Analyzing the Brendan Rodgers effect
Kenny Dalglish left Liverpool with a silver lining in 2012, the club legend’s second spell as manager came to an end with the Reds established as Wembley winners once again. The new man in charge was Brendan Rodgers who guided Swansea City through a stylish and impressive first season in the Premier League, but had a whole new challenge at Anfield.
Two years later Liverpool FC announced this week that their manager Brendan Rodgers has signed new contract with the club which keeps him at Merseyside till 2018. The Northern Irishman has impressed the club’s fans and American owners that he is the right man to take the club forward after just two years into the job. So how did Rodgers take a club that finished 7th, 7th and 8th prior to his arrival to 2nd in the league in just his second season in charge at Anfield?
The Initial phase of transformation
Brendan Rodgers believed in a possession based playing style, which needed quick short passing and brilliant off the ball movements. He relishes attacking football and wants his team to play the same way. So when the Irishman took the job as manager it was obvious that the team would need time to adapt to the new style of play, after all he inherited a club that could only manage 47 league goals in the previous season.
Rodgers further established his authority by clearing out many players who he considered were excess to his needs. Veteran players like Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Fabio Aurelio and Craig Bellamy were all sold early in the transfer window. Alberto Aquilani who spent two seasons on loan back in Italy was also sold to Fiorentina despite enjoying a good pre-season with Liverpool. Charlie Adam who arrived the previous season was deemed surplus to requirements and was on his way to Stoke City. Academy product Jay Spearing was sent on loan to Bolton and club’s record signing Andy Carroll was sent out on loan at West Ham. Also on the first team fringes was Joe Cole, but Rodgers who had worked with Cole at Chelsea decided to give the former England International a chance to revive his Liverpool career, but sold Cole to West Ham in January 2013.
Rodgers didn’t set the world alive when he started his tenure as Liverpool manager. Liverpool went five matches without a win, losing to West Brom, Arsenal and arch rivals Manchester United at home. To make matters worse, for a team that focused on attacking football, Liverpool couldn’t score a goal from open play in their first three matches. The only goals that were scored were both from set pieces against Manchester City. Brendan Rodgers started his spell at Anfield by giving Liverpool their worst start to a league season in decades.
Liverpool form was erratic in the first few months, there were positive signs that things at the club were improving. Rodgers was well aided by the fans who were giving him good support. At least they were getting to see good positive football, which was what Liverpool lacked when Roy Hodgson took over in 2010.
Turn around in fortunes
Liverpool’s fortunes saw a turnaround in January 2013. The club signed Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea early in January who used the England International to warm their benches. Also joining the reds towards the end of the window was 20 year old Brazilian international Philippe Coutinho from Internazionale. Liverpool’s form became more consistent and they went on to become the club with the second most number of points in the year 2013 by the end of the season. Rodgers could only manage to lift the club’s position by one place in his first year, but the fans and players saw that something was different at Anfield. A wind of change was blowing.
Focus on youngsters and academy
One of the key highlights of Liverpool under Rodgers has been how he managed to close the gap between academy players and first team players. Rodgers constantly drafted academy players to train with the first team and gave many players debuts and chances to impress him when Liverpool played in cup matches. In his first year at Liverpool players like Suso, Coady, Jordan Ibe, SamedYesil, Andre Wisdom, Jerome Sinclair and Adam Morgan made their Liverpool debuts. Rodgers also turned Andre Wisdom who was a natural center back into a right back. During his second season he gave further debuts to Texeira and Brad Smith, Rodgers even had 16 year old Jordan Rossiter on the bench for some matches this season.
Even after all this the feathers in Rodgers cap are two players who didn’t make their debuts under him, but became stars the Irishman – Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan
Raheem Sterling who made some brief cameo appearances towards the end of the 2011-12 season under Kenny Dalglish was given more first team chances. The then 17 year old winger impressed the gaffer so much that Rodgers decided to give him his first premier league start against defending champions Manchester City during which Sterling established his credentials. Raheem Sterling has improved so much that he is now expected to be a starter in the England team competing in Brazil for the FIFA World Cup and today he is just 19 years old. Sterling was also nominated for the PFA young player of the year award for his brilliant performance this season.
Flanagan on the other hand was a youngster who showed so much promise earlier but quietly faded away from the first team picture, but when Liverpool were struck with injury blows to first choice right back Glen Johnson and first choice left back Jose Enrique along with the unavailability of both Martin Kelly and Andre Wisdom, Rodgers decided to start Jon Flanagan for the first time in nearly 18 months against an Arsenal team who were table toppers at that point. What is to be remembered is that Flanagan was a player that no team even wanted to take on loan from Liverpool, not even a lower league club. Flanagan had a decent game on his return to the first team. He was then again drafted into the team due to AlyCissokho’s poor form. Flanagan then made his derby debut against Everton at left back where he had a brilliant game putting in crunching tackles and dashing forward. Flanagan is now on the stand by list for England’s World Cup squad ahead of England international Kyle Walker. A lot of credit for how this youngster’s career took a complete U-turn goes to Brendan Rodgers.