So Friday marked a busy day in Liverpool’s post season. First there was the launch of the new kit, which is a true work of art. I found out on Friday that Warrior has set up a new website just for Asia (actually also includes Australia and New Zealand). Until Monday, you can get free printing of a Liverpool Player’s name on your shirt, and if you spend over a certain amount (HKD600) you get free posting (and it’s express courier, so you get it within 2 to 4 days. I order mine and an infant kit for my son, can’t wait until they arrive.
The second, and more important news was the confirmation that Brendan Rodgers would be the next Liverpool manager. He comes with the assurances that he will be able to run the team his way, and that he will be given time. Those to me are two crucial factors for Rodgers. Any new manager has to be given time and financial support to allow him to imprint his way, as long as his way is one deemed to be a potential success.
What impresses me the most about Rodgers is that he loves to play possession football. He was on a panel earlier this season talking about when his team were 2-0 up, and went on to draw 2 all, because his players were just hoofing it out for the last 10 minutes, and the ball kept coming back. The next week, he talked to his players and they practised holding onto the ball, starting from the back. The emphasis was now on winning the ball back and holding onto it, rather than a panicky clearance as far away from the penalty area as possible. The next time they were 2-0 up with 15 minutes to go, they found themselves conceding a goal. They then spent 10 minutes putting into practise what they had been training for. They not only controlled possession but they went on to score another, sealing the win 3-1.
If you look at Swansea’s squad, you’ll notice one major thing right away. Here is a team with no real household names, no Gerrards, no Rooneys, no John Terrys, no Peter Cechs, not even any Joey Bartons. Yet here they were in their first season of the premier league and they managed to finish 11th, a mere 5 points away from Liverpool. That is an impressive feat for a team that had just been promoted, but even more so when you go back and watch their football and see that they did it by playing attractive football.
So what does it mean for Liverpool? Well, if we take a look back over the last season, the games that have been the most pleasurable to watch have been the ones where we played attractive football. Sure we ended up losing some of those, and drawing even more, but when we’ve held onto possession and played attractive flowing football we have looked superb. When it has broken down has been down to a lack of clinical finishing, some interesting squad choices (putting players in the team that were getting to the bye-line and crossing in with no players on the pitch actually good at getting into the box to get on the end of them); or (as most people have clearly already noticed, a failure to hit the net. I don’t buy into the “we were unlucky”argument just because we hit the post over 30 times and missed 5 penalties out of 6. That to me comes down to the lack of confidence, composure and talent. At the end of the day it makes no difference if you hit the corner flag or the edge of the post, neither went in. There were of course plenty of times were the opposition keeper kept us at bay (including Swansea’s own Vorm), but you can’t put that down to being unlucky, after all when Pepe has a blinder we don’t sit here and say we were lucky, we say Reina was awesome today.
However, you do not lose games just by being unable to score, you lose games by conceding at the other end. We controlled way too many games possession and goal scoring opportunity wise, but then we let in sloppy goals at the end. We also lost leads because of the same thing. One lapse in concentration and that was it. Of course no manager is going to cut out sloppy mistakes altogether, but what I think Rodgers will bring in is that extra bit of confidence on the ball. No player should be able to make it into the premier league without being able to pass 10 yards, so you would have to assume that the majority of sloppy passes are down to pressure and confidence. If Rodgers instils a training system where everybody is focusing on keeping possession, then when it comes to game time, that practise will give players that extra edge. The same amount of pressure will not be as effective as it was before, and that gives the players an extra chance to get those passes right. It also adds to the player movement. Too many times when we went behind, or failed to unlock defences there was just so little movement that we ended up having to lump it long, into a box devoid of players.
I personally didn’t have an issue when Liverpool were talking to Martinez, or that Rodgers was being linked. Looking back over Liverpool’s managers, a number of the more successful ones did not come to the post with a wealth of managerial experience, so I don’t think that’s an issue, as long as the club and the fans get behind the man. The fact that Rodgers managed to get Swansea up to 11th, whereas Martinez “only” managed to avoid relegation with Wigan, may also work in his favour in getting some fans on board. I personally felt that both had achieved at their respective position, and both also showed signs of being able to adapt to the ever changing game. Martinez’s used of the 3-4-3 system at Wigan was also a far more pleasing approach to avoiding relegation than the traditional methods of lumping the ball and the opposition as hard as possible.
The final factor that will, in my opinion, work in Rodgers’ favour is the fact that he is relatively new, and has been a decent manager. The media may not be favourable to Liverpool, but Rodgers is a new manager that they loved last season. That will work in his favour, as he will not be put under as much scrutiny as, say, Kenny Dalglish or even Roy Hodgson were. It still constantly amazes me that the average (wo)man on the street forms a lot of their opinions based entirely on what they read in the press. Being somebody that the media has nothing personal against, and Rodgers seems to be such a man at this stage, can only help in reducing some of the spotlight on him. That in turn means that his first mistake will not be pounced upon by the media in their ability to always say “we told you so”. Let’s be honest, when you fling enough shit up against the wall, something is sure to stick, but in this case Rodgers comes in with a nice clean slate, and that in part is also down to the Liverpool owners and club in general. They kept this impressively quiet until the last day or so after they agreed terms with Swansea and Rodgers.
So, with the media not against him, with the club giving him support and time, the only thing left to do, is for the fans to get behind him, and allow him time and space to get his influence on the team. He certainly has bigger players at Liverpool, and you would think if they really are bigger players, that they should be able to take on board the same teaching that Swansea were able to perform so well. Nobody should be too big of a star to be able to play as a team. Even Lionel Messi himself puts a lot of praise on his players, and more often than not, Messi will be found passing to a team mate than dribbling round 2 men and going for goal. That’s how it should be.Welcome to the club Mr Rodgers, you have my full support (even if that means not a lot to you :D). Now I ask that you please indulge me in just one small favour. It shouldn’t change anything in your system, just get Liverpool playing good football, and just please let me read this head line next season:
Ferguson Well and Truly Rodgered