A mighty storm is gusting through Merseyside. A revolution. Old ways die. In their place a new manner reigns.
It’s impossible to ignore it. It’s simply too enticing. This storm has slowly crept up on us. At first it appeared unnoticeable, unthreatening. But now it promises to destroy all in its way, with devastating precision and effect.
This storm takes the shape of a once seemingly damaged football club. Laughed at on its fall from grace not too long ago. Yet now the headline has altered dramatically. A more serious, stern look on its enemies greet it as it rolls into town. The prodigal son has returned and Liverpool football club is back where they belong.
Since the beginning of 2013 Liverpool have been a new team. A certain brandished swagger has proceeded it, for use of a better phrase. Since the beginning of 2013 the club has lost only eight out of 44 Premier League games, winning 24 and drawing 12. In this time the team has accumulated 106 goals averaging just under 2.5 per game.
The two highest goalscorers in the league this season belong to the Reds and in this they also contain one of the most explosive players in world football in Luis Suarez. In between these statistics and broad statements is a counter attacking style of play with high-caliber attacking players and the most effective strike partnership that has existed in English football for decades.
On Christmas day Liverpool lay top of the Premier League table. They now lie in 4th place, 11 points ahead of champions Manchester United.
So, who deserves the praise?
Is it the new owners led by John W. Henry? Is it in the players that have shaped up and stood up to the task of UEFA Champions League football, that has eluded the club for so long? Is it in one player in particular. A special player. A player that has dragged the club kicking and screaming through two successive campaigns chipping in with 74 goals along the way? Or, is it the manager.
When Brendan Rodgers was appointed manager of Liverpool in August 2012 he promised fast, fluid football. Passing football, Swansea football. He tried to implement his style. Joe Allen was purchased. A passer of the ball. He would help the others to understand the Swansea way. 31-year-old Steven Gerrard would learn from Allen how to pass and move and pass and move. It would be like the old days. It did not work.
For the first six months Anfield was a very frustrating place to be around. Not for the opposition. No, for the side in red. They racked up the passes. They passed and passed and passed. But it didn’t work. Passing for the sake of passing is what ordinary teams do. Passing with intent is what the great teams do. By mid-November Rodgers had accumulated 12 out of a possible 33 points. Something had to change.
This is where they stand now. Over a year after that deflating and stumbling beginning Liverpool are a new side. Every aspect of the team has been bettered. Jordan Henderson, the £20 million flop has outshone fellow England teammate Jack Wilshere.
His endless stamina, forceful pressing, lung-busting runs and expansive range of passing is as important to the midfield setup as any free scoring forward is to Liverpool’s attack. Raheem Sterling; a gem for the future looked uncertain in his own abilities in his first season under Rodgers yet now is greeted by shock and uproar when left out of the starting eleven.
Daniel Sturridge; over 20 goals in all competitions so far this season. His clinical finishing and overall forward play, decided by the runs he makes, his positional play and his positive selfishness has evolved him from an outcast at Chelsea, to England’s most coveted striker. The list goes on.
So where does Rodgers stand in all of this?
He could not be the cause of all of this, surely? Or is he deserving of his share of the praise. Although the displays of Luis Suarez did deem Liverpool a one man team, we have moved on from this. Rodgers has evolved. His first six months were poor. Extremely poor. But, he pressed on. He made changes.
Sturridge and Coutinho were bought. Formations changed. More mistakes were made but, the difference in Rodgers is that he learned from the mistakes. He is an unfixed manager capable of change. And this is what defines a good manager, being able to change.
Change his players, change his tactics, update his style of play. An adaptable manager. Look at the obvious example in Sir Alex Ferguson. He was able to change his squad when he needed, get rid of players, keep up with modern and ever-changing tactics and still come out on top. Jose Mourinho, adaptable.
There is a reason why he is able to go from club to club, country to country and still be successful and win titles. Such managers are able to take in their surroundings, adjust to a new club, a new way of play, figure out the problems and fix them appropriately. Rinse and repeat. The best managers in football are not restricted to one style of play.
A great team does not make a manager, a manager makes a great team.
For Rodgers it is a matter of maintaining the groundwork and pushing on. This is something he has done well. Furthering the cause. Not resting on his laurels. It is not only his sides capabilities of gathering points and remaining in the top four, it is the manner in which he has done it.
If, Rodgers can bring European football back to Liverpool, he will have conquered a demon that has eluded the club for five years. Something that he has shown to be brave enough to achieve and that many before him have failed to do.
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