A new beginning
Newly acquired manager Brendan Rodgers has finally reached one of his goals, the top job at a big club. A career that has seen him be an assistant to Jose Mourinho during his days at Chelsea followed by stints at lower league clubs Reading and Swansea. The latter he guided to Premier League promotion and a first top-flight season that earned many plaudits for his sides possession style football.
His footballing philosophy is in its early stages at Liverpool. Mainly evidenced thus far with a concerted focus on developing the best youth prospects within the club such as Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom, Suso and Samed Yesil. Sterling is just 17 years of age and became the League’s second youngest player ever on debut. He has begun with supreme confidence, proving he is not out of place in not just Liverpool’s midfield, but nor as Premier League footballer. Sterling has taken many of the plaudits from almost each Liverpool match and looks to have an incredibly bright future. He also received a call up to the full English national squad, albeit as injury cover, however gaining that sort of experience from such a young age will prove to be invaluable in furthering his development.
Rodgers has also brought players in from elsewhere he sees as key factors in implementing his style of play, like the central midfield pass master Joe Allen from his former club Swansea. Allen has already become the most important cog in Liverpool’s midfield, taking a weight off Steven Gerrard’s shoulders from last season in dictating most of his side’s tempo and direction. The Anfield terraces haven’t seen such a range of passing since the days of Xabi Alonso and are rightly excited by this 22 year-old prospect. Other signings have included Italian striker Fabio Borini from Roma, Moroccan winger Oussama Issaidi from Dutch side Heerenveen, and Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin, on-loan from Real Madrid.
Something went wrong for Liverpool on transfer deadline day. Rodgers attributed it to a crucial lack of communication between himself and the club’s owner, Fenway Sports Group. Rodgers was of the belief striker Clint Dempsey was on the way to the club, leaving him with the opportunity to send Andy Carroll on loan to West Ham. For one reason or another Dempsey joined Tottenham instead, and the Carroll deal went ahead. This left Rodgers with Luis Suarez as the clubs’ sole striker, a dip into the youth ranks had to be undertaken.
This dip pulled out 17-year old German forward Samed Yesil, a recent acquisition from Bayer Leverkusen, who has been scoring goals for fun at youth level for the club and internationally. His only appearance this far came in the League Cup against West Brom, but his name has regularly been in the news for a place in the side on a more regular basis; another youngster who appears to have a bright future under Rodgers.
Having Luis Suarez as a lone striker is certainly not a problem in itself, he’s a quality player. The performances from the Uruguayan have been of high quality on a regular basis, he has scored 8 goals already this season and makes himself a nuisance for defenders while getting into fantastic positions. However his finishing does let him down greatly, though, as does his growing reputation to dive blatantly. There is certainly not a dull moment when he is on the pitch.
The problem this does pose for Rodgers is one of squad depth. The signing of Fabio Borini (another former Chelsea and Swansea player) has yet to produce anything of note and he is a similar type of player to Suarez.
Andy Carroll presents a very different challenge for defenders with his height and strength. If he was happy with a secondary role off the bench with an occasional start when the opposition’s style of play warranted it then I see no problem in keeping him at the club rather than loaning him out. At present, Liverpool is stuck with no real plan B.
The introduction of a completely new style of play at a club is going to have its ups and downs. Days when it looks as if it’s becoming a seamless introduction, others where the fans will ask what has changed? Or what will change?
Unfortunately for Liverpool the good days have been all too rare to start off this campaign. But from the outside looking in, it appears the fans are happy to give their new manager and players time to adapt and implement the Rodgers philosophy.
Their performance at home against reigning champions Manchester City, which ended in a 2-2 draw was their best performance to date. City could hardly get a foothold in the game; the Liverpool press was magnificent, winning the ball back quickly time and time again. It was hard to tell which side were the champions in seasons past for the most part.
However two defensive lapses from the home side led to both City goals, and a thoroughly undeserved away point.
A Luis Suarez hattrick led the Reds to a commanding 5-2 win at Norwich. Other than that, the mind doesn’t stop on too many standout performances. Their inconsistent start is best typified by a 3-0 loss on the opening day to an impressive West Bromwich side; other surprise results include a 0-0 home draw against Stoke City and a flat, 0-2 loss at home to Arsenal. A match that afterwards, Rodgers claimed Wenger has had 15 years to install his philosophy, compared to his two months.
The new number one?
A loss of form from stalwart Pepe Reina to start the new season, followed by his injury on Spanish international duty, led to Australian number two Brad Jones being between the sticks in the Merseyside derby against Everton. The two goals Everton managed were not the fault of Brad and there wasn’t really anything negative to pick out of his performance. I believe Reina will indeed return to the side when Liverpool face Newcastle at home in the Premier League on the weekend. But, if Jones takes to the field in tonight’s League Cup game at home to Swansea and puts in another solid performance, the pressure could start to stack up against the Spaniard.
It is hard to look past the aforementioned Luis Suarez as Liverpool’s best in the early part of this campaign. He is the man who is regularly going to win Liverpool matches and keep them advancing up the table following a poor start. He gets himself into the news for all the wrong reasons on a regular basis but maybe that’s just his persona, and if keeps winning games for his side, who at the club is going to stop him? If Liverpool weren’t to achieve European football for next season from this campaign, there could be great interest in Suarez from higher placed sides in England, or in Spain who have Champions League football to offer Suarez. This may prove too hard for the player to resist and could become an interesting transfer development throughout the off-season.
Liverpool needs another striker. Whether Carroll will be re-called from his loan deal at West Ham remains to be seen, as does whether or not he fits into Rodgers plans. Either way, the weight needs to be lifted off of Suarez’s shoulders. It seems to me Liverpool are way to reliant on the man to score goal after goal to get them over the line in games they should be winning comfortably.
I believe the Rodger’s philosophy will be installed at Anfield with great effect, if he is given enough time to do so. This will be a season of re-development and revolution at the club and so far it seems the supporters accept that. The youngsters will get a Premier League season under their belts, which is great for the development of the English game. Their possession style football once perfected will be great to watch and it will win the fans over eventually. I admire Rodgers’ philosophy and the way he handles himself in the media, I believe he will get the success at a big club that he so badly desires, but it won’t be this season or next at least, though.
Luke Sale is a first-year Bachelor of Sports Journalism student at La Trobe University. Get in touch with him on Twitter.