7 Signs That Brendan Rodgers Has Figured It out at Liverpool
Since being appointed as Liverpool manager in the summer, Brendan Rodgers has come face to face with several problems or incidents that you could only encounter at a club like Liverpool.
Whether it be the maddening start of facing most of the Premier League's best sides in the opening weeks of the season, having to replace a club legend like Kenny Dalglish or dealing with the slightly surreal Being: Liverpool documentary from Fox, Rodgers has already dealt with plenty more to deal with than your average top-flight boss—even without taking the football itself into account.
But there are plenty of signs that Rodgers is getting the majority of decisions right, that he understands the club and that he is increasingly seen as the right man to take the club forward.
Not everything has been perfect, nor should it have been expected to be, but by and large the former Swansea boss is impressing in his new role.
Here are seven signs which show Rodgers has got Liverpool figured out.
First off, Brendan Rodgers had a lot of work to do in the transfer market this summer. There were players at the club who couldn't possibly remain involved in the first team if serious progress was to be made—and some of these players had barely been at the club a year.
Out went the likes of Charlie Adam to Stoke, a couple of loan players in Andy Carroll and Jay Spearing and several expensive wages leaving on free or minimal transfer deals, including Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Alberto Aquilani and Craig Bellamy.
Rodgers started to shape the squad to his own mind by bringing in Joe Allen from Swansea and Fabio Borini from AS Roma—both players he had worked with previously.
There were a few who got away: Gylfi Sigurdsson was thought to be a nailed-on signing before he upped his wage demands and Rodgers refused to budge, and the deadline-day debacle over Clint Dempsey could yet prove to be rather costly.
Overall though, Rodgers' transfer dealings have been positive in the main and should benefit the Reds in the long run—the youthful age of his targets ensuring that even if any particular player does not quite cut it, they will still have a resale value and plenty of career ahead of them.
Utilisation of Young Players
It's one thing to have a productive, enthusiastic youth system at a club which sends forth quality young players; it's quite another to have a manager with the timing, confidence and self-belief to actually pick them for the first team.
This year, Liverpool certainly had the former, and they've brought in the latter to help take advantage of the roots put down by Rafa Benitez, Pep Segura, Rodolfo Borrell and Frank McParland, amongst others.
Suso, Raheem Sterling and Andre Wisdom have made themselves part of the first team at Anfield in a few short weeks, with the likes of Samed Yesil, Adam Morgan and Jack Robinson also all getting exposure to first-team football.
There are plenty more where those came from, too: Jordan Ibe, Ryan McLaughlin, Conor Coady, Craig Roddan and Krisztian Adorjan are just some of the talented youngsters who Brendan Rodgers could call upon over the next few months.
Adherence to Tactical Plan, Flexibility in Formation
Brendan Rodgers came into the club with a plan, a way of playing and a system which would get the best out of the players he wanted.
Partly because the Reds were unable to add as many numbers as possible in the summer and partly because of injury—to Lucas Leiva in particular—the boss has had to re-align the way he sends his team out in many matches.
The methods of playing, however, do not change.
A passing buildup from the back, the roles of the attacking full-backs and front three, the fluidity on the ball in the centre of the pitch and players swapping zones whenever they can—these tactics remain constant.
The 4-3-3 formation has had to be altered somewhat, with Liverpool operating with a clear two holding players behind one more advanced midfielder for much of the time. The recent game against Everton demonstrated further evidence in this regard, as the Reds fielded a back three for the first time under Rodgers.
That the manager has a way of playing and a system of passing the ball the way he instructs his players to adhere to is notable, admirable and absolutely central to how the club wants to progress, but that he is willing to switch away from one single, rigid framework of the team to achieve those goals is far more important.
Liverpool's supporters are usually patient with their manager, as long as they can see he is progressing the team and that performances or results are generally improving.
It's fair to say that the Anfield crowd have had their fair share of testing moments already this season: conceding a late equaliser to Manchester City, the red card and loss against Manchester United, a poor defeat to Arsenal and the customary few draws.
Despite that, the Kop have not turned in the slightest on the players or the management; to the contrary, the crowds have vociferously backed the team on most occasions.
Anzhi in the Europa League being a rather silent, notable exception.
Rodgers has the crowd on his side, and that's a first big step in being a success at the club.
Interviews and Press Conferences
From almost the first time Rodgers sat in front of a microphone as Liverpool manager, he has impressed with his calm demeanor, forthright answers and self-assuredness.
He has spoken with vigour, honesty and integrity and has not shied away from tough questioning when needed.
Rodgers has also spent time with fans, websites and independent blogs, speaking to them and answering their questions about tactics, playing styles and plenty more besides.
A few viewers might have questioned the wisdom of Rodgers allowing the cameras to film his team talks and such in the Being: Liverpool documentary, and sure, he might have let a few cliche lines run out but again, on the whole, he came across as in charge of his players and sure of his ideas. And that's all that really matters.
General Positivity Surrounding the Buildup to Games
Even with key players injured, being in the headlines for the wrong reasons and with the team failing to score enough goals.
Even with the lowly number of league wins at home during the calender year, even with the continued absence of Champions League football and, yes, even though club legend Kenny Dalglish was sacked as manager in the summer.
Even despite all these factors, there is undoubtedly a feeling of goodwill and anticipation around Liverpool games at present, as the majority of fans look forward to good football, further exhibitions of improved displays and a team which is slowly coming together and looking like it can achieve good success.
Much of this is down to the impact and the positivity that Brendan Rodgers has had and is promoting, and it has no doubt helped some of the players settle into new roles and not feel over-burdened with pressure going into each game after failing to win the previous one.
No matter about everything else, only one thing ultimately matters to Liverpool FC—and that's results on the pitch.
After a start to the league campaign that saw the Reds on a run reading loss-draw-loss-draw-loss, Rodgers and his team have picked it up significantly over the past month, recording a most recent run of win-draw-win-draw.
Sure, back-to-back victories have yet to be recorded in the league, but four games unbeaten is a much better run than the first five games, and in all competitions Liverpool have only lost two out of the last 10 games—against Manchester United and Udinese, both games where for the vast majority of the 90 minutes Liverpool were the better side.
Improved performances have been evident since the very beginning of the season; now results are starting to pick up and match as well.
Liverpool are far from the finished article, and tough games against Newcastle, Chelsea and Spurs during November will go a significant distance to showing just how much more work Rodgers has got to get through. But so far, the signs are there that important progress is being made.