IN recent years, supporting Liverpool FC has been a bit like visiting your dominatrix and realising she’s forgotten your safe word.*
“BANANA!”, you whimper. Nobody hears.
The ball rebounds off the woodwork for the umpteenth time. A referee denies a stonewall penalty, and books your striker for having the temerity to fall over in the first place. The media brands the collective a disgrace. The fans are defiant! The fans are disgruntled. The fans are in outcry. The men in their suits who are supposed to make things right shuffle some papers around. The owners get a call from their sponsors and shift uneasily in their bespoke tailored ‘pants’. Drops of saliva well in the mouths of the stalking media.
“BANANA!”, you scream! Nobody hears.
Well, until now maybe. The dirty work is maybe starting to pay off.
Now is a good time to go back and listen to Brendan Rodgers Talks To TAW. A full frontal exposure, in which nothing’s hidden. As you listen, you can begin to really unravel what Rodgers was getting at, as he laid out his vision of how he expects his sides to play.**
During the interview he said, “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.”
We’re seeing the beginnings of that now. Rodgers introduced several of Rodolfo Borrell’s reserve side into the starting eleven, players who are accustomed to his way of working already, or something approaching it, and hey presto, we’ve seen it change very quickly.
We’ve also seen evidence of improved quality in possession. As he said, “what we’ll become better at is doing it a bit quicker. It probably needs to be a bit quicker in the tempo but that will come once the methods are more installed with the players.”
Coupled with that, Borrell’s players, and also his buys in Allen, Sahin and Assaidi, have all demonstrated what he was hoping for when he said, “you have to have more patience …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 …and then once you keep moving them side to side in order to penetrate someone loses their concentration.”
What we’ve also seen both the front line side and the midweek side start to demonstrate is an ability to control the shape and tempo of the game – the balance of play, the available space, and the rhythm. He made several points along these lines in the interview. About his time with Swansea, he said, “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 …now it’s four v four. …then they’re unsure …they don’t want to be exposed …So then they start to drop off so then you can build your game.”
There’s little doubt the transition involves a big change for the keepers. On Reina, he said, “Pepe …can use his feet so for us when we’ve got the ball it should be eleven versus ten. With Michel Vorm last year …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.”
We’ve seen both Jones and Reina flapping a little – they’ve had a lot to think about. But the players have started building the trust to make these changes, because the penny’s starting to drop that it’s effective. Whether it’s the longer pass from the ‘sweeper keeper’, a centre back dropping the shoulder and carrying it through the midfield (Coates on Wednesday, Agger putting Suarez through on Saturday), or by the keeper or centre halves threading it through the pivot in midfield. Those pivots also need to be capable of turning into play – it’s fundamental. We saw what happened when Henderson misjudged his ball to Wisdom at West Brom, for example, whereas when it’s worked, we’ve seen just how effective it can be in disrupting the opposing team’s shape.
The best example of all this is the build up to the 5th on Saturday. Admittedly, Norwich were poor, but Liverpool played the shape of the game like a concertina. Having already worked Norwich up and down the full length of the pitch, Allen receives the ball with his back to play, spins his man, slips it to Gerrard, and the minute Garrido overextends to try and intercept the ball to Sterling, Norwich are all over the place.
Rodgers wants his teams to test their opponents’ organisation, to move the ball, get them tired, keep them running, and then penetrate the minute someone loses their concentration. That’s exactly what we’ve begun to see. And it all gets better with time.
January is going to be interesting, because as a result of his boldness, our squad, dare we say it, has begun to look almost deep, save for in that striking position. At this stage, some senior players look doomed to finding playing time elsewhere, be it via loans or sales. It’s hard to see what they’re going to add when the kids introduced, at a guess, collectively earn a fraction of each of their individual salaries. Less need to reinforce elsewhere, coupled with funds raised and wages freed through sales? An established scouting team in place? There aren’t going to be many excuses if we don’t do something impressive up top.
On the negative side, people are worried about cheap concessions, lapses in concentration from senior players (Pepe, Skrtel) and the openness of the football, but I’d hope Brendan Rodgers has bought a little credit now on this front. Again, in the interview, describing his focus after improving Swansea’s attacking play, he said, “it was still about getting the balance because at home we were brilliant, away from home it was a little bit too open …it’s important about being secure and getting the balance behind that so you don’t concede.”
The improvement is unlikely to be linear. We’ll see mistakes, defensive lapses, and downright bad luck – it’s inevitable (with our current refereeing establishment at least). So we need to be patient and reasonable. Players’ roles are different, and the model of football demands both heightened concentration and balls on the ball. It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that we’re making a few mistakes as we adjust. Maybe if it continues into the winter we can worry. But this is our starting point. As Rodgers said, “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.”
And boy are we beginning to look a little spicy on the park. The difference, though, is we’re less frantic, and a little more tantric.
Here’s to more of that.
* Shamelessly borrowed from the excellent Sahil Malik. Also, I realise I’ve used the word ‘your’. I’m not suggesting you, you know.
** Handily enough, Jim Boardman transcribed the interview in full.
I woke up feeling really positive today regarding LFC and enjoyed your article as it captures the mood of many Liverpool fans waking up this morning. It feels like there’s a bit of momentum building on the field.
The introduction got me thinking though. Maybe some Liverpool fans didn’t actually have a safe word. Maybe they’d convinced themselves it was ‘bananas’ thereby completely erasing the fact it was ‘apples’ that they’d told her. What chance did the dominatrix have of recognising the safe word?
The reason i say this is because I spent last night arguing the toss with some of my mates who are fellow LFC fans. They stated that Rodgers was a breath of fresh air and everything looked good on the pitch. Collectively, we discussed how we’re all eagerly awaiting the next few games. Then the dominatrix walked in. I shouted ‘apples’ and carried on enjoying my new found ‘happy Saturday night’ mood. Unfortunately, some of my mates craved a good spanking. I’m sure you’ll guess how the debate went when I finish by saying everything looks healthy to me. I’m starting to understand what ‘young dynamic manager’ means. Things feel progressive instead of desperately trying to cling to the past and recycle past glories. It feels like a fresh new chapter. No more £100k a week flops on the bench keeping the youth players in the reserves. No more debt as a result. News of a possible 15k extra seats being added at Anfield (potentially) imminent, therefore no waiting 15 years to see the benefit of extra seats. No more under achieving off the pitch. A well oiled machine.
I completely failed to understand how the mood changed amongst my mates last night. The only positive I’ll say is, when we had the same debate 12 months ago and 9 months ago and 6 months ago and 3 months ago and 3 weeks ago (yawn), my side of the table is getting louder and louder and my mates (Morty and Deano, lol) are becoming isolated.
These are genuinely exciting times to be a Liverpool fan. Embrace it. xx
P.s Roy. I’m loving ‘Being Liverpool’.
Great article Roy. I watched the match via a stream and watched that 5th goal and was wowed by Joe Allen and then the pass to Sterling (it was such a poor stream I thought it was from Henderson).
This game was reinforcement for those of us who already believed. It was proof for sceptics that the route for the journey is correct.
We have peeled the onion, discovered the layers and understood. there are many who don’t or won’t but it won’t matter because I predict that this way will be so successful that other big teams will be forced to reconsider and copy what we are doing.
At least we are ahead in our journey.
There is nothing in the rulebook of football refereeing that allows a referee the discretion to decide whether if it’s a penaly or not based on his prejudice against a player. When, like yesterday the laws of the game dictate that it’s a penalty & a sending off, then it is cheating by the referee & the oganisation that represents him not to give it.
I think it’s time we addressed this issue; the club should produce a video of all the legitimate penalties Suarez has been denied this season so far, and contrast it with a similar video of another club being given underserved penalties during the same period. Which other club? Oh, I don’t know – perhaps, off the top of my head and without malice aforethought – Manchester United.
I think the bias shown against Suarez and also against the smaller clubs, (the performance of oliver in the Wigan ManU match was disgraceful), is compounded by the awfulness of the current crop of referees. Seriously i do not recall them ever being this bad.
Why don’t the premier league piss off the FA and their panel of refs and do something radical, there is enough money in the premier league to get their own panel of ex professionals from the lower leagues and pay them a really good salary to take up the whistle.
If your 30 years old and playing in the 3rd division the chances of breaking into the PL are realistically gone, these guys however, will have a much better understanding of the game than the useless, ballless idiots we have now.
offer then £250K + a year and we may get some decent ex pros, who are still fit and understand the game, officiating.
Brendan, has brought hope were previously there was only despair mingled with a fierce pride you get when supporting the might RED’s May 2015 will see us lifting the Premiership again!
At first I thought I was being disloyal to Kenny Dalglish by accepting Brendan Rodgers as our New Manager.I felt that Kenny had a tough time in the wake of the Suarez business with absolutely no support from the Club.
But Kenny galvanised the the Club and reinforced our identity.And for that we again owe him our eternal gratitude.As if we never did before!
But sometimes decisions are taken and turn out either by good luck or good management to be the right decisions.
I’ve always thought that when Paisley took over from Shankly he had a philosophy that was light years ahead of the opposition.He seemed to treat the Team as a machine with efficient parts in every area.And when he found a piece that was more efficient and effective than the piece he already had he would incorporate it and change.
I don’t for one moment think that he thought of players as pieces.He treated them as individuals and knew how to motivate them.
But if you look at Ferguson, he knows that today’s game is based on strict formations and rigid organisation.He takes advantage by going hell for leather at the opposition in the closing minutes of every game when players have felt comfortable playing to their game plan and suddenly they’re faced with unexpected tactics and start to panic.
But back to Rodgers.From what I’ve seen he’s a throw back to the Paisley days.He wants players to go at the opposition;to create chances and put the other team on the back foot.
I’ve just got a feeling that he will get players;just like Paisley introduced Terry McDermott;who will add new dimensions to the Team.And I think that many of them will come from the Academy started by Rafael Benitez!
Listening to him talking about attitude as much as technical ability is something we might have seen under Benitez.But that’s not to be now.
But Rafa deserves a lot of credit and I now am convinced that Brendan Rodgers is the man to take us forward to the next stage.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the season!
It was good performance, but it wasn’t the first time this season we have had cause to sit back and say, “Wow! Is this really us?” Don’t get me wrong, we passed the ball well under Kenny at times last season, but when it has clicked this term like in the last two games, City and United, it has just felt different. More fluid and controlled, perhaps. Dare I say, reminiscent of the 86 points season. Still, I am remaining cautious overall and the I am not expecting miracles from BR this season, but it’s great that it looks like the majority of fans will afford him the time that’ll he’ll need to be judged properly. I mean lets face it, as Stevie G has said even despite the weaknesses in our own squad (possibly greater than anytime since Roy Evans took charge) the Premier League is now fiercely competitive. In the past it was about getting close to the top two, but now there is conceivably a top 7 or 8. We shouldn’t kid ourselves, while it is great that the young lads have done well it remains to be seen (and, perhaps, shouldn’t be expected) that they can maintain a level of consistency to rival the top seven teams that finished above us last term.
you’re kidding me right? I’m gonna have to wander around talking about “tantric football”. There’s going to be a lot of strange looks. What’s next “G” spots and energy centres?
A LOT of people are going to piss themselves laughing if I try this.
Do love what’s suddenly happened to the team(s) as you say. And the yoof are something else.
Segura, Borrell and Mike Marsh deserve a huge pat on the back to beable to pass this resource onto Rodgers so ready to perform. It’s quite amazing.
And if the team really can “own” the pitch and game then we may have found the secret to teams fearing Liverpool again. And I haven’t believed that would happen through this last 3 years of change.
That’s big, that’s really big though of course we’re not at that stage yet. But when we can, when we do……..
It’s a shame for Rafa that he doesn’t get to benefit from the fruits of his vision and work, to have had this youth to rely on rather than have to go out and gamble on freebies and ex internationals of dubious quality. No more Degens and Voronins that perform in every other league except ours.
And if youth get good opportunities and show up well as they are doing at Liverpool then they will attract more youngsters seeing the opportunity of great coaching and a higher probability of breaking through.
That gives us a big advantage over many other youth systems and should raise the standard again through who it attracts.
It’s taken us 3 years to see the benefits and we did it by nicking as good a pair of staff as you can find in the ex-Barcelona boys Segura and Borrell. I’ve no doubt that has accelerated the process and raised the standard of what has been produced.
Others might not have such success.
What has Utd’s system produced recently? Evans? Welbeck? Obertan? Gibson? Macheda? Not bad, but not exactly exactly prolific.
The big nut to crack for me is the defensive side of the game. Teams are still able to slice us open. there’s a big weakness there and I hope Rodgers can plug it quickly. Teams like Everton and Spurs who are both flying right now will make life difficult for us with that there.
Now if Rodgers gets that right I can start shouting about a tantric defence, because we’ll win all our games at that point.
The assault on Suarez (that’s the only word for it ) proves to that refs have been briefed to ignore any pen that involves Suarez. Apparently OPTA have revealed that since the start of last season Liverpool have tried or succeeded in diving 25 times with serial offender Luis Suarez being booked on three occassions.
THREE!! Let’s see one against Sunderland, when it was subsequently shown to be a genuine penalty. That leaves two others from last season.
Someone can tell me how many games Luis played last season but two booking out of at least 30 games is not a bad average.
The future does look bright though but I am concerned that in the last 10 minutes of every match ( except Wednesday’s game) we’ve appeared to tire mentally and physically.
Does anyone know how OPTA reckon their stats, because the subject of diving is surely subjective unlike assists headers etc.
I did as you suggested Roy and returned to the BR session, which definitely enhanced your excellent article, a so much he said then is coming to fruition. We are still stuck though with a bit of Us vs the other team plus the FA. The manager up the east lancs road has led a good campaign of assaults againgst our Luis, but has not completely beaten him. One last tactical offering for Brendan might be a revolving sign where the current “This Is Anfield” sign is, for when Luis walks past it, it spins to say “This is Carrow Road”.
It was great game to watch.
However, we didn’t quite manage to suffocate Norwich and they did look dangerous going forward. Once you add one goal cleared off the line (by Norwich I think!) and a couple of other decent chances we are still a little ropey. I’m sure BR would have been pleased to win but would have quietly been thinking about hitting the training ground hard today.
But your main point, and what seems abundantly clear, is we know where we are going.
And how much are those youngsters worth now I wonder ? And what is the sum ‘saved’ if you add it to the money we ‘should’ have spent in the transfer window ?
It really is time that we started calling for continental referees without bias of agendas to be introdruced into the EPL. This is the only way of ensuring that the influence that a certain manager & club have over the FA & the game in general in this country does is not allowed to spread to the match officials.
What I also meant to say in support of your article was that the method had green shoots appearing when (I think it was) Kompany in the Post match interview after the City game that the match was “one of the hardest I have ever played in my life”. A very revealing comment I thought.
Yaya Toure did say that, it’s true. It’s coming.