Having lost Luis Suarez to Barcelona in the summer, things were looking bleak for Liverpool as the Anfield side struggled to replicate last term’s extraordinary form in the first half of this season.
With Mario Balotelli and a host of other summer signings seemingly not fitting the bill, the Reds exited the Champions League after several underwhelming performances, and were off the pace in the battle for the Premier League’s top four.
However, Liverpool have looked like a new team of late and are right back in Champions League qualification contention after an impressive run of form. Sunday’s 2-1 victory over champions Manchester City was reminiscent of the devastating attacking play that captured the imagination last term and the Reds are now a much more daunting proposition.
Despite a number of the side’s key players stepping up of late, the major credit for the Merseyside outfit’s revival must lie with manager Brendan Rodgers.
Under extreme pressure in the first half of the campaign, the Northern Irish coach has made some brave decisions that have reaped rewards – here are THREE of his best:
With Liverpool clearly not playing to their potential, Rodgers opted to switch to a back three in the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. Despite the scoreline and defeat to the Reds’ rivals, signs were there that the Merseyside outfit were more comfortable in his bespoke 3-4-2-1 system.
Since that game in Manchester, Rodgers’ side have gone on a winning streak, are more solid at the back, and most importantly; have got the best out of the supreme attacking talent in their squad. Credit where it is due – since the change in formation Liverpool’s season has been rejuvenated.
Following the success of Raheem Sterling in breaking into the starting XI, Jordon Ibe has been touted as the next homegrown hero to make the breakthrough. This season the youngster was farmed out to Derby County, with common logic indicating that regular first-team football would prepare the winger for Premier League action next season.
However, with right wing-back being the only area where the club lacked comprehensive options, Rodgers recognised Ibe’s development and brought him back to Merseyside early. Rodgers recognised the fact that the youngster was ready to star in the Liverpool side and it’s a decision that has paid dividends already.
When Germany under-21 star Emre Can was brought to Anfield, the former Bayer Leverkusen star was being lined up as a potential replacement for Steven Gerrard, and another option for Rodgers in the centre of the park. However, with the switch to a three man defence, Can has been deployed in a deeper role – a move which so far has proved to be a masterstroke.
Not only has the German looked assured as a defender, but his range of passing and confidence on the ball means that Can has started Liverpool attacks from deep. When he steps out of defence in possession it also pulls members of the opposition out of position to deal with his threat, which creates space for the Reds.
In the long run Can may well be seen as a sweeper or defensive general, but Rodgers must be given the kudos for getting the best from the cultured and versatile German.