Liverpool's Return to Boston Underlines Changes and Progress of Last Two Years

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Liverpool's Return to Boston Underlines Changes and Progress of Last Two Years
Uncredited/Associated Press

Liverpool play AS Roma at Fenway Park in Boston on Wednesday in a match that underlines the incredible changes and progress that has been made in the two years since they last met in a friendly at the same stadium.

Back in 2012, Brendan Rodgers was about to embark on his maiden campaign as Liverpool manager, taking over a side who had just finished eighth in the league, and followed around by the cameramen from the infamous Being: Liverpool documentary series.

Fast-forward to 2014 and Rodgers' side have just finished second, qualified for the Champions League for the first time in five years, while accumulating 32 points more than they had amassed the year before they last arrived in Boston.

Rodgers is no longer the man mocked in that ill-judged and poorly timed documentary, instead he's the current recipient of the LMA Manager of the Year award and highly respected by fans, media and players alike.

 

2012 Squad vs. 2014 Squad

Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

Admittedly, the squad which took part in this game two years ago was missing many of its key men, with players involved in the European Championships having not returned to full training yet—much like this year.

The starting XI for the match was: 

Gulacsi; McLaughlin, Skrtel, Carragher, Enrique; Spearing, Shelvey, Aquilani; Sterling, Eccleston, Cole.

The second half XI was:

Jones; Flanagan, Sama, Agger, Wilson; Lucas, Adam, Suso; Adorjan, Morgan, Pacheco.

Compare that to the XI which Rodgers could field two years later, even without players involved at the World Cup:

Jones; Flanagan, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Lucas, Allen, Coutinho; Lambert, Borini, Markovic.

Uncredited/Associated Press

That's a starting XI which doesn't feature Steven Gerrard, Mamadou Sakho, Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge, Glen Johnson, Adam Lallana, Simon Mignolet, Jordan Henderson or prospective new signings Loic Remy, per The Independent, and Dejan Lovren, per ESPN.co.uk.

Immediately you realise just how much stronger this current Liverpool squad is than the one which Rodgers inherited two years ago.

Back in 2012, youngsters like Ryan McLaughlin were given debuts such was the lack of depth in the squad, two years later the Northern Irish full-back isn't even in the squad for the tour. That's not a slight against McLaughlin, it just shows how much stronger the first-team squad is now.

Of the team that started the match in 2012, only three players remain at the club; Martin Skrtel, Jose Enrique and Raheem Sterling.

Youngsters like Suso, Kristian Adorjan, Adam Morgan, Dani Pacheco, Stephen Sama and Nathan Eccleston were far from Premier League quality two years ago. Arguably Suso is now ready, but all but one of the rest have long departed the club.

 

Rodgers

Uncredited/Associated Press

Rodgers' style of play two years ago was one which was questioned by some supporters; was there a tendency to desire possession just for possession's sake? "We won the passing stats" was a form of self-mockery among Reds.

Was Rodgers too insistent on making 4-3-3 work? Was he a strong enough personality to deal with issues at a big club? All these questions were raised. All these questions have been answered in the two years since.

Rodgers showed last season that he has learnt during his time at Anfield, and his tactical flexibility came to the fore during the team's outstanding 2013/14 campaign. Frequently happy to sit and allow teams more possession, only to counter with speed and efficiency to cut defences apart. Other times the Reds pressed from the start and blew sides away, especially at Anfield. The 4-3-3 became 3-4-1-2, then 4-1-2-1-2.

As for dealing with tough issues? Andy Carroll was loaned out, then sold. Pepe Reina was shown the door. Luis Suarez was told to train alone last summer. Steven Gerrard's position was changed to good effect. Rodgers hasn't shirked the big issues, he's taken them and handled them expertly.

Uncredited/Associated Press

Meanwhile, back in 2012, some supporters simply refused to back the manager who had been appointed after FSG had sacked club legend Kenny Dalglish.

Dalglish, back at the club as a non-executive director, actually stood on the sidelines at Harvard University watching Rodgers put his squad through their paces.

Liverpool are united as a club, with a young, modern manager who has revitalised the club on and off the pitch.

 

FSG

The owners, too, have displayed positive change in the last two years; expertly handling the Suarez saga last summer and ensuring they got a good price for the 27-year-old this year; progress has finally been made with the stadium expansion; while funds are being spent to ensure Rodgers has a strong squad able to compete back among Europe's elite next season.

The progress made in these past two years is perhaps easy to forget. Every credit should go to the manager, the owners and the coaching staff for turning the club around in such a short space of time.

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