When Brendan Rodgers’ first became Liverpool manager one of the biggest concerns supporters had was that he might be so set in his vision of a possession based game that he wouldn’t have a plan B. Not even his biggest proponents could have imagined him to be as flexible and forward thinking as he has proven to be in his fledgling Liverpool career.
For instance, if you had asked most Liverpool fans how best to employ Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique in the same side, very few would have opted to play Enrique further forward than Johnson. Almost every one would have opted to play the England fullback as an inverted winger, with Enrique overlapping on the outside. But such has been the transformation in Enrique’s game playing in a more advance position that Rodger’s decision to play him there could turn out to be a stroke of genius.
The bravery he has shown with his in game changes has been an inspired breath of fresh air after successive Liverpool managers who were completely set in their ways. He is not a tinker man in the mould of Andre Villas-Boas or Claudio Ranieri, but a manager who’s every move seems to have a clear purpose. He was not afraid for instance, to substitute the uninjured Suso in the 37th minute for Jordan Henderson against Wigan to change the dynamics of the midfield triangle, and it paid off, with Liverpool putting in a much, much improved performance in the second half.
Against Everton Liverpool were under the pump, with the height and power of Fellaini and Jelavic, and the trickery and pace of Kevin Mirallas overwhelming Liverpool’s back four after the Reds had earlier stormed ahead. Bringing Coates on and forming a back five brought some much needed cover to Liverpool’s backline and from there on the Reds edged a close contest.
He tried the same formation against Chelsea, in the hope that a back five would keep Chelsea’s dangerous trio under control, and while it did that, it offered very few forward passing options, which showed in Liverpool barely registering a shot in the first half. Many passive managers would have stubbornly stuck to their guns but Rodgers took an active role and reverted to a more familiar 4-2-3-1 which vastly improved the game, to the point where Enrique nearly won it against a side that cost almost double that of Liverpool’s.
That fine balance between tinkering and purposeful change, his trust in youth and a team that really looks like it’s beginning to believe in his ideas gives me hope for the future. Yes, Liverpool had their worst start in the league for many years but it was also one of their hardest, and they had owners who over-promised and under-delivered in the transfer market. In my mind, Brendan Rodger’s has done close to his best under some pretty tough conditions.
The Anfield faithful were beginning to become accustomed to uncomfortable draws and losses against opposition the Reds really should have been beating, so a dominant 3-0 victory at home might be just what the doctor ordered for restoring Anfield as a fortress. The fans never turned on Rodger’s but there was definitely some frustration building alongside disappointing results (if not encouraging performances). Anfield will already be a more confident place when the Reds take on Young Boys this Thursday, but that dominant display against Wigan could prove to be so much more valuable than three points.
Liverpool have the right manager to move them forward and now it appears the players, and just as importantly the fans are starting to believe in his ideas.