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Liverpool: Comparing Brendan Rodgers' Team to Kenny Dalglish's Men Last Season

Vince SiuChief Writer IIIJanuary 5, 2017

Liverpool: Comparing Brendan Rodgers' Team to Kenny Dalglish's Men Last Season

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    Sunday night saw yet another blank at Anfield, as Liverpool hosted Stoke City in a 0-0 stalemate that, once again, failed to reflect their dominance in ball possession and chances created.

    So far, Liverpool’s 2012-13 season has been eerily similar to their last campaign. There has been a lot of promise in terms of performances, but more disappointment in terms of results.

    Both seasons have shown potential, but Kenny Dalglish paid the price for an ultimately disappointing league campaign.

    Brendan Rodgers was brought in after a stellar season with Swansea City to spearhead a new era at Anfield.

    So how do their Liverpool teams compare?

    Let’s take a look at Rodgers’ team as compared to Dalglish’s from a variety of angles—and, as usual, feel free to have your say in the comments below.


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    It’s been quite evident since Day 1 of the Rodgers era that he prefers a 4-3-3 with inverted wingers flanking a central striker.

    On paper, this looks like a straight back four with two central midfielders and one slightly more advanced behind a front three.

    In reality, the much-publicized “seven zones” approach will see players adopt positions more in zig-zag relation to one other.



    While 4-2-3-1 seemed to be the formation of choice, Dalglish tended to change his tactics up.

    Formations of 4-4-2, 4-1-4-1 and 3-5-2 were all seen in Dalglish’s second reign, and his transfer purchases and personnel selection indicated that he preferred playing with out-and-out wingers.


    How They Compare

    The wings are obviously the main difference here.

    This will be further discussed in the following slides looking at the players at Rodgers and Dalglish’s respective disposal, as well as the playing style adopted to suit those players.

Starting Lineup

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    Pepe Reina; Martin Kelly, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Glen Johnson; Steven Gerrard, Nuri Sahin/Lucas Leiva, Joe Allen; Fabio Borini, Luis Suarez, Raheem Sterling



    Pepe Reina; Glen Johnson, Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger, Jose Enrique; Charlie Adam, Lucas Leiva/Jay Spearing; Jordan Henderson, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing; Luis Suarez


    How They Compare

    The back five have basically stayed constant, with the slight difference in the full-back area.

    Rodgers seems to prefer Glen Johnson’s defensive work on the left flank and has used Martin Kelly on the right before his injury, though Jose Enrique’s apparent lack of match fitness has also contributed to this.

    Considering for a moment that Raheem Sterling and Fabio Borini can be treated as inverted wingers, the constant fulcrum of the attack is Luis Suarez.

    It’s in midfield that Rodgers has rung the changes.

    While a clear preference for a holding and ball-retaining midfielder persists in the form of Lucas Leiva (and amidst his injury troubles, the departed Jay Spearing and now first-team fixture Joe Allen), the ball-player next to him takes a very different role.

    Charlie Adam was the Hollywood long-ball merchant, capable of eye-catching passes but culpable in possession, while Nuri Sahin and Joe Allen (when Lucas is fit) are far more accomplished technically and add to Liverpool’s possession-based game.

    Steven Gerrard keeps his versatility intact, and he has been used both centrally and more forward in a support role for the attack by both Rodgers and Dalglish.

    And as mentioned, erstwhile first-choice wingers Jordan Henderson and Stewart Downing have been replaced by Fabio Borini and Raheem Sterling.


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    That the Liverpool squad was depleted this summer was made very clear.

    Instead of having an experienced bench to call on, Rodgers has a host of young players kicking their heels and eagerly awaiting some first-team action (more on them next).

    While defensive cover is provided by Enrique and Sebastian Coates, and the midfield can call on Sahin, Henderson, Downing, Jonjo Shelvey and Joe Cole, Liverpool’s attack is currently wafer-thin.

    Rodgers has no decent goal-scoring outlet to summon from the bench.



    Say what you will about Dalglish’s first-team selection.

    Roy Hodgson and Rafa Benitez, as well as a sizeable proportion of the fans, would have treated Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez as first-team regulars.

    Still, he enjoyed a far more experienced bench to choose from because of the presence of these two vastly experienced players.

    Add in Craig Bellamy, and here were three attacking options who had experience at the top level, as well as intelligent attacking play and overall positional discipline.


    How They Compare

    Following the departure of the aforementioned trio, there is no doubt that Liverpool’s bench has been severely weakened in the attack department.

    Charlie Adam left for Stoke City in the summer, but the midfield and defence have largely stayed the same.


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    Rodgers’ bench is largely made of Academy graduates.

    Andre Wisdom and Suso, besides already first-choice winger Raheem Sterling, are two prospects who have forced their way into first-team recognition.

    Jack Robinson, Adam Morgan, Samed Yesil and Ryan McLaughlin could be more involved as the season progresses.

    Rodgers made a point to integrate his promising youngsters into the team this season, and he has done a good job so far.

    (Indeed, he has brought the average age of the first team down to the Premier League’s lowest.)



    The young prospects under Dalglish were by and large the same group of youngsters currently edging ever closer to the first team with Rodgers, just a year younger in age this time last year.

    Presumably the signings of Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson were meant to provide the bridge in the age and quality gap between the inexperienced Academy players and the seasoned first-teamers.

    Young Jon Flanagan, seen as Liverpool’s next promising right-back after Martin Kelly, saw some action under Dalglish, but he has seemingly lost his place in Rodgers’ team.


    How They Compare

    Sometimes it’s just a matter of time, and in that regard, Rodgers has benefited from the year’s difference in terms of young players.

    There is no doubt that the likes of Sterling and Suso have improved massively in terms of their overall team play, but just a year’s time at such a young age will have seen them mature in the game as well. 

Overall Squad Depth

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    Putting all the above together, what Rodgers has at his disposal is a squad deep in terms of hunger and drive, but shallow in terms of experience.

    There will be many times this season that the fans’ patience will be tested precisely due to this, but in the medium term, this might turn into a strong Liverpool squad.



    Dalglish’s was, on paper, a strong squad.

    With experience in reserve, and quality in the first team, one of Dalglish’s major failings was that he too often opted for Henderson and Downing instead of more sure-fire options in Kuyt and Rodriguez.


    How They Compare

    Youth vs. experience.

    In a season of supposed transition, Kenny Dalglish ushered in the new guard too soon (and it was in hindsight the wrong new guard) at the expense of ready-made first-team options.

    The summer departures of Kuyt, Rodriguez and Bellamy hurt Liverpool’s squad depth badly, but Brendan Rodgers will feel he is fortunate enough to have the kids a year more mature.

Playing Style

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    But the lack of squad depth now isn’t entirely out of Rodgers’ hands.

    So true has he stayed to his ground-based approach and passing principles that he just couldn’t foresee a role for Andy Carroll even when fully fit, and duly let him leave on loan to West Ham.

    With the long-ball option out of the system, Liverpool have reverted to their time-honored tradition of playing it on the floor. Ball possession and retention are the key foundations under Rodgers.



    Pass and move was the motif in Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool Mark II, but Andy Carroll’s presence and upturn in form toward the end of the 2011-12 campaign saw more use of direct set pieces and crossing from the wings.

    In short, a more varied approach that could see a Plan B implemented when something different was needed.


    How They Compare

    Simply put: the current team lacks a Plan B, which Carroll could have provided off the bench or from the start.

    However, the passing principles and philosophy are presumably what attracted club owner John Henry to Brendan Rodgers.

    To see Liverpool transition into a dominant football force with these ideas at its foundations will take time. Without a Plan B, only time will tell how long this process will be.


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    It’s a team still in its infancy, but the seeds of the Rodgers revolution have begun to germinate.

    With Joe Allen controlling the midfield, Liverpool seem to be much more comfortable in possession, and the passing movement at times can be mesmerizing.

    Also, the upcoming youth prospects are an undoubted strength of this team.

    While it is still too early to tell if they are ready to deliver success this season, this can truly be a year of transition; a year in which a new wave of young Reds bring forth a new and encouraging period for Liverpool.



    At the end of 2011-12 season, it was no surprise that Martin Skrtel won the Liverpool Player of the Season award, such was his imperious form at the heart of the Liverpool defence.

    The defence at large was mostly impressive, with Liverpool finishing the league season with the third-least goals conceded.

    For all of the wasted chances and lack of clinical finishing, Liverpool exhibited some fine attacking movement under Kenny Dalglish as well.


    How They Compare

    After some swashbuckling counterattacking on show during the Rafa Benitez era, Liverpool have returned to their passing and possession-based roots under Dalglish and Rodgers.

    Dalglish, with the considerable help of Steve Clarke, improved the defence massively.

    In this current crop of youngsters, Rodgers definitely has the better foundations on which to build a next big Liverpool side.


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    Scoring, plain and simple.

    With the departure of Andy Carroll and the profligacy of Fabio Borini, Liverpool have had to rely on the consistently brilliant and equally-consistently profligate Luis Suarez for goals. And as Liverpool fans know by know, he doesn’t always deliver them.

    Another concern is the leaky defence.

    Pepe Reina has looked shaky, while Skrtel has not been able to reprise his form from last season.

    In strong contrast to last season’s defensive solidity, Liverpool have already let in 12 goals in six league games this season. Simply not good enough.



    What else but scoring?

    Whether it be the woodwork, visiting goalkeepers having the game of their lives at Anfield or just plain bad luck, Dalglish’s Liverpool simply couldn’t get the points they deserved on board.

    That has to be the main reason for Dalglish’s summer dismissal.


    How They Compare

    For the second year running, goals have been Liverpool’s worst enemy.

    Results speak loudest, and if they keep up their jaw-dropping profligacy, they will be in for another rough season yet.


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    Fix the defence, find a more consistent source of goals, and Brendan Rodgers will have a squad capable of achieving great things at his disposal.

    His young but mature side will only improve from here on in, and if he is afforded the right kind of financial support in the coming transfer windows, then this is a team with quite limitless potential.



    But that’s what they said ahead of Dalglish’s first full year back in charge, wasn’t it?

    A team that finished the 2010-11 season with a strong midfield core of Kuyt, Rodriguez, Raul Meireles and Gerrard was destroyed by the needless and financially outrageous signings of Adam, Downing and Henderson.

    All things considered, Kenny Dalglish’s League Cup win was pretty impressive.


    How They Compare

    Liverpool fans will be hoping that this isn’t a team for whom they can only speak of its potential and its future rather than its present.

    The lofty dreams triggered by Dalglish’s legendary status and glimpses of attacking fluidity crashed into the unfortunate reality of goals, results and points.

    Perhaps, then, the message is: More of the same, but with more points this time, please.

Your Thoughts

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    How would you compare Brendan Rodgers’ current Liverpool team to Kenny Dalglish’s side?

    Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to keep them focused on the team only.


    Also check out: 5 Big Glimmers of Hope for Liverpool 

    For extensive coverage on the Premier League, please check out my Bleacher Report writer’s profile. For all things Liverpool—match reactions, opinions et al—please subscribe to The Red Armchair. 

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