Liverpool facing little short of style revolution under Brendan Rodgers
Brendan Rodgers has been installed as Liverpool manager, leaving Swansea City after guiding the Welsh side to a comfortable position in their first Premier League season. Along the way Rodgers’ Swans won even more praise than they did points, but the question now becomes can Rodgers carry that success from the Liberty Stadium to Anfield?
In April Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp told the BBC that Swansea’s approach should be replicated by every team in the country, while outlets as varied as the Daily Mirror, Everton’s official website and Sky Sports have carried articles and quotes lavishing praise upon Swansea’s team as a whole and Rodgers in particular. Statistically too, Swansea are highly-placed in a couple of telling categories - third-highest for possession percentage and second-highest for pass success.
Individually, a number of Swansea players ended the season amongst exalted company. The top 10 list of average passes per game contains more players from Swansea than any other club - the ranking breaks down as one player each from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, two each from Manchester City and Arsenal and four from Swansea,. Perhaps the fact that tells most about the style Rodgers utilised at Swansea is that of those four players, three are defenders - centre-backs Ashley Williams and Steven Caulker and right-back Angel Rangel. Building from the back has become almost a cliché in football, but it was regular practice for Swansea under Rodgers.
On their own, Liverpool’s own totals for the same categories are not too bad - they rank seventh for total possession and eighth for completed passes, on the decent side of mediocre. It is only in comparison with Swansea and in the individual lists that Liverpool’s figures pale. As outlined above, Swansea are further up the table in both categories and there are no Liverpool players in the top 10 for average passes - Jose Enrique is the highest-placed Red, in 25th, and Charlie Adam is the highest-placed midfielder in 36th despite missing the last few months of the season through injury.
The future of Andy Carroll under Rodgers has attracted much debate, with Robbie Savage in the Daily Mirror stating that the England striker does not fit in with Rodgers’ approach. But that is to ignore the presence of Danny Graham, a player Rodgers paid £3.5m to bring to Swansea this time last year, according to the official website of Watford, Graham’s former club. Graham stands over 6ft tall, giving Swansea’s intricate midfield a solid reference point. Yet Carroll played twice as many key passes as Graham, won twice as many free-kicks and was caught offside far less often, suggesting Savage may be off the mark in his judgement.
Carroll is also three years younger than Graham, so, theoretically, Rodgers has plenty of time to develop the former Newcastle forward into the striker he wants. Liverpool will have to change their ways too and it is unlikely to happen overnight. The most precious commodity of all, time, will determine if Rodgers is a success or failure in his new post.
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