We had the privilege to meet Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and speak directly with him as he discussed a wide range of topics in a candid and intelligent discussion this week.
A sunny September afternoon saw a lucky group of Liverpool supporters from fansites, fanzines, podcasts and radio gather for a meeting with Reds boss Brendan Rodgers at the club’s Melwood training ground.
What was scheduled to be a short 20 minute introduction turned into over an hour of insightful discussion from the Northern Irishman as he covered topics ranging from the recent transfer window, his reasons for joining the club, tactical and technical requirements as a manager, his plans for the future and his idea of “death by football”.
There was an admission that the transfer window “didn’t quite go to plan” when, somewhat inevitably, the opening question focussed on recent events. But what followed was an hour of positive speaking and explanations of how he intends to get the most from his squad and build the club for the future.
The 39 year old explained that he felt there was a “sense of instability” around Melwood when he arrived and that he is here to stabilise the club, and while there may be some “pain in the short term”, he – and the owners – are looking at the long term.
It is the owners whom he explains were one of the major reasons for him joining Liverpool this summer. “I felt a real genuine honesty in their approach and how they want to go forward with the football club”, Rodgers explained.
He mentions the need for some “surgery” to be done on the squad and that some of the wages were “absolutely astronomical in terms of value and worth”.
“I knew there was going to be a bit of pain in the short-term, but hopefully for the long-term gain this is what we’d have to go through.”
Some of those pains he goes on to discuss, tactically explaining that more patience is required in the final third, and that the recent transfer window has left the squad “stretched to the limit”.
That though provides a chance for Rodgers to look at some of the younger players. “They have to [step up]” he admits. The boss speaks of a minimum of 25 games between now and January during which he says he may need to be “creative to find solutions” (tactically) and that players suffering from little injuries, it has been explained to them too, will need to “man up”.
Praise is afforded to Raheem Sterling, who Rodgers admits he had to “get into him a couple of times” this summer (no mention of the recent preview for the Fox documentary is required). “I’ve got to say, his response has been fantastic. He’s a kid now who is responsible”.
“He’s tactically getting better, and he’s a real threat on the field. I’m trying to keep him out of the media, make sure he stays focused and composed, give him the opportunities.” There are also mentions for Spanish duo Suso and Dani Pacheco.
On young players, Rodgers provides one of what turned out to many memorable quotes. After explaining his “inherent belief in young players” although “not blindly; they have to have the talent and personality”, he analogises;
“A young player will run through a barbed wire fence for you – an older player will look for the hole in the fence”.
Looking ahead to January, Rodgers explained that this month sees the new scouting team come together. He spoke of the need to find players of the correct “profile that’s going to fit in going forward”. Clearly, Rodgers isn’t happy to pay huge sums for players who “cannot play football”. Several times he mentions Liverpool being a club he sees as providing opportunities for young players and being known for their attractive style of play.
He explains that the only ‘percentage game’ he’s interested in, is the one where the team that dominates the game has a 79% chance of winning the game. “If you’re better than the other team, with the ball, you’ve got an 8 out of 10 chance, nearly, of winning the game”.
He discusses this tactically, and provides answers when asked how he combats teams who know that his sides enjoy playing the ball from the back and therefore press higher up the pitch. Here he mentions the importance of a goalkeeper being able to play with his feet, effectively making the game 11 vs 10 when in possession.
One thing that was clear was his admiration for the little midfield duo of Joe Allen and Lucas. Allen he spoke glowingly of and told us that we would see “another 50%” from him when he is played slightly more advanced – “the next line forward” – but that right now due to Lucas’ injury Allen will play the holding role as he knows how he wants us to play. At this point Rodgers begins to speak in detail on why he chooses three midfielders, “where the modern game is won”, and how they can either set-up in a 1 – 2 or a 2 – 1 shape.
Rodgers drew parallels with the current situation at Anfield with when he arrived at Swansea, where the Welsh side had the lowest number of goals scored (in the Championship). Later, he discusses new signing Fabio Borini, whom he says is better playing from the left but that he is doing a job for him on the right at the moment as Sterling – a 17 year old – is strongest on the left. When asked about Suarez’s role through the middle, he explains that he sees his strengths are him being in and around the box rather than out wide. “He’s so clever” he lauds.
Rodgers explains that against Arsenal perhaps the forwards were looking to play one touch, counter-attack style football, rather than taking two touches and controlling the ball, showing more patience in the final third, something he tells was discussed at half-time on Sunday. He also discusses the Arsenal defeat when explaining the tactics of the centre midfield, where Joe Allen was left exposed. “Sometimes players have a bad day. You’ll see a player give the ball away more in one game than they had in three or four games. We have to be more patient in the final third, you can’t score on every attack.”
“At the minute we’re so anxious to score, and then we give it away.” He explains that by keeping the ball, probing and being patient you can test the opponents.
“When you’ve got the ball 65, 70 percent of the time it’s a football death for the other team. We’re not at that stage yet, but that’s what we’ll get to, it’s death by football”.
It was the quote of the day. Somebody at Warrior should really rip up their ‘We come not to play’ slogan and replace it with ‘Death by football’.
• Credit must go to all parties involved in yesterday’s meeting. To Liverpool FC for showing great communications and openness to arrange this event. To those present for their quality of questions (not once were the names Andy Carroll, Clint Dempsey or Alessandro Del Piero used, this was a focus on what we have, rather than what we have not). And of course to Brendan himself for taking so much time to speak and engage with the supporters. He didn’t just provide a minimum response to questions and showed an eagerness to get his ideas and coaching philosophy across.
• I’ve noticed some sceptics claim this event was a response to the recent transfer window and was simply part of FSG’s PR machine. I can tell you this was definitely not the case and the event had been discussed several weeks ago.
• See also: Rodgers’ plans to keep Lucas involved during injury lay-off – a brilliant idea from the boss!
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