Last weekend’s 5-0 drubbing of a hapless Norwich signalled to the footballing world that Liverpool are returning to the glory days of the ‘70s, ‘80s and 2005. It may have been a long time since The Reds have lived up to their trophy-studded past but under Brendan Rogers it seems that the good times are coming back.
Ever since Liverpool threw away the Premier League title in 2008/2009, a couple of seasons after their Champions League final loss to AC Milan, they have been on a downward spiral. Since then they have finished 7th, 6th and 8th and have had almost as many managers as Chelsea in that time period! (I know, I couldn’t believe it either!) Being a fan of the club has been hard, but now things are looking up. Despite a slow… Actually no, despite an abysmal start to the season Liverpool find themselves 7th at the time of writing and are still in the FA Cup, although a tie with Oldham later today will be tricky, and the Europa League. They are only 3 points behind Arsenal, but they aren’t exactly a team doing their status any justice either.
The argument for the last two seasons has been that Liverpool are a 2-man team and without Suarez and Gerrard they would be nowhere. It’s true in that they have scored the large majority of the goals this season for the team, but where have all these goals come from? The team have worked so hard around these two players and have provided a large majority of the goals on a plate for them. The main problem is burnout – Liverpool’s lack of strength in depth means that these players have been hugely overworked and, while having not suffered so far, could easily break down and leave Rodgers with a real problem. But this has allowed young players to show that they have the potential to become great players – Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Jonjo Shelvey have all flourished in the first team this season and there have also been other notable performances from Adam Morgan, Jack Robinson, John Flanagan and others. The future is looking bright for Liverpool and, with the likes of Jordan Henderson, Stewart Downing and Jose Enrique finally finding their feet at this prestigious club, there is a really strong, and predominantly British, nucleus that could one day rule British, European and even world football.
Brendan Rodgers is the perfect man to restore the north-western team back amongst the great teams – his belief in passing football is much more suited to the likes of Suarez, Glen Johnson, Gerrard and the rest compared to the long ball tactic employed by both Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalgleish. Bringing in Joe Allen to fit in with this was an inspired move as, although his statistics suggest he hasn’t done a lot, he is the one who has looked after the ball while others make runs around him. Johnson is now allowed to do what he does best and get forward and there is now an attacking intent that has been lacking for a while. There have been some hairy moments at the back with Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Pepe Reina trying to pass their way out of trouble but, on the whole, the new system is a success.
Another thing that Rodgers has done really well is utilise players to suit his system, not just use who is already there and try to make them do things they cannot. He has got rid of the likes of Charlie Adam, Andy Carroll and Jay Spearing who really did not justify themselves in a red shirt and brought in small, slight and quick individuals such as Allen, Oussama Assaidi and Suso who are perfect for passing football. While only having two first team strikers was a blemish from an otherwise successful summer transfer period he has recognised his mistake and brought in Daniel Sturridge. This was yet another inspired move from the Northern Irishman, with the English striker scoring in each of his first 3 games and quickly becoming a fan favourite.
So, Rodgers has the players, he has the finances and he has the backing of the board. But he also has something else, the one crucial thing that will bring him trophies – has the respect of the fans. The last man to really have this was Benitez and look at what he did for the club. Liverpool are a team rising from the ashes and will be back, winning trophies before you can say “I hate that Swansea ballboy, what a cheat – and look at his haircut!’