Rodgers the man to lead Liverpool FC into a new era
If the speculation is true and Liverpoool FC are on the verge of offering the managerial post to young gun Brendan Rodgers, then the club’s owners are on the path to capturing the hottest property in the English game.
In a week where England has voted to adopt small sided games at youth level, bringing it back into football’s first world, it will be compelling to see if the EPL manager most in touch with the idea of a possession based game is handed the responsibility to re-ignite the concept at one of the nation’s most famous clubs.
For long-suffering fans of Liverpool, like yours truly, who watched them conquer England and Europe more than two decades ago, they will know that the virtues of possession and combination play, and entertainment, run deep through the club.
For Liverpool, football hasn’t always been about winning, but winning with style.
Only sporadically have these virtues been successfully used over the past two decades as Sir Alex Ferguson and his band have controlled the league.
Rodgers, young, motivated and educated, may, in many ways, be the perfect fit for a club looking to ignite a new era under new owners, the Fenway Sports Group.
A brief flirt with an old timer, in Kenny Daglish, and some old methods – playing direct to Andy Carroll – proved this is not the way forward.
The game, in many ways, has moved on.
Someone like Rodgers, who understands the emphasis has shifted towards mobility and fluid movement of the ball, might just be this way forward.
If he is given a little bit of breathing space to re-build his squad, and just enough money to bring in the types of players that fit his 4-3-3, he could build a lasting template.
The Kop, who stood and cheered Rodgers and his men off Anfield earlier in the season, are shrewd enough to sense progress, and if they do see it, will be quick to get behind Rodgers.
While there has been some talk that the Swansea manager hasn’t had any gigs at a big club, his ability, on a limited budget to enable a team like the Swans to play, and find the players to deliver on his preferred mode of play, said enough.
Indeed, when the news broke a week or so ago that Rodgers wasn’t interested in being interviewed for the Liverpool role, I was nodding in agreement.
After all, one only had to look at his work over in Wales over the past couple of seasons to know that these man management and technical attributes look transferable.
I first took notice of Rodgers just over 12 months ago, during the play-offs for the English Championships in season 2010/11.
In a league known for managers who play the percentages, sticking to rigid 4-4-2’s, playing for second balls, emphasising the physical, here was a manager who stood out for being at the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
Here was a UK manager disguised as a Dutchman, Spaniard or Argentine, playing a 4-3-3 with a front six that more like Barcelona’s in stature than, say, Chelsea’s.
Instead of having a team full of body-builders, Rodgers enabled his team to play through a two diminutive holding midfielders in Leon Britton and Joey Allen, players not afraid to get on the ball and keep it.
In the front line, the lack of size was also apparent, with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer flourishing on the flanks and the Italian Fabio Borini dropping off to link up play or penetrating into the box late to get on the end of things.
Listen to Rodgers speak in the post match interviews with Sky and you actually learnt something.
There was little of the usual talk about winning battles etc. Most of it was of a technical nature, about controlling the game in the various thirds.
When he and his Swans came into the EPL at the start of the season, the talk was about sticking to the principles that had got him there. The hope, of course, was that his football would work, and make the world sit up and take notice. That’s exactly what happened.
Apart from sticking to his guns, what marked out his work in the most recent season was an ability to adapt and find a solution.
With Steve Dobbie, his attacking midfielder, struggling to make the step up from the Championship to the Premiership, and Wayne Routledge looking more a wide man than a central schemer, he found Gylfi Sigurdsson during the January transfer window. He was a hit, scoring and creating in equal measure.
Ditto both Michel Vorm and Danny Graham , the book-ends, who he brought in at the start of the season, one to protect the goal and start the play, the other to round things off.
It is this attention to detail, and ability to not only identify, but solve a problem, that makes good managers, and Rodgers has hitherto got more things right than wrong.
The challenge, of course, if he does land the role at Liverpool, is how quickly he can put out a team that can consistently produce the goods and pick up the points.
What he would do with some of the under-achievers brought in over the past 12 to 18 months, the likes of Carroll, Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam , would be fascinating to watch in the early days.
Rodgers will know that, in order to compete with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United, and even Chelsea and Tottenham, he will need to bring in a few world class players to complement Luis Suarez.
Likely, they would all be all silky on the ball, very mobile and able to find solutions in and around the box, especially under pressure. Think more along the lines of David Silva and Kun Aguero, than Didier Drogba or Carroll.
The game is moving quickly, and you sense Rodgers might be just the ticket to help Liverpool FC close the gap, and go beyond.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA