Rodgers Tries to Reassure His Liverpool Team with Van Gaal Comments

Nick Miller@NickMiller79Featured ColumnistAugust 6, 2014

Liverpool Football Club manager Brendan Rodgers answers questions during a news conference, Tuesday, July 29, 2014, in New York. Liverpool will take on Manchester City Football Club at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday in the Guinness International Champions Cup. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

Brendan Rodgers really satisfied just about everyone last season.

To make a sweeping statement, English football fans generally believe Rodgers to either be a forward-thinking, progressive manager who produces attractive play or a vaguely ridiculous figure who says slightly silly things from time to time.

This is, after all, the man who inspired The Guardian to publish a quiz asking if various quotes were from Rodgers or David Brent, purveyor of the most cringeworthy management speak from the TV show The Office.

Last season Rodgers made both groups happy, by taking Liverpool to within the proverbial inch of winning the Premier League, while at the same time producing some of his notorious quotes to baffle and amuse in equal measures.

For an example of the latter, the The Daily Telegraph quoted Rodgers as saying in February, when it started to look likely that Liverpool would make a serious title charge, that his team were "the chihuahua that run in between the horses' legs."

Rodgers makes himself easy to mock, but there is a sense that he simply doesn't care about any reaction he has from the wider world, because that's not who his words are aimed at.

While Sir Alex Ferguson was notorious for using his public utterances to try and unsettle opposition managers or players, Rodgers seems to tailor almost everything he says in public toward his own squad, regardless of who they ostensibly refer to.

Bob Leverone/Associated Press

Take last April's remarks that Steven Gerrard was, as per Andy Hunter in The Guardian, "arguably the best in European football in a controlling (midfield) role at this moment in time."

Gerrard is obviously still a fine player but past his best and playing within himself and to the extent that his 34-year-old legs allow, so to make a statement as bold as that might seem foolish to the wider world. However, Rodgers really wasn't addressing the wider world but simply Gerrard himselfhis statement sounded outlandish to everyone except the person it actually mattered to.

This seems to have continued this summer. Rodgers raised doubts on Tuesday that Louis van Gaal would perhaps struggle to adapt to the Premier League.

Via Sky Sports, he said:

I think what he'll find is the competition in this league will be different to any other league that he's worked in. 

In a lot of the other leagues, there are one or two teams and those are the teams that are expected to win.

This is a league where the top team plays the bottom team and on any given day you can lose. You don't get that a lot in the other leagues. I think the competition will probably take him by (surprise), and that's from foreign managers I have spoken to over the years.

This statement could be picked apart in a number of ways, the most obvious being that Van Gaal has won the league in three different countries, so it has shown he can adapt, while several foreign managers (Jose Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Arsene Wenger) have won the title in their first full seasons in England.

J Pat Carter/Associated Press

However, that is to miss the point. Rodgers was, in theory, addressing Van Gaal, but the purpose of his words was to reassure his own players. Liverpool are in a period of transition with the departure of Luis Suarez and the arrival of so many new faces, while there seems to be a new confidence about United with their new manager.

Rodgers surely knows that he won't be able to unsettle Van Gaal with a statement as mild as that, but he will be able to send a message to his own team that Manchester United are not to be feared this season. And that is smart management.


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