Internal Spyin' Kop: Alas Hendo and Loco

Posted by royhendo on August 9, 2012, 02:57:49 PM

Juan Loco and I were bored, so we had a chat.

Enjoy, detest, rip to shreds, but mostly give us your views and debate, if you please.


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Royhendo

Juan, I want answers.

I demand a hearing.

It's almost July - American Independence Day FFS! And as yet, we've not signed a single superstar player. We need at least [insert random integer] players if we're going to play the way B--Rod wants to set us up. I saw an article about it on a blog.

Can I get a witness?! Can I get an A-MEN?!

I'm guessing not, because I know that you, like me, think that's all a load of codswallop and that we've already signed our key player for next season in the shape of the manager himself. What do you make of the summer so far?




Juan Loco

I find myself pretty happy with who we ended up with as manager, but concerned and dismayed with how we ended up with him. Basically, I think the club has, to an extent, lucked out on Brendan Rodgers.

I didn’t agree with sacking Kenny Dalglish after a season, much less seeing him having to go over to Boston to do it. I’m not happy that the club first talked up this whole continental approach and then abandoned it completely just to get Brendan Rodgers. The whole thing was conducted poorly. They made another huge mistake by interviewing managers before getting their DOF in place – something Rodgers himself pointed out – and then had to drop yet another one of their grand ideas when the potential managers, no doubt sensing the power vacuum, decided to try and grab as much as they could in negotiations. That much is normal of course, but going in there without the DOF already in place allowed them to do as much, and torched FSG’s grand idea before it ever got going.

Fortunately, we have at least managed to land a man who, on the surface, suits what’s already in place at the club, that FSG had nothing to do with. Hopefully the messing about hasn’t upset those at the academy, some of whom seemed to be in-line for a more prominent role, and they can see that Brendan Rodgers, on the surface, shares many of the same ideas. And, having run academies himself, has a greater respect and understanding for what they’re trying to do. 

Ultimately though, we have at least ended up with a strong manager, and an impressive character. I think his initial press conference showed that to some extent with the way he controlled it, and made Ian Ayre look very small by comparison.

That’s what the bloke does though – he controls. He went into the whole thing very well prepared about what to say and what not to, and he did that. His teams are the same. They’re just as well prepared and look to control proceedings in the same manner. That’s part of his character and that’s something that he projects well. Whilst it’s far more rehearsed and less organic than Shankly, which is why we shouldn’t ever dream of comparing the two, it’s good to recognise that the guy knows what to say and how to put that across to people, because ultimately, that’s what he’s been brought in to do with the players.

I can believe he’s the right man to do that, but think he’s far more convincing than the methods that brought him to the club in the first place.




Royhendo

I think that's fair comment, but as it'll no doubt spark debate of its own, I'll move on, because I completely agree, and am actively worried that Borrell, Segura and Co haven't been sufficiently engaged in the process. But then, while Werner and Ayre liked to portray the whole thing as 'scientifical', you don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to see through it. The correction at the 'unveiling' re the DOF role said it all. I just hope Ayre squares his ass away and starts shitting Tiffany cufflinks, as it were. He should be done with footballing matters now.

Anyway - control. The Reading fans will tell you he said all the same things at his unveiling there, that he carried around a big book of tactics, talked big talk about the brand of football, and so forth.

For me, it encapsulates what's different about LFC. We want that in a manager. We want something different. But why did the Reading fans end up despising him? Infantilism? Or something more balanced?




Juan Loco

Not paying particular attention to Reading it’s hard to say, but patience is a pretty rare thing these days. We should know better than most after having sacked Kenny Dalglish, of all people, after a single season. You’d like to believe the Year Zero theory that’s being thrown about now with Rodgers, and that will buy him enough time at Liverpool if he doesn’t start brilliantly. Hopefully we won’t need to find out if there is the patience there from the owners if it doesn’t go well.

At Reading I think it’s a different kind of pressure. They’re a yo-yo club. There might have been the time available to Pardew and Coppell when they were building towards promotion, but once they got the first taste that has seemingly vanished. I think they’re one of those clubs that are looking to get themselves back in the league and stay there for two seasons, by hook or by crook. If there’s that level of expectation when you walk into a job like Reading, and in a division as open as the Championship, maybe it’s not the best place to go in with Rodgers idea of reinventing the style of play. If he had his time again perhaps he would’ve taken a more pragmatic approach to how quickly he looked to overhaul the style of play, or maybe he would’ve just avoided the job all together if he’s that wedded to how the game must be played.

Maybe it’s a question of environment, and outside of Swansea there wasn’t that environment available to him at the top end of the Championship. Hopefully we as a club are ready for that kind of approach to the game and the patience is there not just from the fan base, but from a board that has shown little so far. 






Royhendo

That's the interesting bit for me mate, the idea that the environment at Swansea was ripe for him, whereas at Reading it just didn't fit. It's a subtle thing, isn't it? Either a club is at rock bottom without any expectations in their fan base and ownership, or a club has developed an expectation of how the game should be played, and is prepared to ease off the pressure in terms of results if they see that that style is being adopted. Short of those two, it's always impatience and unreasonable expectation isn't it?

How did Swansea differ from Reading? Are there parallels we can draw? Why was the big talk bread of heaven to them (sorry)? Why was the big book of embraced?

The Reading fans honestly fascinate me on this one. While this blog provided a nice balanced view of his short-lived tenure there, the overwhelming opinion when you do a little research online is pretty resentful and bitter. That's football fans I guess.

There was clearly something different about his tenure at Swansea, as he acknowledged at his unveiling here - I think that's quite important, and you have to hope we can accommodate the kind of game he wants us to play, possession notwithstanding. I think we can - we liked the most machine-like phase of Rafa's team, albeit we got antsy with draws and a lack of penetration at times... the regular match-goers will be acutely aware of that. Time will help, and with a fair wind, we'll get the kind of results that let it bed in.

Obviously when he was appointed I got hold of some Swansea footage, and one thing actually made me laugh - the loss they suffered at QPR. Mark Hughes had his team frothing at the mouth for the game, but quite honestly, for a long period Swansea were passing them to death, and you had as clear an example of his 'resting the ball' approach (the Mourinho at Porto approach) as you could ever see. They got the ball, it wasn't on, and even in the middle of the first half, with QPR needing a result, they worked it right back through the whole side to Worm, and the centre halves, and just bloody kept it for the sake of keeping it.

Loftus Road erupted into a cacophony of boos, with the palpable feel of them thinking it 'just wasn't cricket' if that makes sense. Like they felt it wasn't right of Swansea to play that way. Talk about a culture clash.

Of course QPR won 3-0 having notched just on half time, and Swansea were poor from the minute Barton scored their opener - they maybe lacked that leadership in the side - but that did make me laugh. People hated the Liverpool side passing it back to the keeper back in the days when I first saw us play. I'm getting old.

Anyway, talking of the 'Swansea Way', that brings me to maybe the most interesting point - the system, andthe idea that some players fitted there, while they were anonymous, even outright failures elsewhere, we have the curious case of Leon Britton. Is the set up, with the peculiar little triangle in the middle of the park, really such a compensating factor that the right kind of player with the right kind of qualities can pretty much slot in and look like a world beater, even if he's limited?




Juan Loco


I definitely think so, yes. To me it’s no different to having a defence that drops deep to compensate for a defenders lack of pace. Ultimately aren’t systems just there to highlight the strengths and hide the weaknesses of the players?

With Rodgers I think it’s particularly interesting because with 95% of the players we’re linked to, you can immediately see where they would fit in to a Brendan Rodgers side.

That Mark Davis link for example, whilst underwhelming, was a good example. He has the qualities to play the role Joe Allen plays, and it’s no surprise that Swansea are now looking at him as a replacement for Allen.
I think when you’re as devoted to a system of play as Rodgers it allows you to look at players on two levels:

1) Does the player have the attributes required to fit the system?
2) Is he the most talented player we can get?

If you know that you can dominate the ball, as Swansea did in 30 of their 38 league games last season, with Leon Britton at the hub of your team, then it gives you a bit of leeway with who you can bring in. With the greatest will in the world, in the wrong team, Leon Britton is at best a middling Championship player. But, in a team that plays the way Rodgers likes to, you can turn him into an impressive Premiership footballer just by playing wholly to his strengths and limiting the opportunities the opposition have to exploit his weaknesses. It will only ever take you so far, that much is obviously. But if it takes Leon Britton that much ahead of where he should be, then how much further on can you take players with a higher ceiling?

That’s arguably the biggest draw with Rodgers, he knows what he attributes he needs in a player to suit his system, and will ideally target the best available player to do that. Mark Davis wasn’t Joe Allen, and hopefully that’s why we’ll end up with Allen rather than him. Joe Allen isn’t yet at the level of Moutinho or Modric. Modric isn’t Xavi or Iniesta. This is all obvious, but ultimately all players perform the same function to varying degrees. If money and ability to attract a player was no object then he’d go for Xavi or Iniesta. Unfortunately we live in the real world so you go further down the list until you find the most talented player we can attract to play the role and take it from there, knowing that you can get more out of them in that system.

Hopefully this will be true all the way across the team, given we’ve got very similar defenders (keeper included) to Swansea, but far greater quality. The midfield will be the key area though. And whilst you might not be able to mask the failings of a Britton or a Gower the higher up the food chain you go, the higher up you are the more chance you’ll have to bring in players who are more gifted and less flaws, whilst possessing the same base in terms of how they play the game.




Royhendo

I think that's spot on. In "squad value" terms, a structured approach or system like that is, in the right hands, the most valuable signing a club can make. It can extract maximum value out of every single player you nurture or buy, because as you say, the approach to the game itself highlights their strengths and compensates for weaknesses.

I suppose the same is true of being wedded to any system really - the difference lies in the ceiling - again as you say. I've always believed that the passing mode of the game as expressed by ourselves in the late 80s was the most ambitious available, and that's broadly what we're talking about here, albeit with a veneer of 'science' and jargon thrown in.

And again, I completely agree - the midfield is gonna be the key.

I personally wonder how Rodgers would fare on that front if there was no transfer window underway right now. A returning Lucas, a Henderson, and a Gerrard, with a Shelvey, Adam, Spearing, Cole, Suso... all those options thrown in.

I honestly think you'd arrive at a nice functional mechanism.

But as you say, with that structure, there's scope to upgrade and upgrade and upgrade in a systematic way.

So two questions:

1. How would you say that midfield mechanism works?

2. Who would you hope to upgrade, what kind of player would you upgrade him with, and why?




Juan Loco

I was thinking about this the other day, and the one attribute that I think is a necessity is that you’ve got to have at least one footballer who is willing to play into pressure. Ultimately, to be successful, you need to open up space all over the pitch. You can have the best passers of a ball in the world, with a great touch, but if none of those players can attract more than one opponent towards the ball, where do you make the space that allows you to damage an opponent.

I remember listening to Tim Vickery a year or so back talking about how the Brazil national team after ’74 took on board a far greater interest in the physicality of their players and their athletic prowess. I can’t remember the exact figures, but it was something along the lines of the average player covering 7km per-game in the mid 70s. By the 90s that was closer to 9.5km a game, and in the mid-2000s it was 11km a game. Like I say, I can’t remember the exact figures, but I remember there being something like a 4km increase over the last 30-40 years.

Now, during that time, the pitches haven’t got exponentially larger to compensate for the increased athleticism of the players, so there’s much less space available on a football pitch than there was back in the 70s, and probably less than even 15 years ago. If space is at a premium then you need players who can create it.

That’s why I think Rodgers talks of courage on the ball. I think you’ve got to have one midfielder who can attract an extra opponent towards the ball. That means the ability to beat a man in the most congested area of the pitch, and get away from him, but also a level of comfort working the ball when under pressure from at least two opponents. For that you’ve got to have someone who has got good strength on the ball, good balance. Ideally they’d be two footed, but at the least they’ve got to be someone who can move to either side and be comfortable.

I’m not sure if it matters which of the three midfielders performs this function (or whether more than one of them do). Personally, I love a good centre mid who can break between the lines and break the opposition shape, in the same way that I love a centreback who can move through the first line of the opposition.

Obviously there are other aspects to how his midfield works, but I think the key is having that player who is comfortable at playing into the pressure, someone player who sacrifices the space for themselves to play in, to allow greater space for others.

The second question is an interesting one. I think Shelvey and Gerrard have given us a lot of room with this. Gerrard can play any of the roles in the centre, but seems especially suited to the either the middle role or the more attacking role. Shelvey has the attributes to be coached to play in any role. I think that’s given Rodgers the freedom to go for Sigurdsson initially, and then look at Allen, a vastly different player, when that didn’t come off.

The names I would look to upgrade on are no surprise. Spearing I just don’t think is good enough. He might have an extra season at the club in him, just to keep some continuity, but there’s better players coming through beneath him and I think he can only play at the one pace. Charlie Adam, well he’s just not balanced is he? I actually think he’s a far better player than RAWK will give him credit for, and performed well for most of his season, although it ended very badly. He doesn’t look right though, and part of that is that lack of balanced mentioned above. He’s very one-sided, and he needs a lot of touches and a lot of room to move out to his wrong side, and he kills momentum when he does it.

It’ll be interesting to see, because as much as Rodgers has says the players influence the system, I don’t think a bloke that’s talking up his 180 page ‘manifesto’ on how the game should be played is going to have a lot of leeway on what does and doesn’t fit his system. It’ll be interesting to see whether the system fits the players or vice-versa.




Royhendo

This is true, it will.

I think the terms we signed several of our existing players on still hang round our necks like a millstone, but notwithstanding that, you'd expect a couple of these players to move on (even at a loss) to make way for foto-fit players like Allen.

The way he's talked up Lucas, Henderson and Shelvey isn't surprising when you think of the potential to mould the two younger lads, and the fact that Lucas in that pivotal position in his system is such a mouthwatering prospect. If you can somehow guarantee the ability to start three energetic, disciplined, and tactically aware central midfielders with the technical gifts you mention, then you're really on to something. If they have a little extra, as Gerrard clearly does, then it could be a lovely mechanism. Like a Bond gadget watch - all Omega precision movement, but with a garotte, a laser and a bullet-deflecting magnet built in.

It was interesting to see his words on Downing too. You never know whether these things are done in Arfur Daley mode, but for me there's a player in there, and with coaching, he could be very useful indeed could Downing. It's not a particularly fashionable point of view, but he could do a job when you think of the qualities needed. He'd just need to rustle up goals.

That's the other aspect to signing an Allen, of course - a three from Lucas, Henderson and Allen possibly frees Gerrard to play in that front three. How do you see the front line working?




Juan Loco

I’m holding a TAW style moratorium on Downing at the moment. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s impressed Rodgers. By all accounts he’s your typical “brilliant in training” player. Capello was impressed with him, ditto Kenny, and most players seem to say the same thing. The ability isn’t the question for me. It’ll come down to whether Rodgers can “make the shirt weigh a little less”, to paraphrase the man himself. I think he’ll benefit more from having clear and concise instruction as opposed to a manager just telling him to go out and play.

It’ll be interesting purely because it’s obviously the weakest area of our current squad, and Bellamy seems as much out as in for next season at the moment. Maybe Rodgers is looking at it and hoping he can get him back to the form he showed in his final season at Villa. Or maybe he’s being more pragmatic and hoping he can get something out of him for the squad and the UEFA cup, knowing that moving yet another body out of the front-line, with questions of Carroll, Cole and Bellamy, is one too many?

I think it’s interesting you mention Gerrard ‘up front’. We had a brief discussion after the Euros about this and I know you disagree, but I think they were the first sign of a move away from the 4-2-3-1 dominance amongst top clubs. Spain played with 6 midfielders, Italy finally settled on their very narrow 4 with two strikers who spent much of the games working the space on the flanks in behind fullbacks, and Portugal – perhaps the closest to something we’ve seen from Rodgers – played 3 workers across the middle, rather than having your one “just off the forward” type midfielder. Moutinho has aspects of that to his game, but he’s not your classic playmaker. He’s a workhorse, as is Meireles, as is Veloso. That reminded me to an extent of how Swansea set up before Rodgers brought in Sigurdsson. Without the goals coming from the centre they had 3 from the 4 of Britton, Allen, Gower and Augustin, and often swapped where the 3 apart from Britton played on the pitch. Of course part of the reason Swansea could do this, and certainly why Portugal get away with it, was because they’ve got that quality and pace out wide, which as discussed, we don’t really have.

It remains to be seen quite how wedded Rodgers is to his 3 up front. He talks of having 3 forwards. Certainly Gerrard could play there, but with us struggling in wide roles is there a case for attempting to imitate what Italy did at the Euros, and what Milan did a lot of  in the mid 2000’s, and have four central midfielders? It might not work with a team who rely on fast attacking transitions and counter-attacking, because it’ll be congested, but if we’re dominating the ball and building up slowly, maybe it’s the best solution to retaining the ball in the opposition half, which is something Swansea struggled with?

I guess whether that’s an option will be determined by the shape of our squad come the end of the transfer window, but at present I think it would be an interesting option – more so than simply seeing Steven Gerrard moved forward – to make the best use out of the strength of our squad. Sadly I can’t see it being a realistic option given how we’ve lined-up in pre-season and based on how Rodgers is looking to educate the players on the passing options they’re to give their teammates whilst in possession.


I think how the front 3 line-up relies on how Suarez is used isn’t it? He’s the key to all of this. I hoped initially when Rodgers came in that he’d look to use Suarez in the same sort of role he played for Ajax, but expressed the concern that with Rodgers love of all things Spanish/Barca/Cruyffian, the temptation must be there for him to look at someone like Suarez and see he’s finally got someone of the requisite quality to play that ‘false 9’ role. Or certainly the Rooney role of being not quite out and out striker, not quite just off the front.

With Dempsey being the heaviest linked player to supplement that front line, my thought is that Rodgers would be looking to replicate something like the Kuyt-Suarez-Maxi line that Kenny used towards the backend of his spell at caretaker, with Borini taking on Kuyt’s role and Dempsey taking up the Maxi mantle of being the midfielder to break into the box, and also pick up those scrappy goals.

Obviously there are differences between those front lines. I think Dempsey last year played higher up than Maxi ever did, but this is all part of the progression. If you swap out Spearing for Allen (and I think Meireles for Gerrard or Shelvey, personally) then you get a midfield that’s more capable of facilitating more of a possession game higher up the pitch. You swap one midfielder who constantly looks to play forward at pace with another one who, whilst easily capable of doing that, is also at home in slowing the game down to a walking pace, knowing that slow-slow-quick can be just as threatening as any counter attack.

Certainly from reading between the lines both of what Rodgers is saying and who we are targeting, it does look like the idea is 3 players very high the pitch, and players with a lot of energy, and versatility. Borini, Dempsey and Suarez have all played either side as well as through the middle, so it definitely seems as though there’ll be a lot of movement and looking to drag players out of position, especially with Suarez and Dempsey so comfortable at coming short to receive. If we could supplement that with Gerrard or a Shelvey timing the runs beyond them then we should be able to bring a lot of different angles to our attack The key with Suarez, if he is to be the main focal point of your attack, is to have that runner from the 2nd line (ideally more than one) who will catch the defence unawares when they break into the box. Suarez is brilliant at creating overloads with players down the flank and making the extra number towards the by-line. Ideally players like Borini and Dempsey will be able to read those situations better than our players last year managed.




Royhendo

If he does land Allen, that one gets a lot easier to guess at doesn't it? The value in that one signing goes beyond the kid's ability as a player. It'll go a long way towards bedding in the system, and if that happens quickly, every position on the park will benefit. He can then set about addressing gaps and risks in the squad.

As you say, with the ball, we need the ability to carry the ball into pressure, and also comfort turning into play - Allen rounds that out and also gives the other talents a template to aim at. By all accounts he's a constructive coach, so it'll help to be able to demonstrate the pivotal roles, won't it?

He's also a lovely little player - the crowd are gonna love him aren't they?

Without the ball, of course, that signing all but guarantees workrate and positional awareness, so we could really go high, couldn't we? Adam will, I think, end up elsewhere after some crafty haggling. Who knows - maybe a swap eh?

We just have to keep Agger, and keep him fit. That said, we do have quite a few centre halves, dont we?




Juan Loco

Plenty of centre halves, but few footballers.

Discussing Agger is difficult because it looks like he’s off, and I don’t want to go back to the initial point that I worry people at the club don’t know what they’re doing (and I find it nigh on impossible to believe that Rodgers has identified Agger as a weakness in his style of play).

Agger offers us something different. Something I don’t think any other team has to the same extent except possibly City with Kompany.

What we get with Agger works on a couple of levels. Firstly, the way Rodgers played at Swansea, the centrebacks will probably see more of the ball than anyone else, and we mustn’t be tricked into believing that because they’ll have the most time on the ball that we can somehow get away with a more ponderous player. Ashley Williams at Swansea was coached to use the ball better and eventually he’s ended up as a decent Premiership defender. You can coach a player to move into the space when he’s got the ball, we’ve seen it with Skrtel. He’s been encouraged to move forward more and more with the ball, but he’s not a natural. There are defenders who can be coached to play football, and there are footballers who are also defenders Daniel Agger is the latter.

I don’t think it’s something absolutely essential, but I do think it’s something that if you’ve got, you don’t give it up without an almighty fight.

Manchester United, for me, don’t have a natural at the back who can step forward with the ball under pressure. Some people will find that view contentious, given we’ve been told in this country since he was 18 just what a cultured footballer Rio Ferdinand is. Ferdinand to me is a superb defender and if there’s the space ahead of him he’ll run with the ball. But he doesn’t play out under pressure like Agger can (which isn’t to say he wasn’t a better player at his peak). I think the Barcelona games have shown us what a weakness United have in moving the ball out of their backline if their pressured high. Ferdinand, Vidic and whoever plays at right back won’t play out under pressure, and Carrick can’t turn under it, so their only out ball has been to give it to Evra. This hasn’t stopped them in 95% of their games where teams sit off them and Vidic and Ferdinand both know to attack the space with the ball.

As well as that ability on the ball though, Agger is clearly our best defender, and that will be harder to replace than his ability on the ball. The fact that Agger so often wins the ball without going to ground, and that he comes away in possession – be that through reading the pass and intercepting, or toe-poking the ball away into the “Lucas area” before the centre forward gets turned – is such a positive. We’re living in a time where counter-attacking transitions are quicker than ever and the ability to take players out of the game – which is what we were talking about with regards to Allen – is a very big deal. Someone who wins the ball as cleanly as Agger does that. Skrtel sliding in and taking man and ball into touch has its place. It sets a tempo. It’s good, strong, defending. But what Agger does – that ability to open up the pitch – especially when he steps forward to intercept. That can become invaluable to us, especially if Rodgers style of play becomes successful over the next few years, because teams will inevitably sit deeper and come to Anfield better organised than before. You couple that ability to turn an opponents attack into one of our own with his ability on the ball – that ability not just take the attacker out of the game with the initial interception, but then to throw a body swerve and take the first line of midfield out of the equation – Daniel Agger would be a huge, huge miss if he does go. We will not be able to replace him with a player who is as good, who is as rounded a defender.




Royhendo

[Editorial note - the "Agger News" emerged mid discussion - right at this point, in fact.]

Before I start, I wholeheartedly agree. For me Agger's exceptional, and tailor made to take that system to a different level.

Beyond all that, it calls the operational effectiveness of the whole shooting match even further into question. We want Rodgers for his "attacking brand of football" says Werner. "We want to play attractive, offensive football, but with tactical discipline"... and "We won't be beaten on wages" says Rodgers. Yet here we are.

Of course, we have a surfeit of defenders and (it seems) an ownership set on capping investment while quite rightly culling the wage bill. I'm just not certain it's worth doing that while taking obvious risks (and squandering obvious footballing opportunities) in the meantime.

But there we are. Amazingly, I find myself playing Devil's Advocate on the subject of the player I wish I ended up being.

Reading THIS by our very own Lachesis hints that Carragher is capable of learning this role to a workable extent. We'd be playing deeper than people realise, and we'd be less reliant on recovery pace in behind than people realise. Do those suggestions, coupled with the notion that the midfield's 'echelon' will eventually run like clockwork to supply and support those ahead, render what Agger brings to the side a little less 'valuable' compared with what, say, Coates could or Skrtel could?




Juan Loco

I think the Carragher thing is a non-starter at this stage in his career, personally. Even without the need for recovery pace – which I’m not necessarily sure I agree with, because Rodgers centre halves tend to get taken quite wide on the pitch, and I think you need some foot speed to cover, especially with the fullbacks forward as mentioned – what’s mentioned there and it’s something that Spain do, is the idea of pressure defending to force the opposition to go back to their midfield.

I don’t have the desire to have a go at Carragher, but I don’t think he can do this any more. It’s not just recovery pace that’s missing, it’s any sort of pace on the turn. He’s taken to wrestling with even the most average of strikers.

Carragher was a superb defender, a rash. He was capable of pressurising as well as any defender when at his peak from 2005-07. I still remember Eto’o letting Carragher get ‘too’ tight in the game against Barcelona at Anfield, and when he tried to spin and turn him Carragher just poked the ball away and left Eto’o with an expression of perplexed frustration (if memory serves Eto’o was subbed quite early into that game because he was getting no joy). Nowadays Carragher is wrestling with Jon Waters. I don’t think any defensive system is going to counter the affects of time.

I also think there’s a danger here of reading too much into how things worked at Swansea, because ultimately there was less opportunity to find and keep hold of a player like Daniel Agger who could step out of that defensive shape in possession. It’s the same situation with someone like Suarez in that ‘false 9’ role. I don’t think a player of that style was open to him at Swansea, and similarly I don’t think a player like Agger – who could force the defence to play higher up because his ability to harm the opposition in possession – was available. These are ‘big club’ players, the sort that may cause Rodgers to modify how his defensive line works.




Royhendo

Suffice to say I agree Juan. The Carlton Cole memory is too fresh in the mind - the point beyond which he should probably never have played for the club as a starter again.

We should probably open the discussion out a little now, but in closing, what do you think of our prospects for the coming season? Me? I think if we keep Agger, sign Allen, and add some penetration in whatever guise we can muster, we have an interesting season ahead. But we have to retain our key players.



Juan Loco

I think that’s a bit of a depressing summation with Carragher. Where memories of his mistakes used to be of Henry or Drogba at their very best, now you go to Carlton Cole, I think of Jon Walters.

I would agree with you on how you feel about the coming season, but that seems like a lot of ‘ifs’ to get right, doesn’t it, especially with just 23 days of the transfer window left?

I’m not setting my sights too high. I think we could be top four competitive if all you mention goes ahead, but what I’m looking for is some sort of plan on the pitch (something we haven’t seen off it). My big thing is that there’s some obvious identity. Something that will allow us to say in future years “ok, this player obviously fits in there” when talking about either transfer targets or people we will – hopefully – be prompting through our own ranks.

If this really is year zero then the minimum I’m hoping for is that we start to sew the seeds of what will hopefully be something special by year 3 or year 5. With everything else as up in the air as it is at the moment with regards to incomings and out goings it seems harder to think about it in any greater depth than that, because we just don’t know in what shape the squad will start the season. If, if Allen comes in, we keep Agger and we can make an attacking signing or two – even  if it’s on loan – then I would expect to be fighting for the top four. But as I said, there are so many ifs. I just hope the plan will be clearer by the end of the season for the years to come than it is currently, a week or so away from heading into it…



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Over to you lot...

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