By Matt Volpi
Brendan Rodgers does not have an incredible CV. An abortive period at Reading and a wonderful, yet brief period at Swansea. That alone is not enough to inspire confidence; but of course, Liverpool fans’ confidence in the personnel and decision making of their team has hit a resounding low since the day the Hodge was appointed as the man to bring Liverpool a title challenge. What Rodgers has is a philosophy. A clear managerial and football philosophy that he will risk everything for, that if it fails, he will shoulder any blame for points lost, goals conceded and mistakes.
Kenny Dalglish has an incredible CV. Kenny Dalglish is the heart and soul of the football club. But as last season progressed, it became clear that a tactical philosophy was non-existent, that players were sent out purely with the instruction to play well and express themselves. Where formations were set, but roles were not, where a distinct, consistent and functional style of play was sadly lacking.
How is it we like to play football? What is the Liverpool way? It hasn’t existed for a while.
That’s why Brendan Rodgers is the right man to take Liverpool back to where they belong, and to do it in the right way.
As one of the only managers left in the football world with a unique way he likes his team to play football, Brendan Rodgers comes to Liverpool to change things. He comes to try and define us again, to recapture the Liverpool way.
Liverpool built their reputation as a team that murdered their opposition. That didn’t just win games, but comprehensively beat teams, running them into the ground with slick, patient passing and tiring them out with incessant keep ball. Teams left Anfield mentally and physically drained. That was Liverpool. That was the Liverpool way.
Rodgers has the same idea of how he wants his side to play football. He made it happen at Swansea, taking a team of largely championship players to achieve more than the sum of their parts. It’s a system that won him huge plaudits last year. “Tika-Taka” it’s been called. It’s an ideal used by the greatest teams of all time, of Liverpool in their prime, and now Barcelona. A system where all 11 players are used to create a patient and clever passing game, where space is slowly and slyly opened up, where the ball is moved between all 11 players in the side without rush, without useless long balls, and where the opposition are pressed hard and fast when they are lucky enough to gain possession for themselves.
“I want to use the incredible support to make coming to Anfield the longest 90 minutes of an opponent’s life, that’s the idea. I want to see this great attacking football with creativity and imagination, with relentless pressing of the ball.”
The words of Rodgers on the day of his appointment as the new Liverpool boss. Words that bear similarity to quotes from the great managers of our time, from Shankly and Paisley. Words that every Liverpool fan would be excited to hear, every cynic and opposition to the appointment included. Words that echoed the philosophy of Liverpool teams from the best days of our club, where the Liverpool Way was the foundation that each season was built on.
It was a hell of a press conference. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and a first impression is incredibly important to our fans. We’ve become an untrustworthy, cynical group of supporters, ready to pounce on the slightest mistake, disbelieving of good intentions. And who can blame us? Hicks. Gillett. Hodgson. They’ve all left their mark.
So it was incredibly encouraging to see Brendan Rodgers go out there and completely reassure every worry we had.
Not only did we see promises about the kind of football that was to be played, we saw an air of power and confidence. Rodgers immediately commanded respect from us. When he answered a question meant for Ayre to talk about how he needed full control over the team matters and would not work under a director of football, it showed confidence and belief.
But possibly the most impressive and important thing he came out with though was his statement that he would shoulder any blame for the teams failings while under his charge. Where Hodgson was quick to blame the performances on his players, Rodgers was quite the opposite. Where Hodgson quickly bristled at questions with responses like “Would you ask Rafa Benitez that?” Rodgers was effusive in his praise for Kenny Dalglish, citing him as a legend of the club and admitting to never being able to compare himself with him.
It’s time to define ourselves as a club again, and Rodgers is our best chance to do that. Given time, and the owners have promised that, he can implement a system that brings us back to where we should be. And he can do it by recapturing the Liverpool Way.
Follow me on Twitter @matt_volpi for more condensed thoughts.