Football

Liverpool take Rodgers gamble

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The second Spanish Armada of this century is soon to hit the shores of the Mersey, but this time its no fleet of imports but fleet of foot – Brendan Rodgers and tiki-taka are coming to Liverpool.

 

Two very public weeks have passed since King Kenny abdicated. Rodgers' ascent to the throne began on rocky ground with his immediate shying away from the role but now he has signaled his intent to become the fourth Liverpool manager in under two years.

 

He looks set to leave a club on the up in order to stop one on the slide, but such is the difference between the two institutions that his appointment represents a huge leap of faith by the club’s American owners.

 

Swansea’s current training facilities, for example, are no more than a glorified public gym, Rodgers’ office no more than a broom cupboard. 'It's raw and it allows me to work,' he concedes. Liverpool’s state of the art training ground at Melwood seem a million miles away.

 

It is not just the discrepancy in facilities that perturbs Liverpool fans who had aligned squarely behind Rafa Benitez with their 'Talk to Rafa' social media movement which implored owners Tom Werner and John Henry to ensure the Spaniard was the next man spotted supping coffee in Miami.

 

Swansea to Liverpool is a journey no greater than 250 miles but in reality and in history the two clubs are poles apart. The air of past success hangs heavily over Anfield and it is something Rodgers will have to contend with for the first time in his career, along with the expectations of a club that believes it deserves so much more than was delivered last season.

If confirmed, he will take control of the most trophy-laden club in English football history.

 

Rodgers’ predecessor departed due to how far in the distance Champions League football appeared – Below Everton, a chasm between them and the top four, and a poor home record; Liverpool’s last campaign was a disaster, even with the Carling Cup to augment it.

 

Financially the club is desperate to be hooked up to the Champions League and feel the cash coursing through its veins, lubricating progression - part of which is a new stadium. Their latest accounts reveal a £50 million hole over the aborted Stanley Park development, a legacy left behind by the previous owners.

 

That hole will be further widened when the next set of accounts take in the £100 million plus spent over the last 18 months on players that have largely failed to justify their fees, and there is said to be little left in the pot to make amends this summer.

Their wage bill makes for an unhappy read aswell; for the 2010/11 season Liverpool paid a staggering £135 million in wages and finished 6th, giving them the 4th highest wage bill in the league. When last season's accounts are revealed, taking into consideration all their new signings, the numbers are expected to get drastically higher while the finishing position got lower.

 

With a club icon humbled, no money in the bank and an underperforming squad, Werner and Henry are exposed to criticism from the club’s fans having originally been welcomed with open arms. Now they have lumped all their chips on a man with a single season of Premier League experience. Daring doesn’t even to begin to cut it.

 

But what a season it was. Refreshing, exhilarating winds blew from the valleys through the Premier League last season; champions elect Manchester City felt the force of not only Swansea’s bold adventure but their desire and hunger for the ball.

 

Liverpool fans stood to applaud Swansea after they doled out a lesson in how the game should be played at Anfield and it just so happened Rodgers' last game as Swansea boss was a 1-0 win over the Reds.

 

Swansea’s passing game earned plaudits last season, Liverpool’s approach drew heckles. The Welsh club had five players in the top 11 of highest average passes made per game, Liverpool have three in the top 50. Rodgers' exacting approach to training marks him aside from his peers.

"If you give a bad player time, he can play," he says. "If you give a good player time, he can kill you." Rodgers' methods of ball retention and monstrous pressing gives his players all the weapons they require to be excellent killers.

 

 

Highly stylised football yes, pleasing on the eye and in the hearts of football’s purists yes, but Rodgers may soon find however that it is easy to instigate change at a smaller club with little identity, but not at an institution less pliant and easy to mould. In many ways he will battle against the tide rather than swim with it, as he did at Swansea.

 

And what of the players he inherits - there is unlikely to be any major summer arrivals meaning he will have to put square pegs in round holes in order to pass on all he learned while hooking up with the Spanish national squad during their Euro 2012 preparations last month.

 

He will have to implement his ideals on the squad he inherits, and it is difficult to envisage the Northern Irishman implanting his exhausting pressing and technical passing model on the likes of Charlie Adam, Jay Spearing and Jonjo Shelvey to name but a few. Elder statesmen Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard may not be up for the ride either.

 

Equally the club record signing, a loping £35 million brute of a lump, is not exactly tailored to being the sharp point of a slick passing unit.

 

But for all the obstacles that face Rodgers he deserves the full-backing of the club and will likely get it. He fits the criteria that the club’s owners seek to fulfill and they must be applauded at least for seeking out a hungry young manager who has overseen a brand of football rarely seen in English football’s top flight.

 

A season of transition isn’t an option with the owners so desperately seeking Champions League football, but that is what may be on offer as Rodgers identifies the type of player he needs to make changes and restore Liverpool to its former glory. In many ways he has to start again, worm his way to the root of the club and permeate his changes upwards.

 

He will meet opposition as Liverpool continue their search for a director of football but he must stay true to the vision he achieved with Swansea. If he does, then perhaps his appointment is not so much of a gamble after all.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Swansea City
Liverpool

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