Brendan Rodgers: Getting to the top the hard way
- By Conor Spackman
Brendan Rodgers factfile
- He was raised in Carnlough where he spent much of his youth playing Gaelic football and hurling
- As a young coach, he travelled around Europe and now speaks Spanish and Italian
- His son Anton plays for Chelsea's youth team and has represented the Republic of Ireland at U-17 level
- His nickname is Buck
If there is an easy way of getting to the top, then Brendan Rodgers has not taken it. Forced to retire as a player at 20 because of a genetic knee condition, the Carnlough man turned to coaching potential professionals only a few years younger than himself. By his own admission, it was a difficult and laborious path, a time when long hours away from home made leading an unfashionable team to the highest rung seem a long way off. So when his Swansea team closed on victory at Wembley on Monday, Rodgers allowed himself a moment of reflection on how unlikely it had all once seemed.Sacrifices
"At 4-2 and 30 odd seconds to go - and I've never, ever done it before - my mind sort of wandered to my journey as a coach," he said after the game.
"From my early 20s, working with kids, driving many hours, missing time with my family, all that emotion - the whole journey flashes through your mind."
Those sacrifices began to be rewarded with a post as head of youth development at Reading, the club where he had played his last game. If that appointment with the Royals was a boost, then the subsequent arrival of a certain Portuguese manager at Chelsea was a rocket in the right direction. Jose Mourinho was looking around for a new head of Chelsea's academy and reportedly head-hunted the Northern Irishman who had a growing reputation in youth football circles. Born exactly 10 years to the day before Rodgers, Mourinho saw other characteristics which mirrored his own and gradually promoted the former Ballymena United man through the club.Ambitious
"I like everything in him," Mourinho said. "He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself. He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate."
Unfortunately for Rodgers, the beginning of his managerial career also had something in common with the self-proclaimed Special One, who had once left Benfica after only nine games in charge. A spell at the helm at Reading, the club he had once played for and ironically the team beaten by Swansea in the Championship play-off, was ended with the sack after only a few months. His latest success has come despite that setback and against a backdrop of difficult circumstances in his personal life. He lost his mother, Christina, 12 months ago and his father Malachy travelled to Wembley on Sunday despite suffering from terminal cancer. Rodgers has said he likes to think his team's performance reflects his father's work ethic.
"I used to help dad paint and decorate to earn pocket money. He installed in me the value of a hard day's work. He believes that leads to success in whatever you do. He's right," he said.
"He'd work from dawn to dusk to ensure his young family had everything. I think you can see his philosophies in my team."
His family's experiences with cancer have inspired Rodgers to eschew a lengthy summer break in favour of walking up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for charity. With Swansea already installed as one of the bookmakers' favourites to be relegated next season, he knows he has another mountain to climb when he returns.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-13601736
Brendan Rodgers, Why He Makes Sense as The Next Liverpool Manager -
By Dave Hendrick
If reports are to be believed Liverpool’s search for a new manager has been narrowed down to two likely candidates, Roberto Martinez of Wigan and Brendan Rodgers of Swansea. Karl Matchett had a look at how Martinez and his lauded 3-4-3 formation might fit at Liverpool the other day. While the support for the Martinez appointment has grown over the last week or so, my belief is that Rodgers is the better fit for Liverpool.
The key to my belief is the structure that FSG appear to be putting in place with a Sporting Director and a Technical Director to be appointed along with Manager who’s more likely to be a Head Coach than the traditional English style Manager. Martinez is believed to be demanding control over the footballing side of the club, which is something that in my opinion he’s not ready for. Not at a club like Liverpool. I don’t believe Rodgers is ready to have full control over the footballing side of the club either, but my thinking is that he may be ready to have control of the team and I don’t think he would be as demanding as Martinez because I think he’d be far more comfortable in a coaching role than the Spaniard who has no real coaching experience and has always been given free reign at the clubs he’s managed. Rodgers as worked in a variety of positions at the clubs he’s been at, so a Head Coach position, where he handles mainly the training, tactics and team selection, while be just part of the decision making process on things like transfers, might be more to his liking than Martinez’.
It has been said that the method and structure Liverpool are planning to adopt is that which clubs like Lyon, Bayern Munich, Ajax, Juventus and others have been using for years. It’s a set-up where the traditional manager’s role is split up among three or four people with the premise being that many great minds working together can make for great ideas and great decisions. With the Sporting Director and the Technical Director being in place to not only share the workload but also to act as sounding boards for the Head Coach and support him in whatever ways he requires.
I thought I’d take a look at the different factors which have led me to believe that Rodgers is the better fit for the Liverpool job from the apparent two remaining candidates.Coaching Background
With the role being largely centred around the coaching aspect, Rodgers truly stands out from the crowd. Having retired from football at the age of 20 due to a combination of injury and not believing he was ever going to be good enough to play at the highest level, Rodgers began coaching at Reading. He began by coaching at the youth level and worked his way into the job as youth team manager. He served the club in this role for almost nine years whilst also being involved in the coaching of the first team, and the reserve team as he continued his coaching education. During his time at Reading he also spent significant time travelling around Spain picking up ideas and philosophies which would help shape the type of manager he became. He spent quite a bit of time at Barcelona, where he took note of the clubs philosophy of football. He also traveled to Holland and spent time at Ajax which gives you an indication of the type of football he wants his teams to play.
He was plucked from Reading and brought to Chelsea by Jose Mourinho who was clearly impressed with Rodgers and his work at Reading as he made him his first external appointment after taking over at Chelsea. Rodgers has said the following about making the move to Chelsea,
“Jose played 4-3-3, or a 4-4-2 diamond, and he wanted a coach to implement his methodology. As you can imagine I was nervous meeting him, a guy I’d read a book about. But he was brilliant, and made me his first external appointment. He took me under his wing a wee bit, maybe because he saw something different in me, or maybe there was a bit of empathy because, like him, I hadn’t had the big playing career. Anyway, that started one of the best times of my life. Jose had learnt from his mentor, Louis van Gaal, and I learnt from him, that there must never be a lazy day in training, and that preparation is vital.”
Mourinho’s influence on Rodgers is a huge factor in my thinking, Mourinho methods on the training ground are widely praised and Rodgers is believed to have gleaned quite a lot from them and implemented them in his own regimes.
When Rodgers moved into management at Watford in 2008, he had fifteen years as a coach, youth team manager and reserve team manager under his belt. That’s a rarity in football, even moreso in someone who was only 35 years old at the time.Man-Management
Another aspect of Rodgers make-up for which he has received significant grounding from Jose Mourinho is the man-management side of things. Mourinho is widely regarded as one of the best man-managers in world football. He makes a connection with his players that few others can even dream of. Rodgers has made a similar connection with his players at Swansea who are all fiercely loyal to him. An example of that is the young Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson who seems set to turn his back on moves to bigger clubs to make the permanent move to Swansea, as long as Rodgers is still at the club. Rodgers strikes the right balance between being the players friend, and being their boss. It’s a difficult balance to get right but Rodgers seems to have managed it at Swansea.
A key aspect in man-management is getting the players to buy into a philosophy and at Swansea the players have done just that with Rodgers. Swansea’s players have embraced his ideas and teachings, and the results speak for themselves. Players who, before being managed by Rodgers, had often been seen as being slightly lazy – Scott Sinclair to name one, Danny Graham to name another, are now totally committed to working hard for the good of the team every time they set foot on the pitch. The work rate of Swansea’s midfield and attack is truly exceptional and is often overlooked due to their attractive style of play.Philosophy
When Kenny Dalglish returned to Liverpool as manager one of the things that fans were most excited about was the idea that the pass and move style of football that was such a big part of the success in the past would return to the club. Rodgers is the sort of manager who plays the type of football that Liverpool fans love to watch. His team play a fantastic style of football based on making the ball do the work when you have it which allows you to have more energy to get it back when you don’t have it.
Rodgers is on a crusade to rid the world of long ball football. He believes that if you keep the ball, and pass it well, you win football matches. Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Guardian earlier this month which is well worth reading.
”I like teams to control and dominate the ball, so the players are hungry for the ball,” Rodgers says. “You’ll see in some of our exercises this morning, a lot of our work is around the transition and getting the ball back very quickly. Because I believe if you give a bad player time, he can play. If you give a good player time, he can kill you. So our emphasis is based around our positioning both with and without the ball. And for us, when we press well, we pass well.”
Winning the ball back quickly and high up the pitch was a key feature of Barcelona’s approach under Pep Guardiola and, as Rodgers explains, is much more sophisticated than it may appear. “You cannot go on your own,” he says. “You work on zonal pressure, so that when it is in your zone, you have the capacity to press. That ability to press immediately, within five or six seconds to get the ball, is important. But you also have to understand when you can’t and what the triggers are then to go for it again because you can’t run about like a madman.
“It’s decision-making and intelligence. And this was always the thing with the British player, they were always deemed never to be intelligent, not to have good decision-making skills but could fight like hell for the ball. I believe they have all of the [attributes] and, if you can structure that, then you can have real, effective results.”
That’s very much the same idea that the Liverpool teams which dominated played under. It’s something that Liverpool fans can relate to.
Rodgers team sets up as a 4-2-3-1 when they don’t have the ball, but when they are in possession they take more of 3-4-3 formation with the fullbacks pushing forward, the central defenders moving ten yards in either direction, Leon Britton dropping back between them, Joe Allen and Sigurdsson as dual attacking midfielders, and Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair pushing forward either side of Danny Graham. That 3-4-3 variation is something that Rodgers has been doing at Swansea for two years without people falling over themselves to credit him, instead preferring to credit Roberto Martinez for apparently re-inventing the wheel by taking on a 3-4-3 in desperate times at Wigan.
Rodgers style of football is one that works very well and translates well to all levels. While Arsene Wenger amongst others have made note of Swansea “not being brave” and often “not doing much with the ball”. that’s quite short-sighted and ignores the fact that for the most part, that Swansea team was made up of players who had never played in the Premier League before, yet managed to outplay many of the best teams in the country, and finish comfortably in mid-table without ever looking likely to become entrenched in a relation battle. With a higher calibre of players, Rodgers style of play would be more effective and more difficult to contain.
Against teams that “park the bus”, rather than try to bludgeon them into submission as Liverpool attempted to do last season and in previous seasons, it’s a more measured approach aimed at creating chances rather than forcing chances. One of Liverpool’s big problems last season was that while they had huge amounts of shots on goal, a lot of them were not clear chances. Luis Suarez, for example, was often guilty of trying to do too much because his team-mates weren’t able to create clear chances for him. With Rodgers more patient style of build up, and his creative style of passing football, that should not be an issue.
Against the higher calibre of teams, Rodgers’ style of play is suffocating. He likes to starve the opposition of the ball, and then force them into mistakes when they do have the ball. That high pressing style is something Rafa Benitez was noted for during his time at Valencia and Liverpool but his sides were never as good at keeping possession as Swansea are. Rodgers believes in tactical discipline, mixed with creative attacking play. It’s the perfect blend when correctly put into practice.Preparation
In my opinion, one of the reasons Liverpool struggled last season was a lack of preparation for matches against teams outside the top four. Far too often it just seemed that Liverpool went into matches with the mindset that they should just be walking through their opponents because “We are Liverpool, and they’re not”. In the matches against United, City and Chelsea, Liverpool came out with clever tactics and a set gameplan. In matches against the likes of Swansea, Sunderland and others, they did not. And it cost them.
Rodgers is noted for his meticulous preparation for both training and each individual matches. This again is something he learned working under Mourinho, but a lot of what he learned came from a certain Andre Villas-Boas who, depending on who you believe, is either in the running for the job or has been ruled out/ruled himself out. Rodgers helped Villas-Boas in the scouting of future Chelsea opponents and preparing reports for Mourinho who would then adjust his tactics accordingly. Rodgers operates in a similar way, having his assistants prepare reports as per his instructions and then tailoring tactics and training accordingly.
He also puts a large amount of time and effort into preparing his training program in order to make sure players don’t go stale by doing the same things day after day. His players look forward to going to training because he puts in that time and effort and makes sure they while they work hard and are constantly learning and improving, they’re also having fun.Existing Relationship With Van Gaal
Rodgers learned his craft as a manager under Jose Mourinho after getting a solid basis through his experience as a coach. But Mourinho alone is not the only man who’s shaped the mind and helped him develop. When Rodgers was beginning his career as a coach he spent a lot of time at Barcelona studying how they did things. The Barca manager at the time was one Louis Van Gaal who is widely regarded as one of the best teachers of potential managers in the world. His star pupil is Jose Mourinho, to whom he served as a mentor for many years but Frank DeBoer, Frank Rijkaard and a number of others have also turned to Van Gaal for advice.
With Van Gaal looking likely to arrive as Sporting Director, having that existing relationship in place could be of huge benefit. Van Gaal would not be the only person at the club that Rodgers already has an existing relationship with. He worked very closely with Steve Clarke during their time together at Chelsea and that could be highly beneficial if Clarke is retained as assistant manager. Clarke is someone Rodgers knows and trusts and having Clarke at the club might help put his mind at ease if he does have any doubts about not bringing his entire backroom team with him from Swansea.
Ambition, Dedication, Determination
These are three things you want to see in any up and coming you manager and Rodgers displays them all. His ambition is to manage at the highest level of the game, he’s stated that openly in the past. This is generally the aim of every manager but Rodgers has gone about it the right way. He got his experience as a coach at a good club in Reading, travelled and learned the methods of others managers and coaches in other countries, spent his time learning Spanish, and now Italian in order to not only be able to go and manage in Spain or Italy at some point, but also to be able to speak with Italian or Spanish-speaking players at any club he went to. He went and worked under one of the best managers in the world and used the opportunity to learn as much as possible. All of this shows the type of dedication he has towards achieving his ambition. As does his hard work throughout his coaching and managerial career. Rodgers has his footballing principles and won’t change them. It would have been easy for Swansea to come into the Premier League and play an ugly brand of football and fight their way through a relegation dogfight, Rodgers never even entertained the idea. That, to me, shows a man determined to do things his way, using his philosophies and his tactics. That’s admirable.A Risk That Others Have Taken
Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund in 2008, Rafa Benitez at Valencia in 2001. Two managers who had not had what you might call “stand out” careers prior to getting those jobs. Two men who before they got those jobs were never mentioned in discussions about being among the best managers in world football. Klopp is many people’s favourite choice to be the next Liverpool manager, but that looks highly unlikely. Benitez, of course, would leave Valencia in 2004 to join Liverpool and write himself into Anfield lore by winning the Champions League in his first season. There are many people who want Benitez back at the club but he’s not in FSG’s thinking for one reason or another.
The point about the two managers I’ve just mentioned was made to me on Twitter during the last week or so and initially my thinking was that Liverpool are a bigger club than both Dortmund or Valencia and therefore it was less of a risk those clubs to appoint Klopp and Benitez than it would be for us to appoint someone like Rodgers. As I’ve already said, I don’t believe Rodgers is ready to manage a club like Liverpool, but having given it a lot of though I’ve realized that we’re not looking for someone to manage the club, we’re looking for someone to manage the team. That’s what this structure gives us. It separates the team from the overall club and the man who takes over as Manager/Head Coach is being asked to take care of the team.
Van Gaal, one of the most respected and successful managers in the world, is likely going to be the man who takes over the running of the club. He will likely be aided by Pep Segura and Rodolfo Borrell. Having those three men in place would allow the Head Coach to focus solely on the team. I believe Rodgers is ready to manage Liverpool as a team. Whilst, as a club, Liverpool remain amongst the worlds biggest, as a team they are currently nothing more than a mid table team fighting to get back amongst those challenging for the title. While you can excuses for why Liverpool finished 8th last season, the fact remains that in the last three seasons Liverpool have finished 7th, 6th and 8th. That’s mid-table. Rodgers is more than ready to manage a mid-table team.
Kristian Walsh made the point on the Redmen TV season review that when Liverpool are targeting players they should be looking to get them before they become stars. He used the examples of Falcao and Alexis Sanchez, rather than buying players like them from Porto or Udinese, Liverpool should be looking to buy them from River Plate or Cobreloa. Porto made a profit of about £30million on Falcao, whilst Udinese made a similar profit on Sanchez. Liverpool could therefore save themselves that sort of money by buying those players directly from South America and developing them in-house. It’s a great point and one that could also be put towards the Head Coaching role in this circumstance. Rather than getting Benitez or Klopp from Valencia or Dortmund, get them from Tenerife or Mainz. To translate, get Rodgers from Swansea before he goes elsewhere and becomes more of a known quantity. Get him now and allow him to become a great manager at Liverpool, rather than letting someone else get him and then trying to get him at a later date where bigger compensation, large wages and more competition for his signature would all be a factor.
With Van Gaal at the club to act as a guiding hand, Rodgers could thrive, learn and develop into something very special. With the structure that’s going to be in place, the internal pressure on him will be lessened and he can focus on the team and getting the best from them.
I don’t know for certain if Brendan Rodgers is one of FSG’s two or three favourites for the job, nobody knows for certain who’s on that list of what jobs people are actually being interviewed for. But if Rodgers is a candidate for the Head Coaches job, I can see why and I hope that after reading this article, you can see some logic in it as well. My own personal preference would be Villas-Boas, but I think Rodgers is the next best thing with the potential to be just as good.http://www.theliverpoolword.com/2012/05/brendan-rodgers-why-he-makes-sense-as-the-next-liverpool-manager/
BOLD BRENDAN RODGERS SHOWS HOW FOOTBALL SHOULD BE PLAYED
- By Jim Holden
HE’S a young and bold football manager. He has a direct hotline to his mentor, Jose Mourinho. He speaks fluent Spanish, and his team play some of the most beautiful football in the Premier League.
The best tribute of all to Brendan Rodgers, however, is the sentiment that adorns the fans’ websites of so many rival clubs. The message is simple: Why can’t we play like Swansea?
When you see the Swans at a live match you immediately understand this widespread mood among those people who actually pay their hard-earned money to attend games – the supporters.
Swansea are a huge pleasure to watch, a team of substance and joy. They pass the ball out from the back with thrilling expertise and purpose, and they do so without fear and without compromise. They are also strong defensively and hard to beat.
They play proper football.
It is why fans of clubs like Aston Villa, Fulham and QPR among others are so envious. They see a classy team created with frugal spending, with players whose names are often unknown to the opposition and the media. They see it done quietly, without hype.
I have been more than impressed with them. They play football the right way, and they are a dangerous side
What Rodgers has achieved in south Wales gives the lie to every manager who claims that you can only play the stylish way if you have a mountain of money to spend on footballers.
His total outlay last summer in the transfer market was £6.75million after winning promotion from the Championship in his first season at the Liberty Stadium.
Mark Hughes wouldn’t go near a football manager’s job with so little cash to invest. His predecessor at QPR, Neil Warnock, lamented a lack of funds for the task of Premier League survival when he was sacked last week by a club unwilling to trust his player judgement and tactics. It’s a matter of philosophy – how you perceive the game. For men like Hughes and Warnock (realists, some would say), it is the target that comes first: avoiding relegation, winning a trophy. For Rodgers (who is lazily called an idealist), the priority is how you play your football, the style you show; the enjoyment you give as you try to win matches.
Rodgers is proving you can be attractive and successful, and he is proving that ambition is not automatically scuppered by a meagre budget. That’s why, in my view, he is currently the manager of the season by a mile – better than Roberto Mancini or Alan Pardew or Harry Redknapp or Tony Pulis or Paul Lambert.
The Swansea boss is from the school of managers who was never a top player. His career finished before it began. He joined Reading at the age of 17, but never played a league match due to injury and retired as a professional footballer at 20.
Coaching became his passion, and Rodgers travelled round Spain as a young man to learn about the continental game, much like David Moyes, who journeyed across Europe staying on campsites while watching big tournaments.
Rodgers worked with youth teams at Reading before being approached by Mourinho, who had identified him as one of the brightest and most intelligent young men in English football. He was youth and reserve team boss at Chelsea at the same time as Andre Villas-Boas was an assistant to Mourinho. Now, at Swansea, we are seeing a managerial star of the future. I have no doubt of that. Opposition supporters see it, too, as do opposition teams. Praise is flying in from all quarters – a typical example is the verdict of Thierry Henry, who will play for Arsenal today against the Swans at the Liberty Stadium in a live TV match.
“Swansea are an amazing team,” said Henry the other day. “I have been more than impressed with them. They play football the right way, and they are a dangerous side.”
It has taken time for wider recognition, and even now Rodgers believes some pundits are missing the point with comparisons to the Blackpool of last season, who were relegated after a bright opening.
The 38-year-old boss, only four years older than Villas-Boas, is eager for his team to be given the credit they are due:
“I think we are fantastic with some of the football we play,” he said. “The (passing) statistics are up there with the top teams in European football, and I really enjoy watching us.
“We are nothing like Blackpool. We have had clean sheets in nearly 50 per cent of our matches, which is an incredible record. We have seen that the things we do can bring us success.
“Your philosophy is judged in games like Tottenham, our last home game. We had played ever so well but found ourselves 1-0 down against a team everyone is talking about as potential champions.
“That’s when your beliefs get judged, and we actually passed Tottenham almost to a standstill in the second half and got a draw. That’s not just me saying that – they were the words of Harry Redknapp.”
Brendan Rodgers is young and bold, and a force for good in the Premier League. And the way Swansea play, with relatively unknown footballers, one final question should be asked. If they can do it, why not the England national team as well?http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/295780/Bold-Brendan-Rodgers-shows-how-football-should-be-played/
For those of you watching on telly, Liverpool are the ones with the ball
- By our very own, wonderful RoyHendo
AND so it would appear (time of writing 2.15pm, Wed 30th May 2012) that Brendan ‘Brendan Rodgers’ Rodgers will be the new manager of Liverpool Football Club. Jorge Valdano will be pleased.
“I remember a wonderful banner in the Liverpool stands from the days when TV was in black and white – it read: ‘For those of you watching on telly, Liverpool are the ones with the ball’. I used to support Liverpool just for that.
Brendan Rodgers likes the ball. And he likes control.
This is a good appointment, and having experienced something akin to mourning but a couple of weeks ago upon hearing the news of Kenny’s sacking, I’m happy to admit that, having thought things through, the club have gone with the bloke I wanted. Whether it’s through considered analysis and design is another matter… but even if they’ve stumbled on this solution, I think it’s the right one.
I use the word ‘solution’, because only a few weeks back I gave my views on what Liverpool’s problem was. I had hoped the club would back him to fix it himself, of course, but it wasn’t to be (and it may well be we lost something significant in the process – time will tell). The problem, to paraphrase it as I saw it, was that we lacked control. Its symptoms were as follows.
1. tactical incoherence.
2. poor decision making with the ball.
3. players somehow forgetting how to finish.
The way to fix it? Well, it’s self-indulgent, but it illustrates my point, so here goes – a wee quote from myself in my last post on the subject.
Establish that tactical coherence, and the whole side gets a little calmer. When the whole side’s a little calmer, the decision making tends to get a little better. When you’re more controlled and dominant, and you’re less worried what will happen if you lose the ball in transition, you tend to make better choices. And when you’re making better choices, and those choices are happening within a coherent and balanced tactical framework, your game gets that little bit more ruthless. And we just need to be that crucial little bit more ruthless.
As I saw it, there were two routes to that tactical coherence. Either you bought or blooded another player like Lucas, or you changed the system to introduce what losing him deprived you of.
Well, Rodgers is the man when it comes to control. And he’s fresh from demonstrating his ability to exert it even with a squad full of supposedly ‘limited’ players. Without the ball, his Swansea side has shown energy and aggression, tactical and positional savvy (both individually and collectively), and admirable balance. They’re well drilled off the ball, and not in a passive way – the approach we came to loathe under Hodgson.
Meanwhile, Rodgers loves the ball. He’s greedy for it, and he wants his sides to monopolise its possession. That’s Liverpool football – the kind Valdano fell for all those years ago.
People criticise his football, saying his side lacked penetration in the final third; but the capacity to hurt sides increases with quality and integration – the squad – all squads at all levels – need to learn how to play what is the most ambitious mode of football a coach can try to implement, particularly when resources are limited. Play this brand of controlling football with a defensive unit that’s already arguably the best in its division, and with attacking resouces that, let’s face it, dwarf those Swansea had at their disposal… well, we’ll see, won’t we?
I’m quietly excited by the appointment. I just hope the structure being put in place enables the kind of approach to the game I personally yearn for at the club, as discussed in the following articles (again, self-indulgent, but it’s a drum I’ve been banging for a very long time).http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2012/04/the-only-true-moneyball-strategy-available/http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2012/03/stupid-football/http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2011/08/were-not-spanish-we-are-scouse/
Good luck Brendan.http://www.theanfieldwrap.com/2012/05/for-those-of-you-watching-on-telly-liverpool-are-the-ones-with-the-ball/
Brendan Rodgers: What Will he Bring to Liverpool and Which Players Could Lose Out?
- By Karl Matchett
Liverpool’s managerial search may be over by the end of this week after reports throughout the English media put Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers at the top of the pile.
It is by no means the only major senior management position that will have a new face for Liverpool next summer, as they have also yet to appoint a new Director of Football, while the Director of Communications and Chief Commercial Officer have already been put in place.
All in all it is a summer of major change for Liverpool Football Club, one which will go on to shape the immediate and mid-term future of the club under Fenway Sports Group and, ultimately, prove whether Tom Werner and John W. Henry were right or wrong to sack club legend Kenny Dalglish.
While the fans—and the owners themselves—will undoubtedly be relieved once the management issues are finally settled once and for all, it will be the playing staff who are left with the most pressing concerns: adapt and impress the new man, or ship out and find a new club.
During the season just past, Swansea City fielded a fluid system in the final third, a solid and hard-working defensive shape when not in possession, and the top-notch attitude to press immediately and high up the pitch to win back the ball and maintain possession for long spells.
No matter what the occasion or opposition, Swansea had their way of playing and, whether in control of a game or chasing, they played to their strengths and trusted that it would be enough to win them matches and points in the Premier League.
12 victories, 47 points and an 11th place finish in their debut season in the top flight says that they got it spot on.
Their ball retention and recycling of possession was a constant feature of theirs throughout the season, one which Rodgers worked long and hard to instil in his players.
Leon Britton was the epitome of Swansea’s core functions during the 2011-12 season. He racked up an impressive 2,258 passes in league games altogether—and completed an astonishing 93% of them.
And by no means was this pointless, cyclical passing; a third of all Britton’s passes went forwards, while another third travelled towards the right flank. He was Swansea’s pass-master, the move-starter, the player always available for relieving pressure when opposition players closed down those in white and the man quick to distribute with a simple yet often effective pass.
This one position alone offers a tantalising insight into what Brendan Rodgers asks—no, demands
from his players.
As a team, Swansea attempted a massive 20,791 passes in the league, completing 17,811 of them; equal to an 86% completion rate.
To truly get an appreciation of that feat, see how that fares against other teams in the league. The two north London sides, Arsenal and Tottenham, are widely credited in the mainstream media with playing “the right kind of football”; easy on the eye, swift exchanges of passes and good build-up, ultimately leading to goalscoring opportunities.
In 2011-12 Arsenal made 200 passes fewer than Swansea did, and completed a lower pass percentage rate (85%). Spurs made around 19,500 passes, again with an 85% success rate.
By way of comparison, Liverpool attempted 18,794 and completed only just over 15,000; giving a success rate of 81%.
While more of the Reds’ passes went forward overall (46% to Swansea’s 40%), the Reds were unable to be as effective with the ball, completing a lower percentage of passes than Swansea in both halves of the pitch. In the opposition’s half, Liverpool completed 69%, Swansea 75%.
The immediate message is clear.
Liverpool’s players next season, (all but surely) under Brendan Rodgers, will need to be far more efficient and effective in their ball retention if they are to remain in the side.
Lucas Leiva, assuming his recovery from injury is both timely and without serious long-term repercussions on his form, is almost assured of a continued role.
He ably anchors the midfield and has exemplary passing, and will fill the “Leon Britton” position superbly. In a defensive sense, he will almost certainly fare better. Positionally, there are few who excel more than Lucas and his knack of intercepting opposition attacks and willingness to make key tackles are of huge importance to the side. Where Liverpool do need to improve in this role of course is in his replacement, for should he fall injured again.
Jay Spearing is not, and will never be, a defensive midfielder.
Further forward, Jordan Henderson should be safe to continue in the central role he ended the season in, though he may find his playing time reduced if his form does not improve rapidly.
Charlie Adam is another matter.
The Scot, brought in as a creative midfielder, simply must improve his ball retention to be a feature of any Liverpool side under Rodgers. With an 80% pass completion rate his is not poor by any means, but neither is it reliable enough to count on in a system where so much emphasis is placed on keeping the ball until the opportune moment arises.
Rodgers has played both a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 with Swansea, depending on the type of attacking midfielders available to him.
Needless to say the mid-season arrival of Gylfi Sigurdsson made the decision of which one to stick with an easy one, with the Icelandic playmaker effortlessly slotting into the central role behind lone forward Danny Graham.
Speaking of which, aside from his goal return, it was the forward’s impressive work-rate and selflessness, making runs off the ball, closing down defenders and working the channels, which made him a success for Swansea.
Signed for just £3 million from Watford, Graham lent his own skill-set to the team, and benefited himself many times over as a result.
Can Andy Carroll do the same? He has the physical attributes to make himself a first choice forward, at the end of last season showed that he has the technical ones—but now needs to show he has the mental edge to make himself improve further, and indeed to utterly refuse to let any defender best him.
Tactically and technically Carroll still needs work, but it is the mind-set which needs most work. Carroll needs to see that he is required to always work hard for the team and always play well to win.
If Rodgers can coax that out of him, he may well have one of the league’s better forwards on his hands. If Carroll on the other hand does not give Rodgers—or any other incoming boss—the conviction and belief in him that he will improve and learn a new way to play, then Liverpool will merely have another expensive mistake.
With Maxi Rodriguez certain to leave and Dirk Kuyt showing every sign of following the Argentine out the Anfield exit door, the flanks are where Liverpool might—yet again—need the most new faces.
Rodgers favours skilful, pacey, creative wide men; not necessarily wingers but attackers who can both get into dangerous areas in the final third and be defensively aware and responsible—yes, Stewart Downing, we’re talking to you—when not in possession.
At Swansea Rodgers has Scott Sinclair, Wayne Routlege and Nathan Dyer, at Reading he had Jobi McAnuff, Jay Tabb and Jimmy Kebe. All shared the important asset of pace, while all also—at their respective levels—offer something a little bit different, whether the trickery of Tabb, the natural width given by Kebe or the self-confidence and goal threat of Sinclair.
Liverpool have badly needed that for some seasons, and Rodgers will be expected to remedy that area of the team in particular.
Success is relative, and will no doubt require patience to achieve with all the turnarounds at Anfield this year, but one thing is for sure: exciting times lay ahead for Liverpool.
It’s up to the players to show they deserve to be a part of it.http://www.theliverpoolword.com/2012/05/brendan-rodgers-bring-liverpool-which-players-lose-out/
Rodgers is dreaming of cup glory
- By Paul Rowan
AFTER the announcement that Brendan Rodgers had been named Watford manager last week, among the many messages he received was one that said "Welcome to Hell", from Roy Keane at Sunderland. Rodgers was touched by the show of support from a fellow manager he got to know when they completed their Pro Licence in the summer.
"He has been a top player, so it would have been easy for him not to have to earn the status," says Rodgers. "He completed two weeks on his A licence and within two days was starting the Pro Licence for another 10 days. There were no short cuts with him. He wanted to do it right."
Rodgers admires Keane but has more in common with the managers of the top four clubs in England, who were never star players. Rodgers sees himself in that company, or at least as aspiring to join it. Then there is Jose Mourinho, who made him reserve team coach at Chelsea, not to mention Aidy Boothroyd, his Watford predecessor, who had to work through the ranks.
"Mourinho was a big influence. We had a rapport because he saw something in me that was similar to him," Rodgers says. "We had lots of similarities. Our birthdays are on the same day [January 26] and we both believed in communication, hard work. We had a similar philosophy - we believed in the passion for football and the organisation. And he worked at a big club before becoming a manager.
"Rafa Benitez worked as a second-team manager at Real Madrid, then made the jump. Juande Ramos coached the second team at Barcelona before he moved to Sevilla and I believe he is still a fantastic manager. All these guys have worked at the big clubs. If I can follow that through my career and my life, I'll be happy. But my starting point is at this club. I'm fortunate - or maybe I've earned the opportunity to be at a club like this."
Or maybe both. Rodgers, 35, below, came to England from Northern Ireland at 16 to join Reading but the penny soon dropped that he wasn't going to set the world alight. He quit the professional game with a bad knee injury before making a first-team appearance. He was 20, already married and with a child on the way, but there was no sense of crisis.
"I was in love with football. I wasn't going to achieve what I wanted as a player but I felt that I could as a coach. So I set off on a journey where I wanted to be the very best."
As a member of Reading's coaching staff, Rodgers taught children at local schools in the evenings. He moved through the ranks until he was made head of the academy. At the same time he learnt
Spanish and visited the country to add to his coaching skills. His ambition and talent were spotted by Steve Clarke, who was on the staff at Chelsea. Clarke recommended him to Mourinho, and Rodgers was invited to head the youth set-up. From there he became reserve team coach.
Mourinho knew of Rodgers' ambitions and helped nurture them, to the point where he rang the Watford directors this month and recommended his former protege.
Talking about Benitez, Jamie Carragher once said the best coaches were failed players who devoted their lives to management, a point with which Rodgers seems to agree.
"I've had to work and throw my life into being different because I didn't have the big career," he says. "It's always worked for me and I'll always maintain that ethos. Managing players is my job."
Rodgers enjoyed the best of everything at Chelsea but now faces a tougher challenge. "I had everything there," he says. "We travelled to reserve games by plane. We had the best hotels. But the true test is when you haven't got that."
The last Watford manager who had strong Chelsea connections, Gianluca Vialli, was sacked after one season, during which the club's wage bill soared and their financial position declined. Vialli pursued a compensation claim with vigour after he left in 2002. Watford, despite being promoted briefly to the Premier League under Boothroyd, are still recovering from those and other heavy financial knocks.
Rodgers will be expected to bring renewed success by nurturing and enhancing the club's successful youth policy. He is also expected to bring in plenty of loan signings and has already been back to Chelsea to borrow their 19-year-old midfielder Liam Bridcutt.
Most fans are still asking, "Brendan who?" Should the Hornets conjure an unlikely win when holders Tottenham visit in the Carling Cup quarter-final on Wednesday, Rodgers' name would be splashed in lights for the first time. But he is a man for the long haul. Always has been.
Brendan Rodgers is Boss
- By Paul Tomkins
So, it seems that Brendan Rodgers will be the next Liverpool boss.
Like many, I was sceptical about Rodgers and the overhyping of Swansea last season. Teams get promoted, do well for half a season, then fall away. But Rodgers is different. His team completed 10,500 more passes than Stoke, and finished above the best long-ball merchants around. Unlike other promoted sides, like Hull and Blackpool, Swansea never fell away after a good five months. They finished 10th, which in the modern age, is remarkable for a low-budget side fresh from the Championship.
They managed to keep 13 clean sheets (on top of 23 last season), and did so with a goalkeeper considered by the manager to be the 11th outfield player. They kept 13 Premier League clean sheets despite passing from the back; none of that percentage nonsense.
Rodgers is fairly unique because he went to Spain and Holland to study football. This is not something many Brits ever do. From a young age he hated the way football was played in Britain, and sought to emulate the Spaniards.
“Whenever I was playing as a youth international with Northern Ireland we would play Spain, France, Switzerland and the like. And we were always chasing the ball. In my mind, even at that young age, I remember thinking ‘I’d rather play in that team than this team’.”
Roy Hodgson was seen as different as he too went abroad, but mostly to Sweden, Denmark and Norway. And rather than going abroad to learn their ways to bring back something better, he was exporting the British model. So in the end, he just brought that back with him.
Contrast these statements from Rodgers with what we saw under Hodgson:
“My philosophy is to play creative attacking football with tactical discipline, but you have to validate that with success.”
“I like to control games. I like to be responsible for our own destiny. If you are better than your opponent with the ball you have a 79 per cent chance of winning the game. For me it is quite logical. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the ball you can’t score.”
At first I was concerned that John Henry, who’d spent the week leading up to Swansea visiting Anfield last October in and around Melwood, was swayed by what he saw; he was clearly impressed by Liverpool’s preparations, and yet Swansea played the game in the way Liverpool had intended – but were just unable to. Swansea controlled the game. However, the more I learn about Rodgers, the more I’m convinced that his relative Swansea success is no fluke, and that he was not given the job on that basis.
Presumably, reading between the lines, Steve Clarke stayed on in Boston after Dalglish’s dismissal to discuss Rodgers, the man he’d worked with at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho.
More than the incredible passing stats, it is Rodgers’ strict adherence to high, hard-pressing that I find most encouraging. Liverpool kept the ball well themselves last season, but there was a deep defensive line and no aggression to the pressing. Rodgers speaks very highly of Clarke, but the Scottish coach will need to refine his approach under the Ulsterman.
One major tactical problem Liverpool had was defending too deep for Pepe Reina; he could no longer sweep up, and it made it harder for him to command his box (because the deeper the defence was, the closer to goal big strikers could be, and Reina isn’t the tallest). Rodgers has been happy to use smaller, footballing goalkeepers. Reina should be excited. He should have more space to play in. Rodgers has been doing it this way for almost a decade:
“The example of the Barcelona model was a great influence and inspiration to me. When I was at the Chelsea academy, that was how my players would play, with that high, aggressive press, combined with the ability to keep the ball.”
Rodgers may have learned many things from Jose Mourinho – the ability to keep players on their toes but also on side, and the need for relentless hard work in training – but his teams aim to press and pass more like Barcelona. All of this suggests that his approach is entirely up-scalable.
“People don’t notice it with us because they always talk about our possession but the intensity of our pressure off the ball is great. If we have one moment of not pressing in the right way at the right time we are dead because we don’t have the best players. What we have is one of the best teams.”
In the Championship, Swansea made their way out of a division where, received wisdom tells us, playing football is tough.
“My idea coming into this club [Swansea] was to play very attractive attacking football but always with tactical discipline,” he said. “People see the possession and they see the penetration, the imagination and the creativity, but we’ve had 23 clean sheets this year. So in nearly 50 per cent of our games we haven’t conceded a goal.”
While I’d have loved to see Benitez get the job, Rodgers is reminiscent of Rafa at the stage when he joined Valencia: no big-club success, with the major achievement no more than promotion to the top flight; but future success determined by a desire to learn from the best, with a willingness to travel and study. Instead of RB, we got BR. (Indeed, Rafa brought Valencia to Anfield and controlled a game, just like Rodgers did with Swansea.)
As well as examining Barcelona, Rodgers went to study Valencia (although before Rafa’s time), and he speaks Spanish – again, also pretty rare for the modern British manager, and handy given all the Spanish-speakers at Liverpool.
While I have always hated the notion of unproven British managers getting the biggest jobs based on overachieving in relative backwaters – the way the press touted Curbishley, Hughes, Hodgson and Bruce – I do think that Rodgers (like Martinez) has taken a unique and thrilling approach to small-club management.
Both of these managers had to endure firestorms of criticism for having their centre-backs pass, pass, pass; by contrast, Hodgson even wanted Daniel Agger – the best technical centre-back in England – to “get fucking rid”, and omitted ball-playing Rio Ferdinand from his England squad.
Hodgson was recently overheard in England training sessions encouraging defenders to hit long balls. Where Rodgers and Martinez personally accepted the risks of playing from the back with mediocre players if things went wrong, in the knowledge that it’s the best way to succeed long-term, Hodgson is less keen to risk it, even with the elite. That, I feel, is the big difference. Hodgson’s style has a glass ceiling (although he may muddle through four or five games in the Euros); Rodgers’ and Martinez’s do not. The fact that both these managers were in the frame shows that FSG were looking for a specific type of manager.
If you can get a promoted side to make more passes than anyone but the eventual champions, you’re doing something right. If you do it without even having a god-damned training ground, having to rely on a local sports centre where the public mingle, you have worked some kind of minor miracle.
It’s a risk, of course, but Rodgers is the kind of manager FSG were always after; fresh ideas, cutting edge, analytical approach, able to man-manage (but not coddle) players, and with the scope to grow and develop.
My fear with Rodgers had been how the style of possession football he used at would fare, given that much of it was held in deep areas, designed to draw out the opposition, and also used as a kind of defence (in that your opponents need the ball to score, and that the easiest place to keep the ball is in deep areas).
For Liverpool, keeping possession in deep areas leads to the opposition saying “well, you have it then”. But Barcelona, whose style Rodgers has closely studied, have far better players, and that allows them to move their way up the field with the ball; right now, Liverpool are somewhere in between, with much better players than Swansea, but nowhere near the standard of Barca’s.
Results somewhere between Swansea’s control and Barcelona’s devastating über-possession would presumably be possible.
We don’t know if he can handle the extra pressure, but he seems well grounded and balanced, and has experience of a club expected to challenge for major honours, and dealing with star names, during his time at Chelsea. His judgement in buying players will be questioned with bigger cheques to write, but the idea, as I understood it, was that the there’d be others to help with that side of things, as a technical management team was put in place. A lot may depend on how good those other people prove to be, but Rodgers has the potential to succeed.http://tomkinstimes.com/2012/05/brendan-rodgers-is-boss/
Brendan Rodgers' playing philosophy could be a success if he transfers it from the Liberty Stadium to Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers’ ideas about football were formed when he was a youth player with Northern Ireland, a small, creative midfielder watching helplessly as the ball hurtled back over his head the few times his team managed to wrestle it away from the Dutch, French and Spanish opposition.
In the simplest terms, Rodgers wants his team to get hold of the ball as quickly as possible and then keep it. I spent a couple of hours in his office at the Liberty Stadium last season when he talked me through the logic behind his tactics, derived from various sources but especially inflected with the Barcelona way.
One of the key points he made is that your initial formation — say 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 — matters less than what that translates to on the pitch. When going forward, the best way to move the ball up the field is to create angles of diagonal pass. If you have two banks of four across defence and midfield there are no diagonal passes on. The system needs to be more fluid.
So Rodgers seeks to create as many ‘lines’ across the field as possible. In his system you have a minimum of seven lines. He wants his goalkeeper to be part of the play, then the centre backs, then what he calls the ‘controller’ (a deep-lying playmaker), then the full-backs pushed on, the two attacking midfielders, the wingers and then the centre-forward. That allows you to draw seven horizontal lines across the pitch.
Through coaching, Rodgers ensures that every player knows his place in this system. When a player receives the ball he should always have at least two options for an ‘out’ pass. He gives the players confidence to make those passes by taking the blame on himself when it does not come off.
When the ball is lost, his players seek to win it back quickly by pressing high up the field. This means reacting as a unit and nobody shirking their duty. Winning the ball back quickly creates openings in a disorganised opponent, especially when it happens near their goal. The team as a whole need to know when to press like this, and hold a high line, and when to drop deep and absorb the opponents’ efforts to break them down.
How will this work at Liverpool? In Pepe Reina, Rodgers has the ideal goalkeeper for this system, coached to play as part of the team in the Barcelona academy. Daniel Agger is the kind of ball-playing centre-back Rodgers likes but he made need to recruit a specialist ‘controller’ to do the selfless job Leon Britton did for him at Swansea.
One of the main issues will be how Steven Gerrard can adapt. Is he capable of subjugating himself to a role in a disciplined tactical system at the expense of playing by instinct?
Andy Carroll must also show himself capable of playing in a system in which he will be required to build the play more than he has done in the past. Physical strength is secondary to tactical acuity and technical ability for Rodgers.
There are plenty of technically-adept players in the Liverpool team who will thrive on Rodgers’ emphasis on possession when attacking. The thornier issue is with Rodgers’ defensive system, in which you are only as strong as your weakest link.
If a player does not press off the ball, the whole approach unravels. That is why Barcelona are such an important example — even Lionel Messi closes down and harries.
Selling this to Swansea players was not easy. Selling it to Liverpool players, with big contracts and big egos, will be even harder.