AND so it would appear (time of writing 2.15pm, Wed 30th May 2012) that Brendan ‘B-Rod’ Rodgers will be the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Jorge Valdano will be pleased.
“I remember a wonderful banner in the Liverpool stands from the days when TV was in black and white – it read: ‘For those of you watching on telly, Liverpool are the ones with the ball’. I used to support Liverpool just for that.
– Jorge Valdano
Brendan Rodgers likes the ball. And he likes control.
This is a good appointment, and having experienced something akin to mourning but a couple of weeks ago upon hearing the news of Kenny’s sacking, I’m happy to admit that, having thought things through, the club have gone with the bloke I wanted. Whether it’s through considered analysis and design is another matter… but even if they’ve stumbled on this solution, I think it’s the right one.
I use the word ‘solution’, because only a few weeks back I gave my views on what Liverpool’s problem was. I had hoped the club would back him to fix it himself, of course, but it wasn’t to be (and it may well be we lost something significant in the process – time will tell). The problem, to paraphrase it as I saw it, was that we lacked control. Its symptoms were as follows.
- tactical incoherence.
- poor decision making with the ball.
- players somehow forgetting how to finish.
The way to fix it? Well, it’s self-indulgent, but it illustrates my point, so here goes – a wee quote from myself in my last post on the subject.
Establish that tactical coherence, and the whole side gets a little calmer. When the whole side’s a little calmer, the decision making tends to get a little better. When you’re more controlled and dominant, and you’re less worried what will happen if you lose the ball in transition, you tend to make better choices. And when you’re making better choices, and those choices are happening within a coherent and balanced tactical framework, your game gets that little bit more ruthless. And we just need to be that crucial little bit more ruthless.
As I saw it, there were two routes to that tactical coherence. Either you bought or blooded another player like Lucas, or you changed the system to introduce what losing him deprived you of.
Well, Rodgers is the man when it comes to control. And he’s fresh from demonstrating his ability to exert it even with a squad full of supposedly ‘limited’ players. Without the ball, his Swansea side has shown energy and aggression, tactical and positional savvy (both individually and collectively), and admirable balance. They’re well drilled off the ball, and not in a passive way – the approach we came to loathe under Hodgson.
Meanwhile, Rodgers loves the ball. He’s greedy for it, and he wants his sides to monopolise its possession. That’s Liverpool football – the kind Valdano fell for all those years ago.
People criticise his football, saying his side lacked penetration in the final third; but the capacity to hurt sides increases with quality and integration – the squad – all squads at all levels – need to learn how to play what is the most ambitious mode of football a coach can try to implement, particularly when resources are limited. Play this brand of controlling football with a defensive unit that’s already arguably the best in its division, and with attacking resouces that, let’s face it, dwarf those Swansea had at their disposal… well, we’ll see, won’t we?
I’m quietly excited by the appointment. I just hope the structure being put in place enables the kind of approach to the game I personally yearn for at the club, as discussed in the following articles (again, self-indulgent, but it’s a drum I’ve been banging for a very long time).
Good luck Brendan.