Liverpool FC: Winners and Losers of the Brendan Rodgers Regime so Far
With a new regime comes a new focus, and Brendan Rodgers has quickly sought to model Liverpool into his possessive passing game. But with a new manager comes new players bought to improve and build upon previous teams before, and it is inevitable that players will leave the club.
Rodgers was fast to act, bringing in Fabio Borini (£9 million, Roma) and Joe Allen (£15 million, Swansea), as well as Oussama Assaidi, talented youngster Samed Yesil and world-renowned playmaker Nuri Sahin, on loan from Real Madrid.
Duracell battery Dirk Kuyt was the first to leave the Reds; the Kop favourite was sold to Fenerbahce for £1 million, whilst Maxi returned to Argentina. Craig Bellamy went back to his hometown of Cardiff, still shocked by the death of his close friend Gary Speed a few months back. A shocking deadline day saw four players leave the club and, despite promises from managing director Ian Ayre that a deal would be agreed, Clint Dempsey did not come to Anfield and Daniel Sturridge turned down a loan deal from the Reds.
Liverpool had originally started brightly in the Europa League, comfortably beating Gomel 1-0 away before thrashing them 4-0 back in England, with critics applauding Liverpool's style and passing display.
This was before a thumping 3-0 loss to West Brom on the opening day of the season. Man City were lucky to come away from Anfield with a 2-2 draw after defender Martin Skrtel gifted Carlos Tevez with an easy finish, before Arsenal ran away 2-0 winners in the third league fixture. Liverpool also went through to the group stages of the Europa League, beating Hearts 2-1 on aggregate.
In this slideshow, I pick out the winners and losers of Rodgers' new-look Liverpool regime and explain how they do and don't fit into the new system.
Winner: Raheem Sterling
A simple one to start with, Raheem Sterling has excited football fans across the globe with some fantastic performances already this season. The 17-year-old has proven to be very useful on the right wing, enough to push Stewart Downing onto the bench (though, judging by last season's performances, it's where he belongs) and hold his own despite his inexperience. An England call-up has been his reward for a stellar start to his career, and Rodgers will hope he can continue to bring the best out of the explosive winger.
Not too long ago, it looked as if Sterling was leaving Liverpool as a spat with Kenny Dalglish over opportunities in the first team came to public light. Tottenham Hotspur and QPR looked like real contenders to sign the young starlet. However, a few strong preseason performances, rounded off by a spectacular goal against Bayer Leverkusen, meant that Rodgers handed Sterling a lifeline into first team action, and the youngster has took it with both hands. Maybe the ticking off from Rodgers in training did the trick.
Whatever it is, if Liverpool can keep the boy out of the limelight as much as possible, and can keep his temperament under control, Liverpool have a star on their hands.
Loser: Kenny Dalglish's Signings
Andy Carroll = £35 million. The 6'3" Geordie will have to live with that giant price tag for the rest of his career. A Liverpool record signing, Carroll was signed from boyhood Newcastle as a replacement for departing Fernando Torres on deadline day in January 2011. He initially struggled to find any form for his first year at Liverpool, though he gradually regained some during the second part of last season.
After a reasonably strong Euro 2012 for the striker, scoring a header against Sweden in the knockout stages, Carroll returned to find out Rodgers didn't have him in his plans, and was happy to relegate him to the bench, something Carroll did not want.
After a long transfer window where he was linked to a host of clubs, he moved to Sam Allardyce's West Ham on a year long loan, with the option of signing Carroll for £17 million if they survive relegation. His departure leaves Liverpool with only two recognized strikers.
He was not the only Dalglish signing to leave however.
Charlie Adam also left Liverpool on deadline day, moving to Stoke City for another financial loss. Signed from Blackpool last season, he was compared to Xabi Alonso by his old manager Ian Holloway; a comparison that was very off the mark. After a strong start at the club, Adam's "Hollywood" passes and aggression began to annoy the Liverpool faithful, before an injury ended his season.
Both were sold as they did not fit Rodger's system of play: Carroll is a target man, and the new system indicates the ball should mostly be played on the floor fast. Although he can make some good passes (he was Liverpool's top player for assists last season at six) his "Hollywood" style and lazy attitude meant he was out.
For the players staying, such as Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing, they must improve vastly this season or pay the price. If rumors of Jordan Henderson leaving in order to get Dempsey were true, then they have a long way to go.
Winner: Jonjo Shelvey
Last season, Jonjo Shelvey struggled to break into the team. Steven Gerrard, Charlie Adam, Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson and Jay Spearing were considered ahead of the young midfielder, and he was sent on loan to Blackpool. Whilst there, he entered a rich vein of form, scoring six goals in 10 games for the Tangerines and dictating their play well. Injuries to both Lucas and Adam meant that the ex-Charlton youth was recalled and found himself get limited game time under Dalglish.
He finished the season playing 16 games in all competitions for the Reds, scoring twice.
This year, however, has been a quick turnaround for Shelvey.
Rodgers saw qualities in the talented midfielder and after the departures of Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing on loan, Shelvey became a solid first-team cover, either in the starting 11 or the first player to come on from the bench. So far, he has been quietly successful in his play despite the early results, and the future seems very bright from the player who was brought in to eventually replace Steven Gerrard.
While he isn't good enough yet to take his place in the team, his growth over the last two years remains to be seen.
Loser: Steven Gerrard
I'm sure this one will split opinion, but for me Steven Gerrard at this moment in time has been a loser in the new system. The inspirational captain has lifted the Kop on many occasions and has been the driving force of Liverpool Football Club for over a decade. His partnerships with Michael Owen, Luis Suarez and Fernando Torres have been deadly for other clubs, and Gerrard can easily make a 50-yard pass as well as a 30-yard strike.
But this season, it's beginning to change.
So far this season, Gerrard has looked a shadow of his former self. His passing is off, he's losing possession too easily and his shots are flying over the bar. Gerrard is the type of player who wants to be surging at defenders, passing it around.
Yet in the new system, patience holds the key to success. This is his downfall. For so long Liverpool have relied on the captain to bring them back into the game with his forward movement and his magic right foot. In his new midfield role under Brendan Rodgers, Gerrard no longer can do this.
Age also may be a factor. At 32, the captain isn't getting any younger and may not be able to do the attacking plays as much anymore. For England, Gerrard normally plays deeper and passes the ball around. He was their best player at the Euros.
Hopefully, he will start to replicate that form for his club soon.
Winner: Joe Allen
Despite lackluster results in the league, one player in the centre of midfield has excelled and he is Joe Allen.
Bought in the summer for a fee of £15 million, Allen controls the game from the minute he steps onto the pitch. Against Man City, 93 percent of his passes found a Liverpool shirt, while four out of seven were successful in the opposing half. With 43 out of 44 short passes completed, it's clear what Allen does is the simple stuff: pass, move, press.
For a 5'6" midfielder, Allen loves to get stuck in, and shows grit and determination when he presses the opposition. He won four interceptions against City, and from this one of the passes after led to a goal scoring opportunity. Brendan Rodgers said this about Allen (via Liverpool's team website):
I think the biggest testament that you can give him is that he has come into here and he looks like he has been a Liverpool player for the last 10 years.
High praise from the manager, but Allen has been a great player so far, playing in the Xabi role: always passing, always an outlet. If he can continue to play well and progress, Allen may become a Kop favourite and a new hero of Anfield. Time will tell.
Loser: Jamie Carragher
No matter what happens, Jamie Carragher is and always will be a Liverpool legend.
But now, especially under Brendan Rodgers, Carragher is more of a burden than a real help. At 34, Carragher is too slow to be an attacking centre-back. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel looked impressive beside him last season, and they will hopefully replicate that form this year. This means Carragher is no longer a starting 11 player and, when Agger received a red card against West Brom, it was the Uruguayan centre-back Sebastian Coates who was called into the team.
Carragher has been a great servant to the club for many years, but this has to be his last year at the club. My opinion would be to get him on the coaching staff and gain some experience of that role next season, as this would both benefit him and also the young players coming through the ranks who deserve a chance.
Liverpool fans will always love Jamie Carragher, but it's frustrating to see a legend outpaced and outmatched by the new generation of players. Maybe it's time for him to hang up his boots and share his valuable knowledge of the game as a coach of some sort.
Verdict: Loser (sadly)