Rodgers weaving new tapestry

Posted by guest on August 16, 2012, 12:16:40 PM

I've not put something up on here for a while which is disgusting of me considering I'm one of the RAWK Writers - blame the Olympics and 12-hour days. I'm now ESPN's Liverpool correspondent, so here's my first piece.

There was something eerily reminiscent of the great Liverpool sides of the 1970s and 1980s when its current incarnation demolished Belarusian side FC Gomel in the Europa League.

There was an innate desire to keep the ball and keen determination to win it back. The movement was intelligent, the passing pin-point and the swaggering galling to the opposition. But most importantly, three times the net - restored to its glorious red hue - shimmered under the Anfield floodlights.

The red nets are back after nearly 20 years away. In parts of Asia, red is the symbol of good luck; at Anfield, it is a symbol of dominance. When David Fairclough waltzed through the St. Etienne defence, when Jan Molby shimmied past a number of Manchester United players, when Rush was Ian Rush, the ball nested in the net. The net was red.

Those red nets presided over Shankly, Paisley, Fagan, Dalglish, Barnes; it formed the backdrop of famous cup wins, league championships and an effervescent Kop. When removed in the mid-1990s after players claimed it made the goal harder to see, it was met with a mere shrug of the shoulders. Football was changing. The standing Kop was no more; Liverpool were no longer the dominant force of English football. Football had changed.

To suggest Brendan Rodgers restoring red nets at Anfield is anything but a boost for nostalgia would be droll. You could be forgiven for thinking the appointment is one for nostalgia. Rodgers' claim at his unveiling that he will "fight for his life" for both the club and the city of Liverpool was evocative of his most celebrated ancestors; the same ancestors who adorn his office wall, black and white reminders of a simpler, more successful time. His belief that opponents at Anfield should experience the longest 90 minutes of their life could have come from the mouths of Shankly and Paisley themselves.

But Rodgers does not want to be the next Bill Shankly or Bob Paisley, nor does he want to be Fagan, Dalglish, Houllier or Benitez. He wants to be the first and only Brendan Rodgers, bringing his own brand of success to the club. Herein lies the dichotomy: one of the world's most traditional clubs has hired one of the country's most innovative managers.

And how Liverpool Football Club are in need of innovation. It is a club that has been capsized in the waves made by clubs such as Manchester United, both commercially and competitively. It is too, in fairness, a club that circled the drain just two years ago, moments from administration. The effects are still being felt.

The short-termism began during the ownership of Hicks and Gillett and has continued ever since. Players in their prime like Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano were sold, relations with others like Fernando Torres left untenable. The squad now has a chasm devoid of players in their prime, with only Reina, Agger, Skrtel, Lucas and Suarez looking to fill it.

Gerrard, Carragher and Cole are too old; Kelly, Carroll and Henderson are too young. It was little surprise to see Dirk Kuyt, Maxi Rodriguez, Craig Bellamy and Alberto Aquilani leave - decisions not made on footballing reason alone, but also a failure to justify high salaries for players who will never recapture their peak form.

It is the job of Rodgers to get the current band of players to move the club in the right direction. It is also the job of Fenway Sports Group, the ownership of Liverpool, to assist with that. So far, so good off the pitch: the multi-million pound deal with kit manufacturer Warrior will not set supporter pulses racing, but displays a nous off the pitch missing far too long. On the pitch however, supporters' worries of short-termism will not have been subsided with the sacking of Kenny Dalglish over the summer.

Now is the time for FSG to back their man. For Rodgers to deliver his vision for the club, FSG must support him. Rodgers' vision is an interesting one; again, a dichotomy appears. His long-term plan to have Liverpool as a relentless passing, press 4-3-3 side is supplemented with his belief of making quick fix solutions to problems. He told BBC Sport's Ben Smith in an interview that: "sometimes it is just a little change, working on people's minds, giving them confidence and the belief that wherever we go in the world, we are good enough to win the game".

The innovator likes to keep things simple too, then. Sometimes it is the simple things that need fixing. One of the biggest complaints of Liverpool last year was the lack of forward-thinking from Dalglish. Players did not know their roles as Dalglish did not know how exactly he wanted from his squad. Some supporters believe Dalglish's side were unlucky, the perpetual striking of the woodwork proving the team's ultimate downfall. Rodgers might put that theory to the test; the width of the woodwork is the sort of thing he will revel correcting.

Liverpool's eighth-placed finish last season was not down to the woodwork alone, if at all. A lack of control in midfield and a lack of goals scuppered their chances in a number of games. Rodgers has sought to address this by signing Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, with other targets such as Nuri Sahin and Theo Walcott ticking those boxes too.

The style Rodgers wants was already on show against FC Gomel. Supporters cannot and will not get carried away at his first competitive game at Anfield - with a one-goal advantage from a slightly fortuitous away victory in Belarus - it gave Suarez, Gerrard and others the opportunity to express without fear of recrimination. The only real likening to the sides of the 1970s and 1980s was the ease in which a European minnow was disposed of. And those red nets, of course.

The season may be days away but for Rodgers, it's a mere weave at the start of the tapestry. He knows this is only the beginning. The theory is sound, now for the practice: if he gets it right, then those red nets might yet witness a few more magic moments woven into the history of the football club.


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