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RODGERS THROWING CAUTION TO THE WINDS OF CHANGE

by Steve Graves // 3 October 2012 // 12 Comments

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When Brendan Rodgers joined Liverpool most fans were impressed by the vision he laid out for the club in his early press conferences.

The emphasis on possession, tactical awareness, positive yet responsible football. The talk of hard work bringing rewards, the need to respect the club and its traditions while understanding the changing nature of the modern game. It all chimed with supporters looking for a reason to believe.

Underneath the presentational flair, though, was an air of caution. Rodgers was keen to stress the time rebuilding would take, the long journey the club was embarking on, the need for patience.

Reflecting on the comparative failure that was his spell at Reading, the new man at Anfield said he had tried to change too much too quickly. Imposing his preferred style on journeyman pros was beyond the young manager at the time.

At Swansea the transition was smoothed by the work of his predecessors. Both Paolo Sousa and Roberto Martinez had built a squad and a philosophy not far removed from Rodgers’s own. Progress was swift.

Back in May the Liverpool job appeared to have much more in common with the task he faced in Berkshire than in South Wales.

While the level of talent was of course higher than that at Reading, years of discontinuity and disharmony on and off the pitch had left the squad lopsided in terms of playing style.

After Roy Hodgson’s dot matrix football and the doomed if thrilling holiday romance of Kenny Dalglish’s second period in charge there was a seriously odd look to the squad.

For every Lucas Leiva, seemingly made for the rigours of ball retention, there was a Charlie Adam looking to gamble with Liverpool’s hard-won possession at every opportunity.

It seemed logical that Rodgers should look for some kind of halfway house, a pragmatic holding position designed to bring in results while the hard work of developing a new philosophy progressed slowly.

In Liverpool’s opening games of the season this appeared to be the objective. While there were bold moves in some areas of team selection, they were generally matched by conservative measures elsewhere.

Rodgers appeared to be seeking a balance, accommodating senior players where best he could while giving the most obvious young talent, Raheem Sterling, the chance to flourish.

In transfers, too, there was a slightly more cautious air about Rodgers than he might like us to believe. Nuri Sahin was what someone fond of management speak (anybody spring to mind?) would refer to as a no-brainer, while Joe Allen and Fabio Borini were seen by some observers as comfort blanket signings.

The manager’s late pursuit of Clint Dempsey would appear to be further evidence of this holding pattern strategy – there was a clear logic to bringing in an experienced and proven Premier League goalscorer.

Yet (*swallows pill marked ‘official line’*) the fates conspired against us on deadline day and Rodgers had to go with what he’d got. What’s more, injury removed Lucas from the reckoning for months, with Martin Kelly facing even longer on the sidelines.

Potentially season-damaging blows struck the club. Five league games passed without a win. An abject capitulation at Arsenal had even the new man’s most fervent believers down in the mouth.

Yet a strong performance with 10 men against Manchester United brought renewed hope, the manager leaving the dugout with the acclaim of the Kop ringing in his ears.

Was it then, or perhaps the previous Thursday in Bern, that Rodgers decided to shed the self-imposed strictures of caution? To start backing himself and his beliefs 100 per cent rather than 75 per cent?

Who can say? In any event it’s clear now that Rodgers is going to live or die by his methods and his vision. He’s on the front foot and the team have followed suit.

Wearying compromises and attempts to accommodate experience at all costs have been ditched. The pre-requisites for a place in the Liverpool 11 are now simply talent and determination – to succeed, to work and to apply the methods demanded by the manager.

In the space of a few weeks the club has gone from fielding Gerrard, Suarez and Allen against Hearts at home to throwing in kids – proper, actual kids – at West Brom.

Rodgers has found in the young players a rich seam of talent and, in fact, experience of playing possession-based, sensibly progressive football. They’ve been doing it all their lives.

We’ve also begun to see what Oussama Assaidi, the most intriguing of the summer signings, can bring. Meanwhile, some of the senior players who seemed to struggle at first have shown a dramatic improvement – perhaps after a glance over their shoulder at the queue of young players hungry for their chance.

As well as creating a genuine sense of momentum, Rodgers’ new-found radicalism could prove a cannier strategy than the pragmatic approach that coloured his early games.

Keep on fielding Stewart Downing while promising jam tomorrow and fans will tire quickly. Show us Suso, show us Yesil, show us – gasp – Sinclair, and the supporters will see where the club is heading. We’ll also have loads of fun.

So bring on Udinese, bring on the brave new world of resting Suso for Sunday, bring on the prospect of an Ngoo, an Adorjan or an Ibe getting a look-in. Anything’s possible at the moment and we’re all the better for it.

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12 Comments

  1. Good post mate… Yes,anything is possible.. #YNWA

  2. Good post.
    My only worries are that BR shall be more focused on age and prospect, than on actual results on the pitch, like Wenger, and/or that FSG will use this as excuse for not giving our manager money to spend in January…

  3. Agreed. I feel the next 2 league games are huge though. 6 points and the momentum would be incredible.

  4. Despite our points tally, I’m the most excited I’ve been for years. So refreshing. My flatmate is a bitter and I’m dying for the young reds to catch them up and pummel them. YNWA

  5. The other great thing is that any hot prospects out there will have more reason to choose LFC over other clubs- hopefully.

  6. With the exposure of the youths sides, we have seen this crop of ‘kids’ develop over the last couple of years…we always knew that talent was there…but what was needed was for us to have a manager with the cohones to give them a chance. Hodgson was never going to gamble, and actually, surprisingly it seems Kenny was reletively reluctant unless injuries forced his hand. Rodgers likes to talk, he like to tell people of his philosophies…but he is actually backing it up by his team selections. In hindsight it really does make you wonder why we went out and spent £16m on Henderson and £8m on Adam, and then send Shelvey out on loan…it is early days but i’m genuinely excited by seeing these kids have a run out, and if they develop into the players that they’re talent suggests, then the future is looking RED.

  7. Great read!! It clear its the more experienced players were struggling early on with the system but not everyone looks to be in the same page and the young lads look like they 20 games each under their belts, great prospects for the future…

  8. It’s so good to watch the team enjoying playing football. As a fan, win, lose or draw, seen some of the nicest football played at Anfield for a long time.

    Good article…..

  9. Great post….. Love the rest Suso for the Sunday comment. I do think there have been signs of this from the outset though. City at home was excellent and if we hadn’t tired away to Sunderland there was a win there for grabbing.
    Certainly the kids have eased the pressure on the January window.

  10. I liked the article. I just disagree on the part that he’s progressively backed himself more and more and that there’s been a switch on his end. Looks to me like it was a progressive switch in the team from certain players and I don’t necessarily think Gerrard improved because of anyone breathing down his neck. For him, it’s been increased exposure to Brendan’s system and being taken out of the “hole” and moved further back.

    You can hear it in the most recent episode of Being:Liverpool, but he wanted to qualify for the groups of Europa because that’s what big clubs do. If the group stages started in August, I think he would’ve started throwing in Suso, Wisdom, etc. in then.

  11. A great article. Spot on about having fun with the team. I can’t usually get up for Europa games but these kids have hot me looking forward to every match. I love everything Rodgers says & he seems to understand what this club is about. Up the reds

  12. Good read Steve yet again Steve.

    Just a some words on the latest podcast, as not sure where to post this. Thought the Rory Smith piece was insightful. Though I wonder how much shorter these podcasts would be without Neil repeating word for word his guests/co-presenters sound bites and statements? Otherwise a good presenter.
    Also noticed how the TAW team is more relaxed these days than previous podcasts. A reflection on the atmosphere around Anfield perhaps?
    Some cracking bands given a leg-up on here. We’re off to the Railway to catch Robert Vincent over in Bolton’s sheep land and Jays new playground. Something retrospectively poignant about the clips of Jay and Flanny talking about the club and city they love on “Being Liverpool” in their current situation (heads up lads it may still happen). Keep up the good work on TAW fellas.

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