'Being: Liverpool': What Documentary Teaches Us About Brendan Rodgers and Co.
In addition to the recent article here on Bleacher Report about what Liverpool fans have learnt about their new manager from the FOX Documentary BEING: Liverpool, we'll now take a look at what fans have been shown about the developing relationship between Brendan Rodgers and his players, and also about the players themselves.
The six-part series—so far four have aired—has given a behind-the-scenes look at life at Anfield and Melwood, as well as a few areas of life outside the confines of the football club.
Fans have been able to glimpse a view of players at home or on the road, of the squad travelling to and from matches and the entire football club being on tour in North America this past summer.
With two more episodes to go before the end of the series there could still be some interesting observations or revelations, as the filming continued up to the closure of the transfer window.
Here are five things the documentary has shown us about Rodgers and his players.
Rodgers Is Building Trust Between Himself and the Players
Several instances of each episode have seen Brendan Rodgers holding court with his players, either out on the training pitch, in a dimly-lit conference room or in a pre-match dressing room.
Though the words differ according to circumstance, the message has been largely the same: Trust in yourselves. Be brave on the ball. We're in this together.
The overriding feeling that Rodgers gives out to his players is that as they embark on what will be—indeed, already has been—a difficult journey, their best method of pulling through is to stick together and trust each other, both on the ball and off the pitch.
With Liverpool's playing style involving longer periods of time spent in possession, and on occasions passing the ball to a teammate who might be under pressure, having that trust on the field is important—while unsavoury headlines or punditry in the media makes that unity just as vital off-field, too.
It remains to be seen if there is any fall-out from the "envelopes" saga either in a positive light, as players fight and work hard to avoid being one of the three, or in a negative one, where they do the complete opposite, struck down by fear of failure or indifference.
A Clear Distinction Is Shown Between Groups of Players' Home Lives
As the cameras continue rolling after training or matches have finished, fans are offered a short but interesting insight into several players' lives outside of Liverpool FC.
Whilst some viewers may not appreciate the invasion into players' habits and homes off the field, perhaps it affords the others an alternative view to the usual sweaty, hairy beasts they see running 12 kilometres on a match day.
There is certainly a clear difference in the home-time spent by some of the players at the club.
Of course, 30-second segments of video do not necessarily reflect everything, or anything, accurately which a player does in his free time. However, since the documentary was being shot over a lengthy period of time, it seems reasonable to interpret them as recordings of the players doing what was perceived as "normal" for them, rather than following them home on a one-off day.
Local-born captain Steven Gerrard was shown arriving at his home, talking and playing with his young daughters and his wife. There was "no football" in his house, according to the man himself, unless his mates came over to watch a game.
Similarly Jay Spearing, now out on loan to Bolton, was also shown at home with his partner, child and pet dog.
The South American lads, by contrast, were portrayed as a much more social group, dependent on each other for cultural support while away from their native countries.
Seb Coates and Luis Suarez (Uruguayan) and midfielder Lucas Leiva (Brazilian) were shown chatting, drinking and playing board games. Maxi Rodriguez (Argentinian) was also a regular member of these gatherings, though his having left the club permanently was not in the BEING documentary. This extended "family" life seemed a big point of differentiation to the more solitary, own-family-based home life of the English players.
Much of the Training Time Is Spent with a Ball
It might seem obvious or stupid to suggest that a lot of training time is spent with a football at a player's feet, but the truth is that many clubs do not devote a large percentage of time on the training field to actual ball-work.
Some managers prefer a tactical approach whereby they individually position players on the field, repeating in-game scenarios often, whereas others—Kevin Keegan, for example—are known to work exclusively with a ball and offer little-to-no tactical innovation to the team.
Whilst not enough footage of training sessions are shown to clearly conclude exactly what percent of training time is devoted to ball-work, it is quite apparent that Brendan Rodgers' wish for the team to excel technically is being actively encouraged.
Whether short games, quick movements and link-up patterns of play or even warm-up drills, much of the training time shown features the players with a ball at their feet.
Just as it should be.
The Older and Younger Players Are Often Seen Mixing Together
Another factor which might be easy to overlook, because they are all "Liverpool players," is the fact that the senior, experienced players seemed to be mixing well with the younger members of the squad.
Of course, travelling to matches or being in hotel rooms might be different. It is natural that young players who have risen through the ranks stick together, or old-timers who have played in the team for years alongside each other will be naturally inclined to chat and relax in their own groups.
On the aeroplane trip to North America for example, many of the Academy kids were grouped together, such as Adam Morgan, Ryan McLaughlin and Jordan Ibe—players who had not spent much time with the senior pros.
During training, though, the players interact with each other on a much more mixed basis, with Jamie Carragher talking to Martin Kelly or Steven Gerrard to Jay Spearing as much as the captain and vice-captain of the club did with each other.
Such group integration is good to see and links back nicely to the original slide—the more players get on with each other, the more likely they are to trust each other.
An unforgettable instance (spoiler alert!) of the elder players enjoying some camaraderie and downtime with the younger ones came in Episode 4—as Joe Cole lofted a baby car-seat high over his head as he prepared to board the team bus, letting Raheem Sterling know that he (Cole) had the young winger's seat all ready and prepared for him.
Rumours are unconfirmed that Sterling advised Cole to "keep it warm" for him on the bench while the 17-year old takes his starting spot in the team.
Another good instance: Jamie Carragher participating in awkward-looking yoga sessions along with the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Stephen Sama.
The Players Believe in the Ideas of Brendan Rodgers
Attentive and respectful—Sterling's "steady!" moment aside—when the manager is talking, and impressed and hopeful when talking about their boss amongst themselves, it certainly seems that the Reds are fully behind the ideas of manager Brendan Rodgers.
Jamie Carragher, Jay Spearing, Steven Gerrard, Jon Flanagan, Pepe Reina, Luis Suarez and new signings Fabio Borini, Joe Allen and Oussama Assaidi were just some of the players who spoke about Rodgers' plans for themselves and for the team, and how they hoped to be able to contribute.
Of course, principal owner John W. Henry and chairman Tom Werner—along with Managing Director of Liverpool Ian Ayre—were sufficiently impressed by Rodgers' plans for Liverpool to hire him in the first place, and all have, naturally, spoken in glowing terms about him.
We are currently far too early in his reign to assess whether this confidence from all parties is well-founded or misplaced, but it is certain that those who are pitching in to make the manager's schemes a reality will be rewarded, while those who do not give their all will be sharply shipped from Anfield.