Football

Brendan Rodgers is living in a virtual world

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We've all fantasised about being the manager of a huge club.

We've held up the shirt alongside our big money summer signing. We've bought for the future, sniping out any potential wonderkids on the cheap as they promote themselves through the academy.

We've found bulletproof tactics, usually a 4-3-3, which would breeze past any opponent until it feels like s a mere simulation. We've all played Football Manager. We've just not brought it into reality like good, old Brendan Rodgers.

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Tactics

At Swansea, Rodgers had become known for his tiki-taka style of play: a cult tactic in the game made famous by Ajax and perfected most recently by our friends from Catalonia. It is the technique of passing your opponents to death until their defence shows signs of weakness that you're able to exploit.

To add even more misery to your opponents, whilst they have the ball, a high pressing line will be enforced, starting with the three forwards blitzing the defenders in possession. The midfielders will then hunt back the ball in packs which will usually result in them retrieving possession. And the passing resumes. Relentless. Bulletproof. "Total football", they say.

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For a video game which relies on codes and patterns, this works. The fact that this style of play has been perfected less than a handful of times in real life shows that although it does work, there are plenty more alternatives. It definitely won't work every time. For one, it relies on everyone being on the same page. In a video game, you only have to argue with yourself - not quite reality.

Brendan Rodgers had this set-up at Swansea: an entire club united in the same vision. They achieved exceptionally well but ultimately found their ceiling. With the size of Liverpool and this vision, there was no ceiling. Brendan attempted to replicate his Swansea set-up, bringing in Assistant Manager Colin Pascoe and the regista, the "Welsh Xavi" Joe Allen. Colin is no longer at the club and Joe rarely sees any game time because one size doesn't quite fit all, Brendan.

Although Brendan has been forced into altering his formations and style of play, the fundamentals persist - attacking and passing "with purpose" with still very little attention given to the art of defending. In all the time that Brendan has been at the club, whenever Liverpool have been unable to score, it's very likely that they've lost. There are flaws to his bulletproof system.

If a Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola team don't score, they draw. It's rare that they don't score though because in addition to being able to defend, they are adaptable as are their players.

Transfers

For two years, Liverpool tried to play moneyball: the art of buying the most cost-effective players based on statistics.

Joe Allen was statistically one of the best Premier League players in his role whilst at Swansea so at £15 million, he may not have been the cheapest but for Brendan's vision he was the perfect fit. Iago Aspas, after a whirlwind season in La Liga with Celta Vigo, emulating Luis Suarez's dogged nature, joined Liverpool for a respectable £7 million.

Oussama Assaidi at £3 million from Heerenveen seemed like a bargain after a breakout season in the Eredivisie. It all looked good. It was a different way of doing things but it seemed like this guy knew what he was doing. But the proof is in the pudding and the less we talk about them, the better.

Then we move into Football Manager 101: the wonderkids. Myself, I've done pretty well with a team with the average age of 23. A team of youngsters from around these world and academy graduates. Sir Alex Ferguson did alright too. But if we were to play the numbers game: you don't win anything with kids.

Emre Can is looking very promising. Alberto Moreno has shown glimpses. Divock Origi has gone downhill ever since the World Cup. Lazar Markovic. Well, Chelsea had an option to buy him for half the price Liverpool paid and turned him down.

Now, he's on loan in Turkey with Brendan clutching at straws insisting he has a future with the club. Needless to say in 2020, they are all incredible players and international captains. I've seen it. But in reality? I'm not so sure.

He has combatted their inefficiencies with the signings of more experienced (yet still relatively young) players such as Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren, Mamadou Sakho and Christian Benteke, in addition to Premier League veterans such as James Milner and Kolo Toure.

If it wasn't for a few very lucky decisions this year against Bournemouth and Arsenal and a wonder goal against Stoke, Liverpool would only have one point after five games.

On paper and Football Manager, Liverpool have a very strong team but the cracks are showing on your computer screen, Brendan.

I cannot fault Brendan for having a vision but his execution has been poor. Whether it is the transfer policy in place that is to blame, his tactics or his inability to make his mind up, something has to change. It maybe that he just needs to live in the real world.

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Topics:
Football
Brendan Rodgers
Liverpool
Premier League

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