Breaking Down Liverpool's Tactics Position by Position Under Brendan Rodgers

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterNovember 1, 2012

Breaking Down Liverpool's Tactics Position by Position Under Brendan Rodgers

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    Nine games in and Brendan Rodgers' tactical blueprint is starting to take shape. Bleacher Report assesses how the Ulsterman has gone about changing the Anfield club and what he's yet to do.

    Comparisons are made to Swansea and Roma in order to explain exactly what the Liverpool manager has asked his troops to do and and what setbacks he's faced.

    Lastly, we take a look at players who clearly have no future in this ideology and where Rodgers could look to recruit.


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    As the video illustrates, the goalkeeper's role in Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool is rather different to what Anfield has seen in the past.

    Take these images as an example. Pepe Reina made 29 short passes against Norwich City at Carrow Road, as opposed to 14 long ones.

    Possession starts with the goalkeeper, and Reina's stats are looking more and more Victor Valdes-esque by the game.


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    Full-backs are key to maintaining high possession statistics, so a quality left- and right-back are top priorities for Brendan Rodgers.

    He arrived to find two already waiting for him—Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson are two of the world's premier attacking full-backs when in form.

    Typically speaking, the two will take in turns to venture forward in an attempt not to unbalance the formation. Andre Wisdom, who is currently enjoying a consistent first-team role, is usually the more reserved of the two.

    Karl Matchett of Bleacher Report notes this, in effect, gives Liverpool the presence of three centre-backs at times.

    This arrangement is not too dissimilar to one Marcelo Bielsa used last year at Athletic Bilbao—when Andoni Iraola pushed forward, Jon Aurtenetxe slid across. When Aurtenetxe pushed forward, Ander Iturraspe dropped back from holding midfield.

    Is this why the Reds switched so seamlessly to three at the back against Everton?


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    Centre-back play rarely differs from tactic to tactic, but Brendan Rodgers has two clearly defined roles that are Barcelona-esque in their execution.

    Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger have shared responsibility of the ball-playing centre-back right so far this season, but it's the Slovakian that does it most.

    Against Stoke, he completed just four passes less than Steven Gerrard (55) and against Norwich he managed 67.

    Take the diagram of passes against the Potters. He missed just one short-range pass, but fluffed all but two of his long-range ones.

    This is a blueprint evident across the entire team, so it's no wonder that the Reds achieved 63 percent possession that game and were unfortunate not to win it.

    The other role is that of a traditional centre-back, fulfilling the no-nonsense duties expected.

Central Midfielders

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    Brendan Rodgers employed a Paulo Bento-esque 4-3-3 shape at Swansea, utilising Leon Britton in the holding role behind two more advanced central midfielders.

    He tried to replicate this system at Liverpool, giving Lucas Leiva the holding role behind Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard, but Lucas' injury has forced him to try alternative solutions.

    He reverted to the 4-2-1-3—the same system used at the start of the year when the Swans signed Gylfi Sigurdsson.

    Allen is the deepest of the three midfielders, while Sahin or Jonjo Shelvey is the most attacking. The tiki-taka system doesn't allow Gerrard to make his trademark surging runs, resulting in some muted performances from the captain.

Forward Line

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    The forward line remains the source of Liverpool's issues in the new season.

    At Swansea, Brendan Rodgers made the most of his wide personnel and has continued that method at Anfield.

    Raheem Sterling is his Nathan Dyer—someone who can stretch the pitch, commit defenders and develop holes for others.

    Karl Matchett rightly points out that the Reds are lucky their young English winger has taken to the English Premier League so easily, as had Rodgers been left with just Stewart Downing, he'd be in some serious trouble.

    Matchett also thinks that Suso assuming the playmaking role from the opposite wing (a la Scott Sinclair for Swansea) is indicative of the lack of quality in the squad.

    If Fabio Borini were fit he'd take this role, but he was a strange choice by the manager. His first signing is always going to be scrutinised heavily and many couldn't see the sense in this one.

    Rodgers wants a possession template, but the Italian was the worst outfield player in last year's Roma side (who played a similar system under Luis Enrique) with regard to pass completion.

    Luis Suarez leads the line but holds the unwanted record of having the most shots off target so far this season (more than 30). His movement is good, but are the players around him exploiting the space he creates well enough?

Buying and Selling

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    From what we've seen so far, certain players don't have a chance at Anfield under Brendan Rodgers.

    Charlie Adam was moved on due to his love of the Hollywood pass and a lot of over 30-year-olds were sold or released to make way for youth and vibrancy.

    Joe Cole's future is not in Liverpool and the hierarchy will be eager to shift his £90,000-per-week wages. Jay Spearing is a liability in possession, Andy Carroll and Stewart Downing don't fit the philosophy.

    The Reds desperately need cover for the injury-prone Lucas Leiva in addition to the obvious addition of a striker this winter.