Liverpool Tactics: How Brendan Rodgers' Fluid System Works and What Comes Next

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Liverpool Tactics: How Brendan Rodgers' Fluid System Works and What Comes Next
Dino Panato/Getty Images

In football terms Brendan Rodgers hasn’t reinvented the wheel, although at times it seems like it.

He’s not solely to blame, of course, but at times the discussion of the Northern Irishman’s plans and tactics for Liverpool have seemingly descended into an appraisal of something new and innovative that has never been tried anywhere else before. Of course it has.

Plenty of clubs and countries across the world look to play attractive, dynamic, possession-based football. Indeed Liverpool have frequently done it in the past under now former managers.

The task Rodgers faced and is still facing is being able to implement this style when he is working with vastly different players, the majority of which he inherited from previous regimes when he walked through the door for the first time as Reds boss a year ago.

It is why his first season at Liverpool was always going to have a sense of transition about it, even though the ultimate result of the campaign was an unsatisfactory one. It is also why certain players have been tried, tested and in the most recent case of Jonjo Shelvey, have eventually moved on; the club announced the sale of the England midfielder on the official website on Wednesday.

Shelvey is not a bad player, and at just 21 years of age he could well go on to be a very good one for Swansea City, but perhaps more than anyone he was a good example of the difficulties Rodgers has faced in implementing a different approach.

Under their current manager, Liverpool players need to be confident on the ball and possess the ability to make clear, sharp decisions. Too often Shelvey’s mind seemed cluttered when he received a pass, with a thousand ideas over what to do with the ball going through his head and ultimately none of them proving the right one.

His youth and Liverpool’s dearth of options in attacking positions ensured that Rodgers gave him his chance over those midfielders he seemed to immediately make his mind up over, such as Charlie Adam and Jay Spearing, but the Londoner deserved that chance and responded with some impressive performances and crucial goals―particularly in the Europa League.

But with the likes of Luis Alberto and Iago Aspas arriving at the club to support the January addition of Philippe Coutinho and potentially the headline summer signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as reported by Charles Perrin of the Daily Express, Shelvey simply wouldn’t get any game time.

Lacking the pace that makes poor decision-making less of a problem―something that absolves the likes of Raheem Sterling from this sort of treatment by his manager―Shelvey has become the highest-profile casualty of the next phase of Rodgers’ plans.

Bar the ever-presence of Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard, most of the senior midfielders in Rodgers’ squad can now claim to be the manager’s men.

Alberto, Coutinho and Joe Allen were all signed by him, and Mkhitaryan could soon join them. Suso was promoted to the first-team squad and given his debut by the Northern Irishman, and Jordan Henderson has now seemingly won the boss over following a less-than-certain start to their relationship.

All of them are comfortable on the ball―although that is an area that Henderson needs to work on if he is to avoid Shelvey’s fate next year―and so all of them will be expected to live up to the standards set by their manager in the coming season. Perhaps Shelvey’s face didn’t fit with that group.

So what comes next, if the manager’s plan is to be followed, is surely more success.

Rodgers might not be reinventing the wheel, but he is hoping to see his team play to a certain standard, in a certain manner and with a certain style.

This summer could just see him make the moves that turn that hope into a reality.

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