Liverpool FC: How Will Brendan Rodgers Line Up with the Merseyside Club?

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Liverpool FC: How Will Brendan Rodgers Line Up with the Merseyside Club?
Stu Forster/Getty Images

Brendan Rodgers would do well to acknowledge that Liverpool have a tactical heritage that holds a lot of influence in and of itself at the club.

It was partly the image of Paisley's "pass and move" fluidity that helped to get Roy Hodgson out of the club, criticized widely for the counterattacking 4-4-1-1 that he put in place.

Rodgers' image exempts him from this problem. After all, he is the unofficial spokesman for the "tiki-taka" style in the English Premier League. His Swansea side were wrongly compared to Barcelona due to their emphasis on passing and keeping possession.

Due to the limited resources at his disposal, Rodgers kept the ball from deep and picked sides off when they attempted to retrieve the ball in advanced areas. He was helped by a structure instituted by Roberto Martinez four years ago and added defensive strategy to the lower-league technique.  

It is unlikely that Rodgers will be able to create a similar structure at Liverpool next season, so it will probably be another season of transition. Furthermore, it seems that Rodgers will opt for a more proactive, Barcelona-like approach at Liverpool, due to the comparative talent available to him. Furthermore, Liverpool have a core of British talent, schooled in the "cross and run" British way, epitomized by the tall figure of Andy Carroll.

Barcelona are the most prominent modern example of tiki-taka, and their proficiency in playing the style stems from the development of a highly talented core of youth players, together with the tactical excellence of Guardiola.

However, Barcelona have been hamstrung by the tactical exclusivity of their style. The failure of Alexander Hleb and Dymtro Chyrginskiy to adapt to the specific style of play showcased the limited scope of players Pep Guardiola could bring in. 

Therefore, Rodgers' adaptability is also new in the context of the style of football he plays. He has demonstrated the ability to work with players of different football cultures, showcased by his accommodation of Ferrie Bodde, Danny Graham and Fabio Borini in his Swansea side (over two seasons).  

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Going by this judgement, Rodgers should have a better chance of implementing his tactical philosophy at Liverpool than Andre Villas-Boas at Chelsea (Villas-Boas was incredibly inexperienced and had achieved success under very insular circumstances at Porto). 

 

System

Rodgers' system can be deduced from his purchase of Fabio Borini, and his pursuit of his former player, Joe Allen. Borini has both worked with Rodgers at Swansea previously and has played in Luis Enrique's Roma side as one of the "wide forwards," cutting inside for whenever Totti or Miralem Pjanic played as false nines.

Naturally, the setup prioritized his goalscoring ability, and he delivered, scoring nine goals in 20 games, the second-most in a Roma side that was struggling with the new system. 

Borini is adaptable and can play anywhere across the front line. His style is that of a typical "quick man" playing off the defensive line and getting on the end of through balls and penetrative balls played across the top.

However, he needs to be played with either a strike partner or an attacking midfielder when he plays in the centre, or in a goalscoring role when played on the wings. 

Allen, on the other hand, plays in midfield. The Welshman played as more of a tackler alongside Leon Britton,the possession-based interceptor. He countered Britton's lack of defensive mobility with astute tackling and runs upfield. Allen was capable of a variety of passes, varying in both length and penetrative ability. He is the kind of player who is key when changing defense into attack.

Furthermore, Liverpool have shown a burgeoning interest in American forward Clint Dempsey. Dempsey is another adaptable player, capable of playing on either wing, behind the forward or as a a main striker himself.

Dempsey's game is more about a high-tempo flurry of skills leading to goals and chances for his team than keeping possession. 

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Integrating both, along with style-relevant Liverpool players, into a 4-2-3-1 formation:

Firstly, Reina is likely to feature heavily in his trademark role as a "sweeper keeper." Michel Vorm did that especially well during Rodgers' time at Swansea.

Agger can perform the role of the ball-playing libero, so crucial to possession-based sides. Enrique can act as the more disciplined more of the two full-backs, keeping possession and helping to stretch the field of play out wide, a more defensive counterpoint to Johnson's theoretical attacking intent.

Lucas Leiva was the reason Liverpool's season went so downhill. They were unable to provide a replacement for the calm defensive work and ball retention skill that Lucas provided, extremely similar to Leon Britton's skill set. Alongside him, Joe Allen can help create a similar pairing to his partnership with Leon Britton,.

In the attacking midfield position, Rodgers has indicated his desire to utilize the talents of Steven Gerrard. It seems likely that he will play the "Gylfi Sigurdsson" role, in that when Liverpool are keeping possession in deep areas around the defensive six, Gerrard will drop deeper and endeavor to connect with the front three. He will mainly be a scorer, rather than a creator.

Due to his age, Gerrard cannot motor around like he used to. I think that Rodgers will attempt to compensate for his attributes by using him to change the tempo.

Gerrard has recently discovered a new sense of tactical discipline, and Rodgers could get him to mediate that with his "Roy of the Rovers" attacking tendencies. He would begin to play more like Frank Lampard (under Mourinho), his horizontal movement switching the formation from a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-3-3, with Gerrard having dropped in beside Allen.

With the Gerrard role in mind, the purchase of Dempsey seems to make sense. He has more assists than Suarez or Borini last season, proving he is a creative player as well.

This means that he could play in the false-nine position, helping to bring the best out from Suarez and Borini, playing to their strengths by drifting and knocking a cross or a through ball in for Gerrard, Borini or Suarez—or going to score himself.

Dempsey could start forward but drift progressively wider and confuse defenders, as the false nine usually does.

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