By: Fortune Achonna @Fortuneachonna
Hallelujah! For the first time in eons Liverpool are finally playing fully flowing, fast and furious attacking football and it is an absolute joy to watch.
No disrespect to the teams of Gerard Houllier and Rafa Benitez, they were very effective teams who often got the job done, but they did not take the onus on themselves to make football a spectacle for the fans in the manner Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool side are currently doing.
I will never forget the five trophy haul in 2001, but much of that was based on route one football to Emile Heskey who knocked it down to Michael Owen to run onto; or onrushing midfielders like Danny Murphy, Steven Gerrard, Gary McAllister and Dietmar Hamann to smash into the net. It was certainly effective, but easy on the eye? No. In fact it would be quite infuriating to see Liverpool only having one established route to goal, especially when it was clear that tactic was not going to work in the match. In these occasions, the situation was akin to going down with a whimper, rather than bang.
As for Rafa Benitez, between 2004 and 2009, Liverpool achieved results on a consistency not seen since the glory days in the 1970s and 1980s. Not only did Benitez win the club’s first Champions League title since 1984, but he twice recorded the highest points total Liverpool have tallied in Premier League history: 82 points in the 2005/06 season; 86 points in the 2008/09 season.
I would certainly argue Benitez has been Liverpool’s greatest manager since the glory days and central to his success at Liverpool was his tactical mind.
In modern football, only Jose Mourinho can rival Benitez for the title of master tactician. It is no surprise that the two contested so many Carling Cup, FA Cup and Champions League ties between each other. While Benitez did not have the budget to go toe to toe with Mourinho’s Chelsea side in the league, in the cup competitions he was a different beast altogether. He would analyse the weak and strong points of the opposition and counter them by setting up the team in a way that covered Liverpool’s own weaknesses, whilst still being succinct enough on the attack.
It was a very meticulous way of playing, but also very robotic. Between 2004 and 2009, very few heroes were created. By heroes I mean players who caught the eye and made fans fall in love with them. Aside from Steven Gerrard (who is the local lad), Fernando Torres (who is now a villainous traitor in many eyes), Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia, the fans never really gravitated to the players during this era, who despite being very good, were simply viewed as cogs. I have a lot of respect for Dirk Kuyt, but watching him cover Arbeloa on the right wing is not my idea of how football should be played.
Furthermore, Benitez was so tactical I believe he outfoxed himself on many occasions. Several 0-0 draws at Anfield derailed many title challenges, all because Benitez liked the balance Mascherano and Alonso gave the team. At times it felt like Benitez would rather draw two games in a row and gain two points, than to take a loss in one match and risk all to win the other.
With Brendan Rodgers, the negativity and over thinking of the past are fast becoming a past memory. Due to the attacking nature of the squad, Liverpool now have attacking threats from all over the place and you are always at the edge of your seat because you do not know what will happen next. Take Luis Suarez’s strike that hit the bar against Arsenal for example or the manner in which the Fulham and Swansea matches were decided.
It is because of this never say die attitude we as Liverpool fans take much endearment to the current crop of Liverpool players. In my eyes the likes of: Luis Suarez, Daniel Sturridge, Coutinho and Raheem Sterling are already heroes because they keep doing things that excite me and give me a reason to want to watch Liverpool, beyond the fact they are the team I support.
I was actually disappointed for Daniel Sturridge when he missed the penalty against Everton to nab a hat-trick; likewise I was disappointed for Coutinho when his mazy dribbles against Hull and Arsenal did not get rewarded with a goal; and for these reasons, I was elated for Henderson and Sterling when they got their first Premier League doubles of the season against Arsenal and Swansea.
Keep up the good work Brendan, I will certainly tune in to the next instalment of your team’s crazy adventures; that is if a heart attack does not claim my life first!