Breaking Down Brendan Rodgers' 2nd Year as Liverpool Manager

Scott Burns@@scottb86Featured ColumnistMay 28, 2014

Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers applauds supporters after his team's 3-0 win against Manchester United in their English Premier League soccer match at Old Trafford Stadium, Manchester, England, Sunday March 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Jon Super/Associated Press

When Brendan Rodgers entered the post-match press conference following Liverpool's 1-0 victory over Stoke City and joked about the Reds being top of the league, he laughed, the media laughed and the world laughed.

A harmless joke that bared more significance as the season wore on, the Reds would spent a total of 58 days at the league's summit throughout the campaign.

"Progression" was a word banded around Anfield during Rodgers' debut season at the helm, per Neil Jones of The Liverpool Echo, but during the manager's second season it became more than a word, as the Reds fought tooth and nail to end their long wait for their 19th league title.

The work, dedication and commitment shown since the minute Rodgers walked through the door paid off as Liverpool finished just two points behind eventual champions Manchester City, guaranteeing Champions League football at Anfield for the 2014/15 season.



Rodgers' second season in the hot seat saw his side break record after record on their way to finishing runners-up. 

Suarez and Sturridge were the focal points of the Reds' attack.
Suarez and Sturridge were the focal points of the Reds' attack.Clint Hughes/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Reds found the net 101 times in the league throughout the course of the campaign, breaking the club record for goals scored in the top flight, while an 11-game winning run saw them equal the club's best-ever winning sequence, first achieved in 1982, per Liverpool's official site.

The exciting brand of attacking football introduced by Rodgers meant the Reds would again equal a club record of scoring in 25 successive league games, according to the official site, before Chelsea would halt the run in late April.

While Anfield became somewhat of a fortress again, Liverpool's away form in 2014 was also impressive. En route to securing 10 victories on the road, Rodgers' side equalled a club record of six successive away wins, while their tally of 48 away goals is a new Premier League record, per the official site.

There were numerous individual records broken, as Luis Suarez became the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler in the mid-'90s to notch 20 league goals in two consecutive seasons, ending the campaign with an impressive 31, according to ESPN FC.

And per Fox Sports, the 31 goals scored by Suarez meant he became the first Reds player to win the Premier League Golden Boot outright and equalled the record of goals scored by an individual in a 38-game season, currently held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Alan Shearer.

But perhaps the record that best highlights the progress made by the Reds last season is their rise from seventh in 2013 to second in 2014, the biggest leap by any side to have finished in seventh position the season previous.

Rodgers' men were underdogs for what seemed like an eternity, with the press only starting to believe the Reds were genuine title contenders when their destiny lay in their own hands with just three games to go.

Despite the Reds coming up short, they can be proud of the records achieved throughout a memorable campaign.


Memorable Results

The 2013/14 season would also throw up a number of breathtaking Reds performances leading to many memorable results.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 08:  View of the scoreboard showing a 5-1 Liverpool victory during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Arsenal at Anfield on February 8, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Champions League rivals Arsenal, Everton and Tottenham were all thumped 5-1, 4-0 and 4-0 respectively, as the Reds ran riot at Anfield, producing a style of football not witnessed on Merseyside since the days of Peter Beardsley and John Barnes.

Manchester City were undone 3-2 during a tense Sunday afternoon at Anfield, a result which left many Reds fans believing that this would be their year.

Away from Anfield, Tottenham again felt the full force of the "new Liverpool" when they were beaten 5-0 at White Hart Lane in December. Fierce rivals Manchester United were blown away 3-0 at Old Trafford by an almost perfect counter-attacking Reds display, a scoreline that could have been much worse for the Old Trafford outfit.

As the season wore, on the belief Rodgers gave his players became apparent week after week, and the performances just got better and better.


Belief Restored

While the miracles worked by Rodgers restored the faith and belief of the Anfield faithful, the part played by the former Swansea man in restoring the belief of certain Reds players cannot be undervalued.

The likes of Jordan Henderson, Jon Flanagan and Raheem Sterling would all benefit from Rodgers' man management, a style that led to Steven Gerrard describing his manager as the "best man-manager he has ever worked with" in the words of BBC Sport.

Henderson has turned his Liverpool career around in the space of one season. Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph reported how upon Rodgers' arrival the midfielder was offered to Fulham as part of a failed move for Clint Dempsey.

Henderson would struggle during Rodgers' first season in charge, but during the 2013/14 season he would go on to be one of the Reds' key players, featuring in 35 of 38 league matches and only missing three of the last four fixtures through suspension.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Raheem Sterling of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with Manager Brendan Rodgers of Liverpool during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Liverpool at Carrow Road on April 20, 2014 in Norwic
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Raheem Sterling would repay the faith that Rodgers had shown in him the season previous by becoming a real focal point of the Reds' new attacking brand of football. The pacey winger would form a solid understanding with Suarez and Daniel Sturridge and was also named the club's Young Player of the Season.

Jon Flanagan's Liverpool career appeared to be over before it had really started, but the youngster would be arguably the biggest surprise of the Reds' season.

Following a shaky first start away at Arsenal, Flanagan proved his credentials during a Merseyside derby outing that Gerrard rated one of the best derby performances in years.

Flanagan never looked back and went on to become a mainstay in the Reds' starting lineup for the remainder of the campaign.

The form of Henderson and Sterling has seen both players named in England's 23-man squad for the forthcoming World Cup in Brazil, while Flanagan has been placed on standby.

It is a testament to the commitment and determination shown by all three players throughout last season, but Rodgers himself deserves credit for transforming—or in Sterling's case, forming—their careers.

The Northern Irishman has installed a belief in his players, a belief that they are good enough to compete. And boy, have Liverpool reaped the rewards.

Rodgers has reaffirmed his commitment to ensuring that more young Liverpool players will get their chance during his tenure at the helm, proving the age-old saying that "if you're good enough, you're old enough."

This was backed up as the Reds came within a whisker of ending their 24-year wait for a league title. It proved, however, to be a step too far this season for Rodgers' courageous Reds.

The experience of a title challenge coupled with the disappointment of failing to get over the line will stand both Rodgers and the players in good stead come 2014/15.

With a new contract signed and sealed, Rodgers can focus on turning Liverpool's nearly men into champions of the highest quality.


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