BRENDAN RODGERS held court in the press room at Melwood on Thursday with representatives from a range of LFC fan sites, blogs, fanzines, podcasts and other ‘non-traditional’ media groups. The full audio of the session is available to download in all the usual places for TAW’s podcasts but due to popular demand we’re also providing the following transcript. Plenty to read, starting with the manager’s answers to questions about how the transfer window went.
“I think I’ve had long conversations with the owners and I think what I’ve found since I first come into here was that there had there been a real sense of instability at the club for a few years; and I found that I came to Melwood and I sensed that the club for maybe a few years, speaking to individual people, that there was a real sense of insecurity and what it needed was stability.
“There’s obviously a lot has gone on in those few years and so I’ve come into here to look to try and stabilise. There’s a lot of work to do in terms of the playing squad and I’ve been brought in to implement a vision otherwise there’s no point me being here. I was brought in because I work a certain way and obviously I want to implement that over a period of time.
“But of course the owners have been very honest and very upfront right from the off, of course it didn’t quite go to plan how we wanted, the window, but certainly going forward there’s been a great learning taking place over the course of the summer.
“There’s a lot of work to do in terms of trimming the squad. Every manager always wants more players, but the reality is, in terms of what the club was at, it needed work to be done and a little bit of surgery done on the squad. We finished up where we were at and now it’s the chance really to – and we’ve really got to – move forward as a football club, and as a whole, and really have the one club mentality.
“Like I said a manager always wants more players always wants more, but I understood there had to be some sort of surgery in the squad or else… You know some of the wages here were absolutely astronomical in terms of value and worth and as I said that needed to be looked at. But certainly what I’ll do is, it’ll give me the chance now, to look at some young players – who maybe not would have been given the chance before – but I think they now come into the fore.
“I think Liverpool is certainly one of those clubs that loves their young plays.
“I think what we want to see, hopefully over the course of the next three to four months, is do we have enough good young players to come in? And then obviously that will then bring us through to January and certainly we can assess it from there. But I genuinely believe, and it was the reason I came here that I believed – I came here first and first and foremost because of the club, the history of the club.
“You know I could have stayed in my comfortable chair in South Wales having the first Welsh team that got promoted; I’d been there a number of years, but for me I wanted to work at a club that was world class and at the very, very top. I had some choices to make in the summer because I could have gone elsewhere, but I genuinely came here first and foremost because of the owners; because I felt a real genuine honesty in their approach and how they want to go forward with the football club. I knew there was going to be a wee bit of pain short term, I understood that, but hopefully for the longer term gain this is what we would have to go through.”
Will this force existing players to step it up?
“They have to. Absolutely. We’re in a position where we’ve got 25, minimum, games between now and January so it’s going to be, we’re going to be, stretched to the limit. But this is the idea of why they’re here.
“We now need people, I’ve spoken to the players: ‘If you’ve got little niggles and little injuries you’ve got to man up and we’ve got to come together and be strong.’ But it’s one of the things I would say is, the majority of this group coming in, I think what I’ve got here is a platform of hard work and integrity.
“The group have been absolutely fantastic every day, working well, working hard. I said before we wanted help but that will hopefully come, but as I said it’s important we all come together: supporters, players, management and push forward.”
On the January window:
“January’s always a difficult month anyway, however you’re doing, sometimes it’s very, very difficult to get the best players in January because if a team’s doing well they’re not going to be keen to lose a squad player, and they want to keep good players, but it’s something we have to look at of course.
“And now, hopefully, this month our scouting team comes together and there’ll be a lot of great work that will go on between now and then in relation to finding the targets and, importantly, finding the profile that will fit in our way going forward – because there’s no point in spending absolute millions and fortunes on players if they can’t play football.
“It’s important that the profile of the player fits into how we’re going to play going forward and between now and then we’re going to have to be creative because of our limited players up front. I’ll have to find a different solution; there might have to be an intermediary way of working that allows us to get results but also allows us to keep the principles going in terms of what I’ve established so far.”
Could there be benefits for the club to come from the way the transfer window ended, more opportunity for the club’s youngsters for example?
“I think it runs two-fold. I understand you people you need to see a team winning, that’s the reality, but also the other reason I came here is because it wasn’t just about winning for Liverpool. Liverpool Football Club has been about the style, and there’s a way to win games. So the balance is really trying to run that alongside each other.
“It takes a bit of time. I’m not crying for time because I understand you people, you need results and you want to see improvement but I think the more we work together, the more we get the ideas, the more we get the types of players that fit this way of working then you’ll see it then change very quickly.
“I’ll give the example. I arrived at Swansea and they were the team that had scored the least amount of goals, I think there were 40 goals they’d scored. So they had a way of playing, but it was a maybe a defensive way of playing. I realised we needed maybe three, four players to give us more penetration and to give us something else in the game to tactically push us higher up the pitch and be offensive and creative, and that kicked in after a number of months, but it was still about getting the balance because at home we were brilliant, away from home it was a little bit too open.
“And when I assessed and was looking at it I near enough had six wingers in the team because the front three wingers and the midfield three were all transferred wingers. So it was about balance and that’s what I’m looking at at the moment. How can we be a threat going forward? How can we be more creative up that top end of the field? But also it’s important about being secure and getting the balance behind that so you don’t concede.
“And yes, I think, the longer run, I always play the kids for a reason. The reason will be maybe boys like Suso, boys like that, will maybe get an opportunity now. If you look throughout European football, and in particular in the Premier League, statistically under-21 players playing is very, very, very small in terms of percentage. I think last year in my team I had a number of under-21 players playing but if you looked at the other teams it was very, very few.
“This is going to allow guys to stand up to the play. You cry for an opportunity – you actually now might get an opportunity. And then you’ve got to take it, then you’ve got to take it.
“Like young Raheem, been fantastic, I came in here early on I heard all these bits and pieces about Raheem Sterling and I watched him early on and I thought, ‘ok, be interesting,’ and I get into him a couple of times, ‘come on my friend,’ but I’ve got to say his response has been fantastic and he’s a kid now that is responsible tactically, getting better and he has a threat on the field. So he’s going to grow I believe and I’m trying to keep him out of the media, trying to look after him, trying to make sure he stays focussed and composed and then Liverpool has a player for the future then, and I think there’ll hopefully be a number of boys like that who can now step up given the opportunity.
“I think in terms of the tactical element of the game I’ve never been one… I don’t enjoy the percentage. There are some times you’ve got to kick it long, you’ve got to go that little bit longer. I’ve always enjoyed, I’ve always worked along the statistic, that if you can dominate the game with the ball you have a 79% chance of winning a game of football. So if you’re better than the other team with the ball you’ve got an 8 out of 10 chance, nearly, of winning the game. And that’s what that does, the ability to play out from behind.
“A lot of teams now, maybe, they say ‘we’ll drop deep,’ they’ve lots of bodies behind the ball. If you just kick it straight up the middle of the field you normally go into the strength of what that team might be which could be the centre halves, maybe six foot five, they just head it right back down your throat again and then you’re defending. So for me that ability to build the game is important – but not all the time because what we’ll do is we’ll come up against teams that will push right onto us and then the tactic has to be slightly different and you’ve got to go a little bit longer in your build up, and hit maybe the second or the third line of pass. But also for me this is what Liverpool’s about.
“Liverpool’s a team that build their way through the phases and it’s certainly how I work, I like the teams to control the games from behind. But what we’ll become better at is doing it a bit quicker. Probably needs to be a bit quicker in the tempo but that will come once the methods are more installed with the players.
“The second point I think every club is working towards the financial fair play, they know what’s coming up and maybe indirectly this is something that can help us with our future going forward.
“That’s the message that I want to get out, I’ve done all my short career as a manager, I’ve an inherent belief in young players, but not blindly, they have to have the talent and the personality.
“And I think if you see the clubs that do give those young players an opportunity it’s normally the clubs where the manager has an inherent belief in them, or financially it’s forced upon them.
“For me it probably works both ways really. I believe a young player will run through a barbed wire fence for you. An older player looks for a hole in the fence, he’ll try and get his way through it some way, but the young player will fight for you. But it’s very balanced, I believe your young players are only as good as your senior players and I look at Jamie Carragher here, I said in the training the other day, ‘Listen he’s 34 years of age now, Jamie, right, but his attitude – he’s been doing this for 18 years,’ and his attitude the other day in training was still the very best.
“So if a young player is going to overtake these sort of players not only do they have to have the talent they have to have the attitude. Because it’s no point saying, ‘I’ll show you what I’m like if I can get 15-20 minutes on the pitch.’ You have to show me what you’re like every single day of your life. To fight for the shirt. Not just if you’re going to get 15 minutes on a Saturday or a Sunday or a Thursday.
“I think I’ll always look towards young players but I can’t neglect the experienced ones, the senior ones, because they’re very important.”
On small clubs playing bigger clubs, at all levels:
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be at both levels really, because I was youth team coach at Chelsea, I was also the academy director at Reading. The way the world is whenever you play against the big club that is your cup final so for the kids at Swansea when they were playing against Liverpool that was like the FA Youth Cup final, it was a massive. But you’re absolutely right I think it’s important, and I hope in my team here it’s what I would like to install, that wherever you play, whatever team is out there when it’s Liverpool everyone wants to beat you then you have to defend the shirt for your life. For your life.
“So that’s the mind-set and that’s the mentality that happens over a number of years when you’ve got consistency and when you have success. And that’s important. I think you’re absolutely right, there’s always been that void between the 18 and the 21 in this country where our talented players come through and then where do they go when they arrive at 18 and they’re not quite ready for the first team?
“The Premier League has been brilliant in terms of the marketing and the business side but actually for a lot of British players, it’s been heaven for a lot of teams, but for a lot of young players it’s been hell, because they can’t get the opportunity and they’ve had to then go out on a loan period somewhere to show they can play, because it’s competitive and maybe they can come back in and hopefully try getting into the first team.
“The pressure now on managers is phenomenal which can also stop a young player being put in because if a manager thinks his job, that he’s got to win something or he’s got to get into the Champions League, if he’s got someone who’s got experience against a young player who’s shown potential lots of managers will opt for that seniority because this player’s maybe already done it.
“So it comes from security. The Man Uniteds, as you mention, the Arsenals of the world, it’s no coincidence that those managers have been there for a long time so they’ve more comfort in their role, more security, so they can then use those competitions like what was the Carling Cup and that to be platforms for the young players to grow. For us certainly – youth team, reserve, first team – for the kids every game is important. It all leads towards the first team hopefully one day.
There then followed some tactical discussions, starting with the midfield:
“Well if you talk in terms of a 1 and a 2 and a 2 and a 1, normally you’ll play with this guy here who’s really dominant with the ball – controlling, facing back – so this guy here dictates the rhythm of your game, the tempo of your game. These two players here they then have to have the capacity to control but also run and get forward and also get back in. So if they don’t have that it’s very difficult for it to function.
“So this guy here’s the controller that dictates, dominates, commands from behind. These guys here can join in but then as the team moves up the pitch they have to be able to move with it. But I also have a rule: don’t run forward if you can’t run back, so they have to have then that capacity to play in that corridor where they get back in again. If they can’t do that it becomes difficult then.
“That’s when you would then maybe switch to a 2 and a 1 because if they can’t do that, if you play a 2 and a 1 then those movements are more side to side. Side to side, controlling from behind and this guy then is more the one joining in, with maybe one of these just half round the corner. But really when you play the 2 and the 1 these are more that way; you play the 1 and the 2 they’re that but they go together. But if you haven’t got those profiles of players it’s difficult to play that.
“I thought when we played Manchester city I thought we were tactically very good in the game. We played a one and a two and our concentration was good, we could control the space with Nasri. With Joe Allen here and then with Steven and obviously it ended up being Jonjo Shelvey they could control their two, you know, and then we had that sort of capacity to do that.
“Steven was rested, didn’t play on the Thursday, played on the Sunday. We then obviously started with that again against Arsenal but I thought that we couldn’t dominate so much. We had Diaby, who then was using his running ability to get beyond, was causing us a problem and then the big thing – we weren’t together.
“So Joe knows exactly how I work and you can see him running on, he’s a Liverpool player and will be, his domination of the game and the ball – and he’s not even in his best position. When you have him further on one he’s got another fifty per cent. But because he knows how I work, I have to play him there so he can dominate the ball. But he’s got a lot more to come, so when I get Lucas in that role and can push Joe Allen there you’ll see a different player again as well because he’s so dynamic.
“But then what was happening was we weren’t together; Nuri Sahin’s coming in, not quite up to the speed and the tempo yet so he’s not as dynamic yet, so if you’ve got him not quite on it yet and you’ve got Steven who’s trying to do his bit and get forward all of a sudden the three became one. Now the spaces are starting to scare me. And then they were breaking.
“We now need to control them, now need to stick two controllers in and then try and prevent the counter attack, also, and then slide more, slide side to side.
“The goal was disappointing, the first goal. If you look at it from a tactical perspective we build the game perfectly, Joe Allen drops in, he gets turned, so you’ve broken four players with one pass. We’re high up the pitch, right back’s on the ball, great. But because we’re not a team yet that’s not got good patience at the top end of the field, because when that pass is played in and Glen Johnson receives it in the right back position, we have to move as a back line to condense the space. And this is what I was talking about after the game; our patience at the top end of the field is not good yet.
“We gave it away so much. So what happens then is psychologically with the defenders, once Johnson plays the ball inside and we give it away they stay – and then you look at the gap, then the gap between when we lost the ball to one pass through into here, it’s big.
“I would rather see those little errors and improve them as we go than, ‘right everyone, get up then and we’ll smash the ball up the pitch,’ play percentage football and then you never come back in the game. And our supporters, manager, players, you suffer. You suffer in the end.
“So this is the little bit of pain we’ll go through, like what I said with Swansea but in a different way, but finding the balance, finding, you know, it might even be an interim system because now the players – I might need to come up with something between now and January that allows us to still play with the style, to have greater threat up front, but to make sure we’re compact at the same time.
“Tactically what we then had [at Swansea] was with everyone set up so teams were frightened to death of letting us get a rhythm in the game. So they would push right on to our back four. So I then had Michel Vorm just take them out of the game – it’s not a long ball it’s a pass. So we were just then dropping it in over onto the striker or over onto the side and now we’ve taken all of them out of the game, dropped it over, we turned and now it’s four v four.
“And then they’re unsure then. So now they don’t want to be exposed then. So then they start to drop off so then you can build your game.
“But you have to have so much courage and that’s the point, you know, it’s maybe a different way of playing for people but they can play and they should be able to – that’s why they’re at Liverpool. If you can’t play football and you’re at Liverpool you shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here. And I don’t want to expose players because that’s not what I’m about, you’ve got to play to people’s strengths, but ultimately this is how I work. And it’s something we will work, I’ll work, here for it and then it will be an education that hopefully will put us in place for the next number of years going forward. But this is the ugly bit of work; this is the dirty work as you call it.”
On losing Lucas for a lengthy spell so soon into the season:
“It was bitterly disappointing because I’ve got to say he’s been one of the players that [when] I’ve come in he was really excited about this way of working. He understands totally the ideas of what I’m trying to implement, so for him this was going to showcase his qualities even more. He’d worked his whole way through pre-season, he was absolutely brilliant and he’s gone over done all the hard miles, the hard graft, got himself fit, or nearly fit and then all of a sudden he pulls right fem up here.
“It was a big blow because he’s one of the disciples. I would say he understands totally what we’re doing; he’s been loving the work by all accounts and so to lose someone of that respect within the group as well is obviously difficult.
“How’s he doing at the moment? We’ve obviously kept in contact he’s been at home for a bit because he can’t do a great deal we’ve had people going round and giving him that little bit of work. He has good and bad days, because he’s had a long time out he’s worked hard to come back and now he’s out again. But the idea for him, what I’ve said to him, what I’ll do we’ll keep his spirits up.
“I’m going to use him to also go out and look at some games for me because he’s tactically very good, he’s someone I’ll get to go with my analyst and look at some games to make sure tactically he still stays in the game, because that’s important if you’ve three months out you think, (blows), you know.
“But for me it’s about now coming back a better player and, rather than being in the first position, you know what it’s like sometimes when, whatever you do, sometimes you take a stand back and you look at it from a different position and you pick up things you’d maybe never picked up before. And I know he’d never thought about that and when I put that idea to him he thought it was, that was good, so I’ll get him out so he’s still participating in the game. He can work on other areas, his strength, we now know his knee is strong and he can keep working on that and hopefully when we get him back he’ll have benefited from all the work and come back a better player again.”
On the international break being a good or bad thing straight after a defeat:
A wee bit of both really, a bit of both. Any time you lose a game you can’t wait for the next game. But also at the same time it gives you that wee bit of reflection time and obviously the last numbers of weeks, and particularly last week, there was a real crescendo to that and then there was the window finished so I think for us it’s maybe come at a good time.
“I’ve been able to, there’s only been a small group of players here, so what it’s allowed me to do this week is really throw myself into the young players. So they’ve all been up here this week, we’ve had a little game this morning, where I get the chance to really look at them closely and obviously how they develop in games and I’m looking forward to seeing the young players at all ages come through.
“I think in time and terms of reflection it’s given us a time to look and analyse and just really refocus really get ourselves together and then we’ll be able to push on.”
On whether the transfer window should close before season starts:
“For me it’s, I’ve always said, I’ve always been the advocate of as soon as the season starts then it should finish. It should finish.
“And for me there’s a moral issue as well. For me there’s a moral issue; your season starts and you’ve maybe still got a couple of weeks to run through to the end of August. You’ve got players in your changing room who maybe don’t want to be there but you’re fighting for your life, and for points, you know, for your club, for your supporters, for your city. And you’ve maybe got some players who actually don’t want to be here but you have to involve them and you have to have them around because they are part of your group and that’s the bit morally that’s wrong for me. So I think that for clubs it’s not good in terms of for managers getting your squad together and I also think there’s the moral aspect.
“And it’s only then, whether you do good business or bad business, it’s only after the whole thing shuts that there’s a bit of peace and you can get on with doing your work and you know then the door’s shut, boom, off we go; get the boat set sail again and then at least you know for the next number of months that everyone is on the boat and not looking to jump off it.”
On playing Suárez centrally or otherwise:
“Yes, I think that’s what I’m saying, those sorts, that little one and a narrow two gives you that possibility. He’s so clever. I mean if I think about me managing against him last year he was one of the players I thought: ‘You need to be careful of this little bugger!’ You know because in round the box he rolls you, he’s clever, he’s looking for the clever piece of play, you know he’s so bright, he’s persistent, so his strengths for me are in and around the box, he can drop in and become free, become loose, and play as the loose forward.
“But he hasn’t got that exhilarating pace that say a Messi, you know, Messi drops in he gets turned and he’s driving at you he’s… Luis is one we tried to encourage to get around Mertesacker and just play freely in front of him and then exploit the space just in front of the box. When he does that he’s clever.
“We haven’t too much out there so in that one there he can do that, he can play as a false winger and be on the inside, and I’m sure it’s certainly something we can look at.”
On possibly lacking patience in the back third:
“Yes. And that was the point I said at half time in terms of, ‘take two’, but it’s also again the profile, the certain types.
“If you’ve played that game where you’ve been sat waiting and then when the ball comes up you’re playing quick counter attacking football that is the way you’ll play that. So this just takes time. These are guys that are wonderful technicians, they’re good players and sometimes you have a bad day.
“You have a bad day, but you give the ball away and some players you’ll watch in a game and they’ll give it away more in one game than maybe what you’d see in three or four games, so I think the point for me is we build the game quite well through our thirds and Joe Allen is one of the most courageous players I’ve seen. He’ll take the ball in any situation and use his body well and get himself out and we get ourselves through that midfield area quite well.
“The top end of the field you have to have more patience. Because the more patience you have, because you can’t score every time you attack, and that’s what we need to try and feed into the players. Every time you cross the half way line you’re not going to score on your first attempt – so test the organisation. Teams are well organised now so you have to test their organisation move the game move the ball, move the ball, get them tired, keep them running the worst thing for a football player in the game is to be embarrassed without the ball. And then once you keep moving them side to side in order to penetrate someone loses their concentration. We had it last year a number of times; Man City scored late on, we kept working them we kept working them trying to find a way in, come out, come in, boom, then eventually that comes.
“At the minute because we’re so anxious to score we try to do it straight away and then we concede possession so for me the best thing other than scoring goals in the game is having the ball. It’s having the ball. And then… I think one of the images, I think part of Liverpool, remember before the goalkeepers could play with their feet and they could come out of the box? Liverpool used to go one and two nil up and then from the half way line, boom! Back to the keeper and he used to just pick it up. Game over. That was it.
“Just keep the ball, they’d go up and they’d go back and pick up again and ‘boring boring Liverpool’… It’s tactical. It’s the same idea nowadays but you have to get that understanding, that that is the way you can do it.
“So for me Pepe is that type, but he can use his feet so for us when we’ve got the ball it should be eleven versus ten. With Michel Vorm last year, everyone, I lost my goalkeeper, I had a whole raft of goalkeepers that was given to me. I couldn’t get one that was comfortable with his feet and then everyone says, ‘Oh Michel Vorm, he’s not big enough for the Premier League, he’s only six foot one.’
“For me it was perfect. He was quick, he was agile and he could play football and it meant when my team had the ball my team had eleven men against the ten and when you’ve got the ball 65-70% of the time it’s a football death for the other team. We’re not at that stage yet but that’s what we will get to.
“It’s death by football.
“You just suck the life out of them.
“I had a wee bit of a déjà vu, at the game against Arsenal, you know at the end of the game when they were tiki-taka – we were doing that to them last year with Swansea. So this is the dirty hard bit for me but we’ll get to that stage. And it’s death by football. Keep them running, keep them running, and then they stop going.
“But we’ll get there. We’ll get there.”
On what he needs from others at the club in order to succeed:
“There’s two things, it’s twofold.
“For me that’s the biggest pressure in football. The pressure’s not the game. The pressure is for me whenever people don’t know you. When I’m stood on the side of the field or I’m sitting in the press room or sat here on a press day people make a judgement on you, on you as a person and you in your life. For me that’s the pressure of football that’s our life, there’s no pressure there, there’s a responsibility I carry for this city, for the supporters, everything – but that is the only thing that is the not so nice side, people make an opinion of you when they don’t know you.
“What I demand – when I came into here I promised three things:
“That my communication is open, so my door is open for you, if there’s football or social life you come and speak to me, you come and speak to me – but I will tell you how I feel. I’m not going to waste six months to tell you something that I know now. So my communication is open.
“The second point I’ll promise you is quality. I’m in here at half seven in the morning and I leave between seven and eight at night. I’ll give my life to the club to make it the very best I can and provide quality in my work. I’ve spent years studying, doing all the dirty work, being away from my family, travel, travel, spending money, having no money, you know, to invest for my future going forward. So I will provide quality in my work.
“The third thing I will promise you is ambition. I’ve arrived at 39 years of age at one of the best clubs in the world because I want to succeed and I’m ambitious, and, without being arrogant, I’m good at what I do.
“But those three things I can promise. If you need someone who’s played a thousand times for Liverpool or who’s won 900 medals you’ve got the wrong man. You’ve got the wrong man
“But those three things I can promise you in my lifetime here. All I ask you is to work well and respect. It doesn’t matter where you sit in the chain organisationally. It does not matter where you sit. If you’re the groundsman or you’re my assistant manager you’re a person and I will treat you as a human being.
“So just do your best. I give you the permission to be yourself, no one else, and if you do your best that is all I will ask. Sometimes your best isn’t good enough but as long as you give your best that is the most important element for me.
“When I came in here on my first day I had every staff member you could have [in for a meeting]. The ground staff said it was the first time they’ve ever been in a meeting, for years. For me these are part of what makes us.
“When we have success, when I drive in through the gates, the guy on security is a part of that success; not just the players on the field.
“We will all feel a part of the success because we’re the one club.”