Brendan Rodgers: The Man behind Liverpool’s Greatest Comeback
With Liverpool marching towards their first title in 25 years, Damien Kelly gives us his thoughts on Brendan Rodgers and how he’s made them champions-elect
With Liverpool marching towards their first league title in almost 25 years, Damien Kelly gives us his thoughts on manager Brendan Rodgers and how he’s made this team champions-elect.
Could anyone really see it coming? A Liverpool team who finished 7th at the end of the 2012/13 season, being on the brink of winning the Premier League title.
When a new manager arrives at a club, the word ‘time’ is offered as a buffer; a manager needs ‘time’ to implement his ideas, ‘time’ to sign his ideal players, the team needs ‘time’ exclaims the manager as an excuse for poor performances and form. No team has won the Premier league having finished outside the top three the previous season. Brendan Rodgers wouldn’t have even expected such a drastic surge towards glory. But it is irrelevant what his expectations were, what matters is his capabilities. In two years, Rodgers has taken an upper mid table team to unprecedented heights as title challengers, who needs ‘time’ when you’ve got this much talent.
Brendan Rodgers was given the job as manager of Liverpool because he had brought a championship team to a very comfortable mid table position by means of efficient possession football. Liverpool were not in a good place at the end of the 2011/12 season, achieving their lowest league position in the Premier League to date. The club had missed out on Champions League qualification two years running, a new vision was needed, but the club’s hierarchy surely didn’t expect an instant turnaround. Rodgers was still a manager in training in his first season in charge, he made mistakes in his signings, he made tactical errors, he wasn’t the most endearing behind a microphone. Liverpool finished 7th and that seemed about right, a much more attractive team to watch, a team with a purpose in their play again, but one that came up short against top sides.
From the moment pre-season began to the present moment, Rodgers has been growing and developing into a magnificent manager at a rate unseen in Premier League history. His handling of the Suarez situation was excellent, he would not cave, he would not budge. His transfer dealings were not ideal but there is a very probable chance the club held him back in terms of how much he could offer for certain players. He started the season with a relatively small squad; one that still didn’t appear that much stronger than the 6 teams that finished above them the previous season.
This is the most remarkable factor of Liverpool’s success, it really didn’t look like a very strong squad. Rodgers is the man behind turning good players into great ones. It is absolutely no accident that some of Liverpool’s top performers have hit the form of their careers in this master plan of Rodgers’. Jordan Henderson, Martin Skrtel and Joe Allen were deemed not good enough by many; Sturridge and Coutinho were unsuccessful and unused at other clubs, many thought Gerrard was over the hill; Sterling and Flanagan were still ‘young’ and Luis Suarez was thought of as a rabid dog, his talent held back by his temper. Rodgers has inspired players, changed their roles, developed players and even tamed the rabid dog. The transformation has been nothing short of incredible.
Brendan Rodgers has given a masterclass over the past eight months in tactics, formation and adapting to teams and situations. The formations have been altered from 4-3-3 to 3-5-2 to 4-1-3-2 to 4-4-2, the list goes on. The team is ready and able to mix it up tactically, it is rarity seeing Rodgers’ team being outwitted. What has been vital is the long awaited return of Fortress Anfield. Once again, teams fear coming to play the reds at home, not just because they are playing one of the top sides in the league; but because Rodgers has set up his team on search and destroy missions in the first of half of every game they play. Arsenal, Tottenham, Man City, Everton, top sides have been obliterated in first halves of games.
The prize is in sight now, there’s no two ways about it, Rodgers will be devastated if his team slips up. Champions League qualification was the season objective in August. But its April now and Liverpool lead the Premier League by 5 points, the objective is the Premier League whether Rodgers tells us that or not.
Some have said Rodgers has capitalised on transition periods at other big clubs, new managers at United, City and Chelsea arrived in the summer. But these managers arrived with approval to spend big and improve squads that were already full of title winners, full of world class players. Rodgers on the other hand had to work with a group players whose mentality in August was being the seventh best team.
Rafael Benitez will forever be remembered in the minds of Liverpool fans as the man who guided a team of dreamers in Istanbul to overturn a 3-0 deficit against the best team in Europe at the time. But if Rodgers guides his team to the title, this will be a far greater achievement; an achievement that will go down in history as Liverpool’s greatest comeback.
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