The Northern Irishman speaks often about his vision of making a one-club mentality at Liverpool, and on Thursday he discussed his “happy bench” against Tottenham—in that everyone is in this together.
Praising the spirit of his team and substitutes, Rodgers looked ahead to a tricky run of fixtures over the festive period for the Reds, starting with this Saturday’s visit from Cardiff City at Anfield and ending with post-Christmas away trips to Manchester City and Chelsea.
Although the end of December has traditionally been a good period of form for Liverpool, this is where Rodgers’ squad’s resolve will be tested—with the golden carrot of potentially being top of the Premier League at the turn of the year dangling right in front of them.
Furthermore, Rodgers spoke of the type of caliber of player he will look to bring in in January’s transfer window, declaring on LiverpoolFC.com, “It has to be players that are clearly better than what we have that can come in and help the group.”
From Substitutes To First Team
With Steven Gerrard, Daniel Sturridge and Jose Enrique out injured, Rodgers successfully drew upon talent from his bench to fill the gaps—with their replacements eager to prove themselves for regular first-team football.
Joe Allen returned to the team recently, initially in place of Lucas Leiva, with a great attitude. His work rate and key passing has allowed Liverpool to move their football up the pitch and Jordan Henderson a greater freedom to move forward.
Sturridge’s absence has gifted Luis Suarez, bursting into the best form of his career with eight goals in his last three games. The England striker’s injury and Liverpool’s change in shape has also allowed Raheem Sterling a run in the team, where he is growing in confidence with every game.
After a disappointing start to the season for on-loan left-back Aly Cissokho, Jon Flanagan has become the talk of the town with his solid performances for the Reds. Whilst left exposed sometimes by no defined left-winger, Flanagan has covered well.
It would be hard to find anyone not absolutely made up for the 20-year-old when he volleyed home for his first goal for the club on Sunday.
Opportunities For The “Happy Bench”
It is vital that Rodgers keeps his bench happy throughout the whole campaign, making sure his players know they have a chance at the first team should they want to take it by proving their ability.
Aside from goalkeeper Brad Jones, the rest of Liverpool’s bench at White Hart Lane presents a mixture of experience and talented youth that are close first-team football.
Kolo Toure and Daniel Agger remain strong competition for Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho in Liverpool’s defence.
Summer signings Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Victor Moses may have to take advantage of substitute appearances to stake their claim to a first-team place, but all three are being used regularly in that capacity.
Alberto, for example, impressed again on Sunday, setting up Suarez for his second goal against Spurs, shortly after his 79th minute introduction into the game.
Rodgers wants to see his players on the verge of the starting 11 as game changers before he rewards them with a starting role.
Rodgers may hope for a lenient F.A. Cup run to bring Martin Kelly properly back into the operation, after his long-term absence through injury.
Rodgers’ comments on Thursday about looking into his squad for cover and alternatives are spot on, and he has proved it several times this season already.
Rodgers has created a good, positive and, most importantly, competitive atmosphere within his squad, in which every player knows they stand a chance of regular football—if they can prove it.