When Brendan Rodgers was making his case to be the Liverpool manager, he presented Liverpool’s principal owner a 180-page manifesto that talked in extensive detail about the philosophy of football he intended to implement at the club. The critics of his reign would tell you that that has exactly been the problem with Rodgers. They would say he would make a better motivational speaker than a football manager. They would point out that after all the noise that he made, Liverpool are still out of Europe and worse, still behind rivals Everton. They do have a case.
On the other hand, anyone who is even mildly optimistic about the future of Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers will be telling you that their was a sea change in the team post January. We saw the ‘attacking, attractive’ style of football that Brendan Rodgers talked about and one wonders if things could have been different if Liverpool did not have the horrible summer transfer window last season that saw them fail to get the signatures of Clint Dempsey. If the owners had invested a little more faith in the manager they themselves appointed, Liverpool could have done a bit better.
The statistics prove that Liverpool were good this season. They were one of the top teams in terms of the number of goals scored which was a huge problem in the reign of Kenny Dalglish. The record improved significantly after January and whereas a lot of credit for that does go to Luis Suarez, Liverpool did prove that that was not their only source of goals.
Daniel Sturridge, Steven Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Philippe Coutinho and Stewart Downing were constantly putting their names on the scoresheet by the end of the season. The team looked in great shape offensively with some great moves being created. One of the high points of the season was Jose Enrique’s goal against Swansea as it reflected exactly the kind of football Rodgers would like Liverpool to play.
He has had his fair share of troubles to deal with at the club. He was left with very few resources at the beginning of the season with the eccentric Luis Suarez being the only genuine striker in the team. Rodgers could have kept Andy Carroll at the club but he took a brave decision to loan him out to West Ham and did not compromise on the kind of football he wanted the team to play.
When he was suffering from a shortage of resources he looked at the younger home-grown talent and encouraged them to exhibit their skills at the biggest stage. Raheem Sterling was a sensation to begin with and sorted out Rodgers’ problems as he was deployed with Luis Suarez as a goal-scoring option.His pace and technique augurs well for Liverpool’s future.
He used Andre Wisdom at the right-back position and shifted Glen Johnson to left-back. He proved to be up to the task and will be yet another player that Liverpool will use in the future.
The difficulties were aggravated by the fact that players like Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing were under-performing. Rodgers was vocal about what he thought about their abilities and it seemed a certainty at one point that Downing would be on his way out in January. Rodgers even briefly deployed Downing at the left-back position. Both the players were performing at a greater level for the team by the end of the season and were a part of the regular starting XI.
He did not hesitate from putting Carragher in the center back position after Martin Skrtel put up some terrible performances. Carragher responded brilliantly to the challenging, offering greater solidity to the defense and experience to the side.
It is one of the great characteristics of a good manager that he can help individual players to evolve their game. Jose Enrique has clearly flowered under Rodgers but the most impressive show was put up by Jordan Henderson. The England international was wasting a lot of his opportunities to begin with but Rodgers gave him his time, and share of criticism, but it eventually started paying off. He needs to improve on his positional awareness and passing under pressure but his mobility and eye for goal make him a threat to sides that don’t press him. He will have greater competition in the side next season and that will only make him a better player.
Liverpool are a team under transition. The owners plan to take the club to Europe this season and in the process bring through as many young players as they can which will form the backbone of Liverpool’s Premier League future either by being assets on the pitch or in the transfer window. The investments that have been made in the transfer window so far confirm that.
Rodgers has not made any big money investments and have targeted young players like Luis Alberto. In order to ensure immediate results, Liverpool are looking to strengthen their defense and add another established play-maker to the squad. There were multiple excuses for Rodgers this season but that won’t be the case next season. Only attractive, attacking football will not do as they need to make a better fist of the fight for Champions League places.