The TEN things we have learned so far about Liverpool under Rodgers
6. The soundbites – “You train dogs, you educate football players.” “I treat every player at this club like my son.” “Stay behind the ball. You’re not the one bombing on for fun, you’re not going to be like Cafu.” That last one was said to young full-back Jon Flanagan, and while it’s quite hilarious when taken out of context, the fly-0n-the-wall documentary Being:Liverpool did expose the fairly naff David Brent-esque managerial techniques of Rodgers. Of course, you could argue that he did not ask for the documentary to be made and it’s quite unbelievable that the club’s owners saw this as anything other than an instrument that could only apply more pressure to a new manager working under difficult circumstances. We never see behind closed doors how any other managers talks to their players, but at the same time, nobody really made Rodgers say those things. The ‘son’ line above he offered directly to camera in a one-on-one interview. There’s always been a suspicion that he likes the sound of his own voice a little too much, and we’ve seen little evidence to contradict that just yet.
7. Leave the experimenting for pre-season – Liverpool played four friendly matches this season, three of them before their first game against FC Gomel, but progress was hindered by the fact that most of the key players were returning late to training after being given some time to rest after their exertions at Euro 2012. Nevertheless, the sign of Stewart Downing being absolutely torn apart by Aaron Lennon in the first 15 minutes of Tottenham’s 2-1 defeat at White Hart Lane at left-back, when the side had recognised left-back Jose Enrique playing in Downing’s position on the left wing was preventable. Rodgers stated after the game that he’s looking for more ‘solutions’ due to the ‘shallowness of the group’, and he’s clearly trying to get every last drop of versatility out of what he’s already got, which is understandable, but Downing shouldn’t be making his debut in the position over ten games into a new season. He probably won’t win you the game on the left wing, but he can sure lose it for you at left-back.
8. The need to close games out – Liverpool have performed well by and large this season, but they’ve struggled to secure the results that they’ve deserved due to a certain tactical naivety from the players. They’ve let leads slip against Manchester City, Manchester United and Udinese all at home, while the late draw they suffered courtesy of a fantastic strike from Elsad Zverotić during the Young Boys game means they now travel to their final fixture in Italy needing to avoid defeat to stand a chance of going through to the next round.
9. Use home advantage more – In the league so far this season, Liverpool have picked up nine points from a possible 21 at Anfield, while in the Europa League, they’ve picked up just four from a possible nine. Anfield used to be a fortress for the club, but the nervy atmosphere around the ground during most games now is palpable and it must be having an effect on the team; returning the club back to its glory days, or even where they were five years ago under Rafa Benitez will live and die by how difficult they make the historic ground for visiting teams to play at once more.
10. Over-reliance on one player – Before it was Steven Gerrard, then briefly it was Gerrard and Fernando Torres and now it’s down to Luis Suarez. Discussing the captain’s lack of goal threat this season today, Rodgers stated: “He’s carried this club for nearly 13 years and it’s about time there was more than Steven picking up the baton of responsibility. There are others that we want to step up to the plate and get the goals.” It’s a fair assessment and certain players can go into hiding under the increased amount of pressure; not making forward runs, choosing to pass it backwards or sideways and simply following leadership rather than trying to be a leading figure. The best thing Rodgers can do over the coming months is try and find players on the continent or at home to try and sign who will help share the burden out. The Uruguayan has been directly involved in 12 of the team’s 18 league goals this term and has been superb throughout, but he will not be able to carry the burden alone forever and the club are just one injury away from a campaign with only mid-table obscurity and a decent cup run to look forward to.