Why I'm hopeful

Posted by Mr Dilkington on October 10, 2012, 02:37:13 PM

As Big Ben signalled the end of another transfer window, the feeling on Merseyside was a mixture of anger and confusion. Twitter and Facebook were awash with rumours regarding who Liverpool might be looking to add to their squad: Sturridge? Walcott? Dempsey? Leandro Damiao? Come 11 O'clock, not one of them were Liverpool players. In all honesty, the only realistic target Liverpool had on that day was in the English capital completing a move to Spurs after Fulham stuck to their guns on their initial valuation of the USA International Clint Dempsey. The circumstances are obviously still very hazy, but what is clear is this: Rodgers is not very pleased...

 "I'd need to be a nutcase even to consider at this moment to let Carroll go out unless there are other solutions"

So... did something go wrong at boardroom level, or is Brendan Rodgers in fact a 'nutcase'? Make your own mind up on that one.

Given that our first team squad is incredibly short in terms of depth, it's important that we trust how the manager is going to handle it all. Four competitions, all for a senior squad of around 18 players. Brendan Rodgers is going to have his work cut out, but here's the main point: We should trust him to make the very most of it. Now more than ever we need to trust in our new managers coaching ability, because we're going to need it. Whether you agree with Rodgers' thoughts on Raheem Sterling's progression this summer or not, the important thing to take from the wee titbits he gave re: the winger is this: It matters to Rodgers. When Rodgers came out mid way through pre season and commented on how much more rounded Sterling had become in such a short space of time, a few folk took it as a sleight against those who had been most involved in his development since his big money move from QPR (Borrell, Segura) more specifically. Rodgers talked about Sterling being good at beating his full back, but not much else. Again, whether you agree with that or not is not really the point at hand. Sterling has obviously taken things on board, and he's reaped the rewards by making his full début for the club. Rodgers always strikes me as a coach who places a great deal of importance on a players personality, as well as his capacity to take on new ideas. On signing Joe Allen, Rodgers talked just as much about the players attitude as his footballing ability, "One of the most courageous players I've ever seen." Was Joe Allen born with that asset though? Or... did he receive some top class coaching from the likes of Rodgers, and in time it came. I'm inclined to lean towards the latter. Some people will tell you you can't coach a player to be courageous on the ball, but I disagree. Like anything else, it all depends on the circumstances. If you get a player at the right age, if he's coming into a winning team, how big is the pressure at the specific club... all of these things matter. For all we know, Joe Allen was born with that ability, but others aren't so fortunate. That's when Brendan will be vital. If he can get into the heads of players who are maybe lacking a wee bit of confidence/courage, then we'll do alright. That's supposing that the player in question has the ability to go with it of course. Because if there's one thing that Joe Allen doesn't lack, it's footballing ability. But again, context is key, because had Joe Allen found himself at another club, under another manager, then things might have been very different. Rodgers' philosophy marries up perfectly with that of Joe Allen; finding the other 10 is the key. I suppose how quickly that happens will be a big thing too. How long will it take Rodgers to work out who he fancies, and who he fancies putting on the next plane out of John Lennon. That in turn asks another question: should Rodgers find a couple of spots in the team where he's not too sure about certain individuals, do we have the youngsters to fill that gap? Rodgers has no choice but to hope we do.

There are a few things to be hopeful about however. The striking thing since Rodgers was appointed is how we fans have been so keen to take in his methods. Learning all the time. The interest is palpable. It's surely in part down to the great Barcelona team who Rodgers admires so greatly (who doesn't, unless you're a certain grey haired Portuguese manager located in Madrid). We would all love to have even a quarter of the success Barcelona have had over the next few years, and to see football even a quarter as good, but the reality is it's going to be bloody difficult! It finally feels as though we're working towards something though, and that is the main thing. If only we had the boardroom stability to go with what Rodgers is trying to do on the field, it would be perfect, but FSG, like the World, are not perfect - so go on we must. So. If we as fans are inspired by the things we see and hear of him, what must the young players be feeling working with the guy every single day? Now I'm going to be a wee bit controversial...

I think, and I may well be wrong, because, well... it wouldn't be the first time, but I honestly believe these young guys will be inspired by Brendan Rodgers more than they were by Kenny Dalglish. Just as much as if we had appointed Van Gaal, or Capello.

Let me explain that: The likes of Suso, Sterling, Morgan or whoever else probably know very little about Van Gaal's Ajax team that won the Champions League, or Capello's Milan team that systematically took Cruyff's dream team to the cleaners. Im sure they have all been told about Kenny's 88 team, but I don't think any of the young players will be experts on the subject.

The teams this crop have grown up watching are Barcelona, Spain, and of course more recently Brendan Rodgers' Swansea team.  So to them, Rodgers is probably more than Capello or Van Gaal. Maybe i'm not giving them enough credit here, but I can definitely see why Rodgers might draw more out of them than more experienced, and let's face it - more successful managers.

Now is the time of the young coach. It's the fashion. Guardiola started it, and when it worked for Barca, other clubs followed suit. Massimo Allegri was appointed as Ac Milan manager, despite modest success at Cagliari. Lyon appointed youth coach Remi Garde, after years of underachievement following the Le Guen/Houllier era. Dortmund began to play with a swagger under young manager Jurgen Klopp. Only a few months back, Inter Milan appointed Andrea Stramaccioni following his success in the Next Generation series. The 36 year old had no senior management experience prior to the appointment; only youth team posts at Roma and then Inter. Ask yourself this: would he have been given the job without the success Pep Guardiola had given Barcelona? It's important to mention that not everyone can be like Guardiola, because he possesses such a sharp football brain, and his dedication to the job was phenomenal. His poor old hair line is is testament enough to that.

So I guess the thing I'm trying to get across is, you can spend all the money in the World, but if the conditions are wrong, or if the manager doesn't quite have the appetite to coach the clubs young players, then it all begins to unravel somewhat. What I believe counts for more than money, is making the club a place where young players can come and feel comfortable enough to express themselves. If you have a grade A youngster at a club who don't really put young players high up on the agenda, then there's a fair chance they'll end up as a grade B, or C player 5 years down the line. The flip side of that is, if you have a grade B youngster, but the conditions are right, then you might end up with a grade A player.

Man City have recently announced plans for a brand new academy to be built close by to the Etihad. It's admirable, and ultimately a sensible move, what with FFP coming into play within the next two seasons. Is it a red herring though? That must be the worry for Man City fans. The club have apparently being visiting academies from all over the world, compiling data and ideas purely for this new scheme. How long will that take to implement though? The luxury City have of course, Is the money. If it doesn't work out, then so be it; they can just go out and buy great players.

An important thing to remember is that those plans won't become a reality for sometime, and in the space between now and then there's a massive chance for the club to pick up some of the best youngsters, not only in Liverpool, but in the whole of the North-West. Man City can show the parents of potential superstars bits of paper with impressive plans, we can show them Sterling, Wisdom, Suso, Robinson, and hopefully many more. That is the most important thing for young lads really. Definitive proof that quality and hard work will be rewarded, regardless of your age.

The start of this season has given us all much to ponder. Things have gone wrong, sure. It was inevitable. Any fan who expected anything less than a bumpy ride has surely been woken up by now. But you can see things starting to take shape in a good way too. In disappointment there is always benefits to be reaped. In recent games, Daniel Agger has looked like the swashbuckling, arrogant centre back we all know and love. Against Norwich, the Dane should've clocked up an assist, only for Suarez to miss his easiest chance of the day. It was a beautiful moment from Agger. He's one of those rare centre backs that when they see space, they attack it. There's only a handful of them around these days: Piqué, Vermaelen, Mascherano, Lovren, and our own Sebastian Coates are the ones that spring to mind. Fans and journalists from England would probably turn red in the face trying to persuade anyone who will listen that Rio Ferdinand is a ball playing centre back, but it's simply not the case. Watch Ferdinand when he has the ball. It's always sideways movements. He almost creeps forward with the ball, even though opposition teams are usually parked about 20 yards away from the Man United defence. With Agger, he consistently backs himself when he's got the ball at his feet. Against Norwich, he knocked the ball right out of his feet, almost encouraging the Norwich players to commit, and then at the last seconds a simple little drop of the shoulder and he's wiped out 2 or 3 players.

Conceding goals is a big problem too, but again I'm pressed to say that it was always going to be this way. As good as Agger is on the ball, he's learning his new role. Just like Reina, Skrtel, Johnson, and Kelly are too. We've seen Skrtel have a few black out moments. Agger too. These boys aren't bad defenders, it's just going to take time for them to adapt. When it does though, we will see the benefits. Stoke were able to press the ball high up, because we're still in the first stages of what Rodgers hopes we will become. You can get at Skrtel when he has the ball. You can expect Reina to make a few dodgy passes. If Rodgers is still here next season (god forbid he isn't), let's see then if Stoke want to press the ball. I bet they don't.

Shifting the focus back to the younger players for a second. Against Norwich, almost everything Suarez touched went in. Plus, Gerrard and Sahin were breaking through Norwich's midfield lines with not much problems. Suso and Sterling did a fine job of opening up the spaces, and they both played into the game as well, but in terms of goals it's just not fair to put that weight on their shoulders. When has any young wide midfielder came through at the top end of any first bracket League and immediately started scoring? There's not many cases. Take Steve Mcmanaman. In his first 3 seasons at Liverpool, he scored less than 10 goals. He did some breathtaking things, but you couldn't rely in him for goals. The same is true of Suso and Sterling. In time they may become double figures every season kind of players, but that time is a long way away. We can't rely on Lennon, Bale, Or Dempsey to chip In with goals. We don't have the luxury of having Valencia, Young, Nani, Kagawa, and co all rotating. Even Arsenal, who we are apparently competing with for 4th place are rich in terms of wide players. Podolski, Gervinho, and Walcott are all potential 10+ goals a season men. Unless Assaidi is some kind of super hero who can chip in with 30 a season, we just can't match that. And that is the key difference between ourselves and Arsenal. The two defences are quite similar. Arsenal's midfield has enjoyed a better start, but in terms of quality is there much in it? Where there is the obvious gap is in wide areas. So far this season Arsenal's wide players have this record:

Gervinho:   3 goals
Podolski: 2 goals
Walcott: 2 goals

In comparison...

Downing: 1 goal
Suso: 0 goals
Sterling: 0 goals

So I think taking a step back is what's needed from the fan-base. If fans expect Rodgers to compete with teams like Arsenal, Man United, Chelsea, and  City, then he can't win. In time that's what we're all hoping for, but right now? Nowhere near it. This is a young team, and we're going to suffer a few grazed knees and there will be spilt milk along the way. We have a manager who is young and learning all the time too. Let them learn together, and our patience might just be rewarded by a wee bit of success in the hopefully not too distant future.

We will all know a great deal more come February the 1st, but until then - enjoy the football on the pitch. We're lucky.

View Comments | Post Comment