WITH all signs pointing to a Liverpool sans Luis Suarez next season, the tip-tapping of keyboards has been audible around the globe. I felt left out, so here’s my 7.5billion penneth on the matter.
This is a headache Brendan Rodgers could have done without. When Suarez signed his new contract last season, there may well have been some inkling that he still might fancy a move this summer. But the fact was he signed a new contract, agreed to a huge release fee, enrolled his daughter in a Merseyside school for September, and frankly was getting everything professionally he could want from Liverpool.
He was even quoted at the start of May as saying: “I’m very happy here and my family is happy here. Don’t worry nothing is going to happen to me.”
In a separate interview later that month he also said: “I signed the contract because I love it here and I’m so happy here. If you’re not happy here you don’t sign any contract.”
It appears that footballers are disingenuous in interviews, who knew?
He was playing in one of, if not the, most exciting attacking teams in European football, in front of fans who shouted their love at him on a weekly basis, was challenging for the Premier League title and was guaranteed the chance to perform on the stage he had craved since he arrived in January 2011 – the Champions League.
Sadly, the pull of Barcelona was too great and a man who many feel is the most gifted player ever to pull on a Liverpool shirt is leaving. The trickiest of the Tricky Reds is off.
While there are already screams of ‘who can replace Suarez?’, ‘how do you replace his goals?’, ‘where is the next Suarez coming from?’ etc. looking at Rodgers’ managerial past, I’m not so sure they are questions he’ll necessarily be asking.
For all of Liverpool’s brilliance last season with Rodgers at the helm, they still didn’t strictly feel like a typical Rodgers side. He experimented with formations in his formative years as a manager, and in his time at Swansea had landed on a system and a style that suited the way he thought the game should be played. It yielded results that took a Championship also-ran to Premier League mid-table. It also got him the big job at Anfield.
He came in and brought familiar players with him, set up Liverpool in his vision and did… okay. Some of the football was sublime, but lacking in substance and more importantly, points. Enter Daniel Sturridge and Phil Coutinho. Things clicked from there, and Brendan Rodgers’ mad Liverpool movement was in motion.
It was assumed at the time that Sturridge had been bought to be back-up to Suarez. Instead he was an undroppable phenomenon. Rodgers was now forced to figure out a way to shoehorn two strikers into a system that could previously barely justify one.
Such was Rodgers’ disdain for the striker position at Swansea, he actually played Danny Graham there for a laugh, even managing to get 14 goals out of the now Middlesbrough striker. Here he had two top-class strikers. What to do?
The results, and the football, were so good, Rodgers had, to an extent, backed himself into a corner. Luckily, it was a glorious corner that would spawn one the most exciting teams the Premier League has ever seen.
Rodgers went against his instincts and tore down his formation, instead trusting the newly tagged ‘SAS’ to get the job done as a pair. 4-4-2 was out of fashion, but Rodgers re-introduced it with a new modern twist. A diamond midfield with Steven Gerrard at the back and Raheem Sterling or Coutinho at the front, while the SAS were just allowed to get on with being outstanding.
That is something we have seen quite a bit since Rodgers arrived, an incredible ability to rotate formations and systems to suit the players, rather than the other way around. It’s based on the theory that it’s the players who win the game more so than the system, so you just get your best players on to the pitch and worry about formations later.
You can’t help but feel though that a man so clearly switched on as the current Liverpool manager is constantly thinking about every scenario, and the ideal scenario in which he has the players he wants to play the style he wants in the system he wants.
At Swansea he set up a very deliberate system to make the most out of what, with all due respect, was a limited squad. They played some dazzling tiki-taka and it worked for them. That’s not to say that this is exactly what Rodgers has in mind for Liverpool though. Football has evolved since then, and the football hipsters will tell you that tiki-taka is out.
It’s all about counter-attacking football now, something that Liverpool were deadly at last season, and that could be the reason why we seem to be procuring so many dribbling experts who can play across the front line. It’s also why I think that now Rodgers doesn’t have Suarez’s name in permanent ink on the teamsheet, we could see the diamond midfield four become a trapezoid of a midfield five with any two of Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Joe Allen playing behind three interchangeable attacking midfielders who will buzz around and cause the chaos that the sole striker can profit from.
With Sterling, Coutinho, Adam Lallana and potentially Lazar Markovic all capable of playing anywhere in the attacking midfield spots, Rodgers will have the options to keep the opposition guessing. Suso is back too, and I’m sure Rodgers will be laying the gauntlet down to him and his perfect hair that now is his time to show that he’s worthy of giving the manager a welcome headache in that area.
Up top, Daniel Sturridge’s time has come. He played brilliantly with Suarez, but always had to face the reality that he was the Sonny to Suarez’s Cher, the Art Garfunkel to Suarez’s Paul Simon, the Marty Jannetty to Suarez’s Shawn Michaels (one for the 90s wrestling fans out there).
Sturridge managed 21 goals last season in spite of playing second fiddle to Suarez and missing a large part of the campaign with injuries. One can’t help but wonder what he can achieve being the main man, especially if he can stay fit.
That, though, is a big if. Rickie Lambert has come in and, in my opinion, will be a tremendous addition. If he scores in the derby I am sure he’ll take his shirt off, and his shorts, before diving like a starfish into the Kop, but will Liverpool be able to cope if Sturridge gets injured for a couple of months and Lambert has to start up to around 14 games in a row? That is a conundrum that Rodgers will need to address, especially if Fabio Borini is also heading to the exit door.
With the money from the Suarez transfer and the eye-watering TV deals, it appears that Rodgers now has the money to build a Liverpool side completely in his image. At the time of writing, Markovic and Divock Origi are set to become the fourth and fifth new players at Anfield this summer, albeit with Origi heading straight back to France for a year, and with a new left back, centre back and striker reportedly still high on the wanted list.
The top players from the pre-Rodgers era are slowly but surely exiting, with Pepe Reina and Suarez set to depart and Daniel Agger and Lucas reportedly not far behind. The more players that come in and go out, the closer we conceivably get to precisely what Rodgers had in mind when he slapped his big dossier on John Henry’s desk (dossier is not slang for anything).
Liverpool will miss Luis Suarez. Not just for the goals, but the sheer joy of watching him be Luis Suarez. His unpredictability, the unique and subtle nuances in his play, and his ability to grab a game by the short and curlies and make it his own. However, as long as Brendan Rodgers is at the helm, I’m calm. Suarez has always been special, but it wasn’t until Rodgers got hold of him that he became the sensation he is now. Now it’s time to see what Rodgers can do with some fresh talent.
Having Luis Suarez at Liverpool has been a tremendous experience, filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows, but if the 2014 World Cup has taught us anything, it is that you don’t always need that X-factor player to succeed. If you build a solid team from back to front, success can follow. I think Brendan Rodgers has what it takes to do just that.
There again, if he wants to sign Marco Reus, that’s fine by me too.
*Types ‘Luis who?’ to end the article, then deletes it after reading it back and realising how w*nk it sounds*
Pics: David Rawcliffe/Propaganda
We our going to struggle next season due to the DROSS UNPROVEN PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYERS BEING BOUGHT DUE TO AVERAGE WAGES AND ADD-ONS !!! Assaidi Allen Borini Aspas Alberto Yesil Ilori Sakho Mignolet Lambert Lallana Can = WHO EVER WANTED TO BUY THIS LOAD OF DROSS ( KNOW ONE ) AND WE’VE OVERPAID FOR ALL,STILL GETTING RIPPED OFF IN TRANSFER WINDOW !!! INCOMPETENT IDIOT ayre / SHAMBOLIC committee / or FSG can’t attract World Class or even Quality additions to ANFIELD ( WHY ) BECAUSE THEY TRY TO PENNY PINCH MOST DEALS,AND OFFER TRAILS TO PLAYERS WHO PLAY AT WORLD CUP ( THERE AN EMBARRASSMENT TO THE FANS ) AND WHERE GETTING THE PISS TAKEN OUT OF US,SEASON AFTER SEASON ;-(
Well aren’t you just a rainy cloud of doom?
Didn’t you just spam this to the previous article as well, AND WHY DO YOU INSIST ON TYPING IN CAPS-LOCK, IS IT TO MAKE SURE WE KNOW YOU ARE A DICK? Because if it is, don’t worry, we can already tell that from you wrote.
Great article. Your thoughts are spot on I agree with you I can’t wait to see what Rodgers can do with certain players in his team , step forward sturridge , sterling and markovic I can see them tormenting teams with pace and skill :) .
Thank you for being cheerful about this Suarez business. The guy wants to go and it’s been in the stars for a long time now. Yes, he’s an excellent footballer but he’s leaving. There’s no use in moaning about it anymore. Besides, crying about Suarez leaving gives him more energy than he deserves. It also does a disservice to the Liverpool players who are still here and want to win wearing a Liverpool shirt. They’re the ones who deserve our attention. I’ll be annoyed if the entire 14-15 season has a ‘post Suarez’ narrative. He wasn’t the only player who was on the team.
Someone give Tom Pepper a hug. Stat!
If Liverpool is such “dross” in their dealings then don’t watch. All these wannabe football managers who think they can do better. Yes, every team in the Prem has better transfers for less money. It is only Liverpool that makes mistakes. Follow Man City they throw money at people and wipe their feet on Fair Play. Every year the same comments. I remember when Suarez was bought. Same people yelling- overpriced! Waste of money! Dutch league dross! Relax…
“Such was Rodgers’ disdain for the striker position at Swansea, he actually played Danny Graham there for a laugh, even managing to get 14 goals out of the now Middlesbrough striker”.
That made me chortle so loudly, that I’m now in the doghouse as i woke my better half up, and the situation didn’t improve when I told her it was over an LFC blog.
But thank you, great article.
And Tom Pepper, this site clearly ain’t for you mate, try EOTK or something.
Tom pepper if that’s your real name ? Please don’t write anything again, your an embarrassment to knowledgeable football fans everywhere.
I’m not terrible worried about Sturridge, but I am about, well, many other spots. We have so many gambles going on, it’s already taking a toll on me.
Sterling needs to do everything he did from November on last year, but without Suarez. And let’s not forget that a fair share of his goals were basically handed to him by Luis. If this club is to contend this season, he needs to grow even more as a player. He needs to be consistently good, he needs to remain versatile, we’ll need him to at least match his goal tally, and we’ll need him to be improve on assists.
Mad as it might sound, Sterling is our easiest bet.
Coutinho, in my mind, is on the cusp of finally becoming the player we need… or becoming irrelevant. He’s most comfortable in the 10-spot, but without Suarez Rodgers will favor a 4-3-3, and he’s not as good there. Worse, Rodgers seemed more quick to move Sterling to that position on an ad-hoc basis in the closing couple of months of last season. He’s been frustratingly off when shooting from a distance, and had key misses from up close.
When one wonders how we’re going to make up Suarez’s impact and goal-scoring, I can’t help but think about this position. Coutinho needs to step up. It’s as simple as that.
Hendo is another guy who needs to improve now, and not later. He’s a beast, he’s the beating heart of the team, and he runs forever. This team has often needed him to also play well up front, though, and for every brilliant moment (backheel pass!) he’s had a frustrating miss. I know he’s a central midfielder. I know it’s unfair to demand more than 4 goals from him. He’s gonna have to take them, though – that’s the nature of our team – and that means he’s gonna have to get better.
Lallana. So much rests on his shoulders now. We got him because he was able to do – for Southampton – what we need Hendo to do for us. He’s 26, he’s in his prime as a footballer. He has to pay off; he can’t be a project, like Hendo has been.
By contrast, I honestly can’t even imagine Emre Can making that much of a difference this year. Surely Stevie won’t be put out to pasture this quickly?
Coutinho was at his best feeding balls through to Sturridge during the period that Suarez was banned for the Ivanovic bite, so it could actually suit him now that Suarez has left. However, he hasn’t really recaptured his form since he did his shoulder and I wonder whether the plate they inserted in there has been effecting his shooting technique. I also worry that Sturridge and Raheem will suffer quite a bit now that defenses will be set up to nullify them first rather than Suarez. It really depends on whether we can pick up another top-class player to play alongside them as I don’t think we can expect too much of Markovic until he gets another year or two under his belt.
I personally think we need to set ourselves for another rebuilding year or two of sorts, although as David says, this time to Rodgers’ blueprint. Hopefully still good enough to stay in the champions league but a way off challenging for the league. Once all the young talent we have/are-buying start to come into their peak (at which point they will have had a few years to gel as a team) we should be really something though.
That said, in the mean time we should really try to hold onto that magical feeling of anything being possible that coursed through last season. As for me, what really made it truly special was the reawakening of the 12th-man spirit god from its slumber. Don’t get too caught up on transfer budgets and feeling burnt by our loveable scoundrel departing and just try to hold onto that feeling. Expect nothing, believe in everything and we will continue our onward march to the long-awaited title.
Speaking for myself, I think defenses being set up to nullify Sturridge and Sterling is the least of our concerns. Well, what I mean by that is that those two being nullified should only be an issue is if it’s just the two of them It seemed to me as if Daniel and Luis weren’t quite “SAS” during the last couple of months. I saw much more frustrated arm-waving and sullen head-shaking than I did great teamwork. When they weren’t on the same page, even Sterling’s significantly improved play didn’t get them over the wall. Conversely, I think we allowed a bit of a myth to develop around Suarez’s heroics. For a three month period, he was playing like a madman… but I think it’s fair to say that, where the season as a whole is concerned, he wasn’t able to make that difference when the rest of the squad wasn’t playing well.
And so I think the rest of the squad being consistent in their support is the main thing here, and that Sturridge and Sterling should just fine, so long as they get that. That’s where I think Lallana can help, and where I *hope* Coutinho and Henderson will be able to help more. Coutinho proved he could do so before his injury; here’s to him delivering more magic through-balls. Hendo has shown flashes of brilliance in terms of passes inside the penalty area; here’s to him being more consistent.
Good article. Nice wrestling reference.
P.S. I’d be all for Reus or Muller.
“…what Rodgers had in mind when he slapped his big dossier on John Henry’s desk (dossier is not slang for anything).”
That had me in stitches, mate.
Great article. In BR we trust.
I think we’ll be GREAT without Suarez.
Now it’s time for the younger players, Stirling, Sturridge, Coutinho to make a stand
Cometh the hour…
P.S You heard it here first!
Aaaah ‘Tom Pepper’ I get it, he means the exact opposite people. Signing all this ‘potential’ & squad players, though needed, (and I do believe in Rodgers to make these players better), is waring a bit thin now though. We need a confidence boosting, statement making signing!
I totally agree with the article… I think BR’s philosophy will start to come through without LS. I’m gonna miss that boy, what a freak (in every sense), what a player – flawed genius!
Anyway – i think BR will want to build a side that is characterised by these ‘smaller’, nimble, quick players (Sterling, Coutinho, Lalana, Markovic, Suso, etc) – i think if you have enough good ones of these then you perhaps negate the need to have one ‘freak’ like LS. Maybe it also negates the need to have a striker that can do other things other than hang around the 6yd box. Remember when we lost Rushie to Juve… we bought Barnes, Beardsley, Houghton & Aldridge. Aldridge wasnt a great footballer, and wasnt expected to be one either – but he knew how to score & poach inside the box. Obviously Sturridge has more to his game, but hopefully the structure changes next season… and with the right kind of dimunitive ‘across the front three’ players even Aspas might score.
Still – i doubt if we have ‘spent’ the LS money yet – and if the right players are not available then I’m happy not to sopend yet. Of course i’d love a BIG NAME in – but i’d rather the team evolved.
Pity about Sanchez – Hypocritically, i’d love Benzema!!! – wanted him when Torres went instead we got Carrol!!!
Xavi might be free, and we could get 2 great years out of him. Dzeko could be available too, and we have the cash.