When Brendan Rodgers signed on the dotted line to become Liverpool manager back in June, nobody was expecting miracles. However what has since occurred, has left people questioning whether or not he is the right man for the job. He is.
Rodgers’ philosophy of tiki-taka football takes a certain amount of time to embed in the players mind, and you also need to have the right type of players to fully get the best out of the rather niche footballing style.
When you take a look at last year’s starting eleven for Liverpool, how many could you say would have easily slotted in to Rodgers’ Swansea side? A handful at best.
Liverpool often adopted a style of play, that revolved around getting the ball launched up to Suarez’ head, and Carroll’s feet, which often left fans questioning what exactly had Dalglish instructed.
There was no fluidity in a solid midfield four that lacked creativity, cutting edge and desire for the most part. However, since Rodgers’ has taken over, he has chosen to try and utilise a 4-3-3 formation going forward, which reverts into a 4-5-1 when the side comes under pressure.
This formation holds promise for the future, as long as certain aspects are adhered to over the January transfer market. Rodgers’ has been questioned after he failed to bring in a clinical finisher, something Liverpool desperately need, with the only attacking player brought in, Fabio Borini, initially flopping then getting injured. However, given freedom in January to open the cheque-book, he may be able to get the best of the formation/tactics.
Huntelaar, Bent, Sturridge, Llorente and David Villa have all been names banded around, and any one of the five would make a massive difference to the squad. One of the most creative talents in the World, Luis Suarez, has been at his best this season, creating chances out of nothing and scoring goals for fun. However he can still not be called ‘a natural finisher’. To be seen to his best, he needs to be partnered by a strong, powerful, intelligent, goal-scorer.
This would mean Suarez could be pushed slightly wider, with Raheem Sterling occupying the other wing, or he could have Suarez just behind the striker, with two wide men, and two sitting midfielders. Options a plenty, all that is needed is a new striker. Simple.
Well, not quite. The dead wood needs to go, Stewart Downing, Joe Cole etc, who are stealing a massive wage. Then Rodgers can begin to build, and bring in his own touch of small, solid, fluid passers.
Allen was initially signed to be one of these players, after impressing at Swansea, but has struggled to find his feet during the early part of his Anfield career, but under the guidance he is set to blossom into a vital cog in the flow of the tiki-taka engine.
Gerrard, as sad as it may be to admit it, has lost his legs. Gone are the days when he would make a lung-busting 70 yard run to track back and dispossess an opponent, or start the move on the edge of his own box and end up rounding it off with a 20 yard drive, the other end of the pitch.
With his pace slowly dwindling away, he could end up seeing out his career as part of a sitting trio in midfield, alongside Allen and Lucas, who will need to be there to make sure when Gerrard does opt to go forward to join in, they have the discipline to sit and protect the defence in the event of a quick breakaway,
Liverpool’s defence has always been reknowned for being solid, conceding very few goals. However this season, the side have leaked goals, with Pepe Reina coming under pressure for the Number One spot for the first time in his Liverpool career.
When Reina missed a few weeks through injury, Brad Jones put in a string of brilliant performances between the sticks and instilled confidence in Liverpool fans that if something did happen to Reina, or if his performance levels began to drop, there was an able replacement.
The decline in Reina’s performances have been alarming, and it would be no surprise if the Spaniard was to leave in January, with Arsenal reportedly interested in his services. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if he were to leave in January, as long as the fee was of a considerable size, as Jones has the potential to make the number one spot his for years to come.
The defence finally seems to have solidarity to it, as after Enrique has been brought back to solidify the left-hand side (thankfully after Downing’s rather questionable spell there..) and Johnson has been pushed over to his more familiar right-hand side. The central-defensive partnership of Agger and Skrtel is one of the best in the world on their day, and now they have a more familiar wing-back pairing it is only a matter of time before the defence gels, and gets back to how it was.
There are many talented youth players emerging for Liverpool with the future looking very bright. Sterling, Suso and Shelvey all look as though they will have a major part to play in the success of the club over the next few years, as they all hold the major attributes that will slot in well to the tiki-taka style.
Extremely technically gifted, have lots of flair, creativity and the winning mentality means that they could develop into a strong trio that will link up to great effect. But they do need playing time, and if it can’t be guaranteed at Liverpool, I’m sure many fans would prefer Suso to be loaned out for the remainder of the season, to gain some valuable match experience.
He looks a star in the making, has the air of something special, in the way he floats passes around the pitch with seemingly no effort. His little touches, flair and ability to create chances in the final third means he is the type of player that Rodgers will get to thrive over the coming years.
Sterling has begun to assert himself into a first-team player, with Shelvey currently on the cusp of taking one of those three midfield places up for grabs. There has been controversy surrounding Sterling a new contract, but there is a lot of confidence behind the fact he will. When he does, he is set to have a massive future at the club, as his fearless, direct running skills with a decent end product are something the side has lacked since dare I say it, Michael Owen.
Whatever way you look at it, you cannot judge Brendan Rodgers just yet, as it will take the squad at least a season to fully adjust to the style of play he wishes to play. He now has the chance to chop and screw the side in the January transfer window, and attempt to kick-start a late push for a European place later on in the season. However no-one can completely judge him at the end of this season, as it is set to be a transitional period for the squad. In two to three years when he has fully influenced the club with his own style of players, training and tactics, then we can begin to judge whether or not it is ‘the Liverpool way’. But until then, get behind your manager and give him the belief that his methods will begin to pay off, in time.