Sunday, 3 June 2012

Is Rodgers the right man for the Reds?

So, former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers has replaced Kenny Dalglish in the Anfield hot seat and, as a result, the mood on Merseyside appears optimistic, although a residual caution about the appointment understandably remains amongst supporters.

The Northern Irish manager, who led newly promoted Swansea to a comfortable mid-table finish last season after helping them to become the first Welsh team to play in the Premier League, has a reputation for espousing a popular footballing philosophy that adheres to the principles outlined in the revered 'Liverpool Way'.

His Swansea side caught the attention of pundits and fans alike, as their free-flowing, possession-orientated style of play was creative, attacking and pleasing on the eye. Unlike so many other forward-thinking promoted sides (think Blackpool, Hull etc.), defensive duties were not neglected, though, as the Swans kept an impressive 14 clean sheets in the League, two more than Liverpool managed.

In his own words, Rodgers' philosophy "is to play creative attacking football with tactical discipline." No Kopites would complain if this style of play was implemented swiftly and successfully at Anfield.

However, Rodgers' Swansea side tended to enjoy the majority of possession in their own half. If Liverpool did similar then opposition teams would ordinarily be more than happy to allow us to keep the ball away from the danger area and soak up pressure. With better players, Rodgers will hopefully be able to deploy this possession football further up the pitch, so as to effectively break down defences and find the back of the net on a satisfyingly regular basis.

The main concern regarding Rodgers' appointment is that, at 39, he lacks experience of managing big teams. The closest he has come to the footballing elite is a backroom role at Chelsea under Jose Mourinho. Apart from that, the father of two has been boss at Watford, Reading and Swansea. Although his success at Swansea has been well documented, he failed spectacularly at Reading, leaving the Madjeski Stadium after only seven months at the helm.

Therefore, FSG are clearly taking a calculated gamble by giving Rodgers' his first shot at the big time. It could end disastrously but, alternatively, John Henry and co. could have unearthed a gem of a young manager ready to build a name for himself at the biggest club in the country. Look no further than the great Bill Shankly for an example of a little-known manager proving an outstanding appointment.

Rodgers' insistence on full control over footballing matters and refusal to work under a Director of Football is another controversial issue. Many supporters have reacted positively to this news, backing the traditional British role for a club manager. However, ever since their takeover, FSG have seemingly sought to follow the continental model adopted by the likes of Lyon and Barcelona, where a collaborative approach to decision making is used and the manager's role is limited in scope, particularly regarding purchasing players. Although there may be some flaws to this model, it does appear to have worked well at other clubs and if FSG intend to follow it then appointing Rodgers', a British boss who will expect greater control of the club, may be a mistake.

The manner in which FSG have searched for a new manager has been criticised for, amongst other reasons, being too broad, with any and every manager seemingly considered. However, the type of manager they have looked for is encouraging. The main candidates, namely Roberto Martinez, Andre Villas-Boas and, of course, Brendan Rodgers, are all young and exciting managerial prospects, who prefer attack-minded and attractive passing football to please supporters and get results.

They have admitted that they are still learning about football, but to see the club's owners seeking a young manager in this mould shows they already have a decent grasp of both the Liverpool Way and what is needed to succeed in modern football.

Although I still have some reservations about Brendan Rodgers, he has a clear footballing philosophy that I support fully and he appears able to both deal with the media coverage and manage players effectively to get the most out of them. As Liverpool manager, he deserves, and will receive, my wholehearted support for the duration of his spell in the Anfield dugout.


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