA. Rodgers gained a lot of praise last season for the type of football he implemented at newly promoted Swansea and caused them to perform far beyond expectation, does this mean he is ready to step up to a bigger club and face increased expectations like those at Liverpool? Can the Northern Irishman deliver at the Merseyside club, and make himself a club legend? Or will history repeat itself and will hiring a manager from a smaller club in the Premiership backfire, resulting in a sacking before the season finishes?
Firstly the style of play must be examined, the passing style is being revelled around the world thanks to the success of the Spanish national side and the trophy hauls by Real Madrid and Barcelona, who both use this style of play in their own right. Last year Swansea showed that any team is capable of the passing style, all you need is players who have a high work rate, which is a requirement for this style of play, the question is, does Liverpool have the sorts of players that can put in this shift week in, week out for the entire season? Rodgers is shaping the squad so they are able to deal with the fitness aspect of the passing game, the likes of Gerrard, Henderson, Suarez, Sterling, Enrique and Johnson are all existing members of the Liverpool team who will probably be able to draft in the short passing style into their own game, and obviously Rodgers additions of Borini and Allen have shown previously that they can implement the passing game. The players who may cause problems are Adam, Cole, Spearing and Downing as they don’t seem to possess the stamina or attacking flair to pull off short intricate passing, however this may not matter, as there are rumours suggesting Adam and Spearing might be offloaded, and even if they aren’t it would be surprising if they played massive roles next season after the Allen deal. Secondly with rumours of another wide man coming into Anfield and what should be Sterling’s break through season Cole and Downing may also just play in a rotational role. It is at the back that Liverpool may be able to take the progress Swansea made with the passing game and take it further, on many occasions last season Swansea tried to pass the ball from the back and lost possession, which normally resulted in a clear chance or a goal for the opposition, I believe the Liverpool back four will be able to prevent this and make passing from the back formidable. Enrique and Johnson show their attacking prowess often enough, and therefore should be able to deal with the pressure of passing the ball out, the two current centre-backs Agger and Skrtel were one of the best partnerships in the Prem last season, and both have also shown they have ability in the opponents half, both factors that point to the possibility that they will be able to pass from the back with composure, however whether Rodgers hangs on to Agger remains to be seen. All in all in terms of transferring the passing game to Liverpool, Rodgers can make it a success, at least in the first team, with the amount of games in a season though when the first team gets rotated there may be some problems however.
So what about transfers, some Liverpool fans have expressed their frustration at the clubs continued links with Swansea players, feeling that buying from a mid-table team will only cement Liverpool’s place out of the top four, it is a similar situation that caused Roy Hodgson’s poor performance as Liverpool manager, he entrusted players such as Kyriakos and N’gog who mid-table players or below. In Allen Rodgers has signed a promising central midfielder, he performed well last season at Swansea, however these were very similar terms that surrounded the Henderson transfer, and his first season at Liverpool was very hit and miss. Also it means that once again there is a surplus of central midfielders at the club, with Allen joining Gerrard, Lucas, Adam, Henderson, Shelvey and Spearing there are surely too many central men for them to all get game time even in a rotation setting, as mentioned earlier there is murmurings of Adam being on his way out, however no formal interest has been declared. Spearing might be another player who could be shown the door, the hard working midfielder is a scouser born and raised, and thus might be a sad departure for the Kop, however last season he simply was not good enough and gave possession away cheaply on many occasions, this sloppiness in possession even led to a Chelsea goal in the FA Cup final. There are many rumours of players coming into Liverpool, as there normally is, and it is always difficult to separate the wild and crazy with the truth, it seems that playmaker Nuri Sahin might find his way into a red shirt on a season long deal, Liverpool look favourites to sign the Turkish midfielder thanks to Rodgers connection with Mourinho and Sahin’s team mate Xabi Alonso’s love for the club, which might result in rave reviews for the Merseysiders. Other rumours include Adam Johnson, who could come in as part of the deal for Daniel Agger, if the board decide to cash in on the Danish centre half, Clint Dempsey, if a fee can be agreed between Fulham and Liverpool, and 20 year old Cristian Tello might be swapping sunny Barcelona for the North East of England. The aforementioned rumours are exactly that, just talk, however some is rather exciting talk, it would be surprising if all the mentioned deals came off, it might be a case of if they get one player they would lose interest in another, however an additional attacking midfielder in Sahin or Dempsey and a new wide man in Tello or Johnson would be a welcome addition, and should Rodgers tie up any of these signings of these established players he might find his first season in charge that little bit easier.
What about negatives, what does Rodgers have to look out for, and what must he do to ensure he does not flop? The last manager to be signed from a club with less pressure was Roy Hodgson, and his side was booed off from Anfield on more than one occasion, Rodgers must firstly ensure this does not happen, he has to make Anfield a fortress again. There are times gone past when the thought of an away day at Anfield kept opposition sides awake at night, it struck fear into the visitors and teams entering the fabled grounds would wish they could leave with a point, these times have been gone for too long. Last season results at Anfield were shocking, and that was under the management of a legend who had made Anfield such a bad hunting ground for visitors, Rodgers has to make sure that his Liverpool side aren’t complacent against smaller sides that visit the Mersey ground, he has to make sure the team finish their chances against weaker opposition, as well as ensuring three points against every top four opposition at home. Away form seemed to be Swansea’s speciality last term, sure the Liberty Stadium was a strong home ground but Rodgers oversaw many good performances, and results on the road too, a feat that can not be shared with Liverpool last season, if Rodgers can transfer this away days fortune to Liverpool then the signs are good. The finishing of Liverpool last season left a lot to be desired, they ended up scoring less goals than relegated Blackburn, and will be the big problem Rodgers will have to address, if he is able to find the squads shooting boots then the season will be a success, however for all the beautiful build up play Swansea scored less than Liverpool last season, if Rodgers is to be a success at Liverpool he must address the low scoring outcome of his sides, a feat that might rest on the shoulders of one Uruguayan front man.
All in all Rodgers has laid out all the foundations to be a successful Liverpool manager, a top four spot is what the Liverpool fans expect as a start, and silverware should soon follow, a big ask for a manager who is yet to reach his forties, if the Northern Irishman can ignore the pressure and the hype of the job and gets on with the job then good things could follow. He has started by making some good noise in press conferences, an area which eluded former manager Dalglish, whose poor handling of the press was seen as one factor that resulted in his sacking, Rodgers however has spoken of the expectations of the club, and it sounds like he has faith in himself to come good on these expectations. In terms of style of play Rodgers’ passing style, which gained him attention from the bigger clubs last season and probably landed him the Liverpool job, should be easily integrated into the Liverpool side, after all it’s not like Liverpool have ever been a long ball side, the club was founded on pass and move football, however they haven’t been able to successfully implement this style of play in many years, but they might have just been missing the right head coach. In regards to the transfer market the targets Rodgers’ is lining up have potential and are largely established players, something that another former manager, Roy Hodgson, was not able to boast, and if the rumoured deals do come off Rodgers will have a strong Liverpool side, who should be able to pull off his ‘all along the floor’ mentality whilst possessing the depth to challenge not only for a top four spot but also for some form of silverware in other competitions.