by Liam McConville
Brendan Rodgers cut somewhat of a forlorn figure on the touchline on Saturday. He had just seen his new Liverpool side beaten comprehensively by West Bromwich Albion, a clear sign of the size of the job that the former Swansea manager has at Anfield. A number of defensive errors proved costly at the Hawthorns as Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel both gave away clumsy penalties. Agger’s subsequent red-card saw the game go from bad to worse as Liverpool succumbed to a 3-0 defeat.
There were promising signs up-front as Luis Suarez looked sharp, the Uruguayan’s quick feet and clever turns are sure to terrorise defenders again this season. Although Suarez spurned many of his chances, he created plenty by himself and his general play was encouraging. Still with all things considered, it was not the ideal start for the new manager.
Liverpool, once a beacon of managerial stability are beginning this new season with their fourth permanent manager in the space of just over two years. The onus is on the owners to be proven correct following from their much criticised hunt for the new boss, irking no-one more than serial moaner, Dave Whelan.
Many were considered for the role and for the credibility of the club’s new owners, it is important that their selection is proven to be a shrewd one. FSG have been ruthless since their takeover and will be hoping for more of a return this season for the investment they have made over the last two years.
Liverpool have showed throughout pre-season and again on Saturday that would be implementing a similar style to what Rodgers’ Swansea side played last season. The early signs that it will take a lot of time for Liverpool to play comfortably in this new system, playing the ball out from the back caused problems for the defence. Playing a high defensive line could prove suicidal at times especially if the declining Jamie Carragher is playing at centre-half.
The slick passing style favoured by Rodgers will certainly take time to bed in, although Liverpool played some lovely football on occasion last season (usually when Andy Carroll wasn’t playing). Rodgers’ two major signings were further evidence of how Rodgers intends to set up his new side. Both Joe Allen and Fabio Borini played under the Irishman at Swansea and should effortlessly fit into Liverpool’s new system.
The appointment of Rodgers was always going to be an interesting one; he is a young, talented manager, albeit one who has only completely two full seasons in management. At Swansea he was a huge success, however before his move to South Wales, his time at Reading he was an abject failure. The key difference between Swansea and Reading from the outside appears to be that the players at Swansea had already had the short-passing style drilled into them by previous manager Roberto Martinez, at Reading this wasn’t necessarily the case.
Getting the players to adapt to Rodgers’ way of playing will take time, maybe it will take weeks, possibly even several months of hard work on the training ground before Liverpool are playing effectively at the level that Rodgers will want. Liverpool’s fans expectations have been lowered by finishing out of the top four for three successive seasons, while few are expecting an imminent return to the Champions league places, they will be expecting progress from last season’s disappointing league campaign.
For Rodgers, it could prove to be a very challenging start to his Anfield tenure; the fixture list certainly hasn’t been kind. Both Manchester clubs and Arsenal will provide stern opposition in Rodgers first three league home games. There will be teething problems, but the new man must be given time to flourish. There are comparisons to be made between Rodgers taking over Liverpool and his fellow Mourinho protégé Andre Villas Boas’ time at Chelsea. Liverpool fans must hope that if the season does start to become a struggle that Rodgers is rather more adaptable than the stubborn Portuguese manager.
With this tough start it will be a case of managing expectations and allowing the changes to take effect, Rodgers will be given extra time because of the attractive football that he demands. A test of patience certainly, and one that for everyone concerned with Liverpool, Rodgers needs to win.