Rodgers' Red vision
Brendan Rodgers was ushered into Anfield with a conviction his Liverpool side will soon be playing the type of football that won him so many admirers at Swansea. F365's Nick Miller assesses which of the current crop will prosper, while giving an early warning to those who could flounder.
Last Updated: July 11, 2012 3:20pm
Brendan Rodgers: Can be relatively happen with his Liverpool squad
Brendan Rodgers is one of the more interesting managerial appointments in recent years. He has no extended record of success and his reputation is largely based on one excellent season at Swansea, persuading Liverpool to entrust him with heavy hopes that have claimed many talented managers down the years.
As with any manager, the answer to whether he will fail or succeed lies within the players he has at his disposal. Will they fit with his 'philosophy'? Will they buy into his ideas? Will he rip things up and start again? When asked about Andy Carroll and where he might fit into his Liverpool side on Monday, Rodgers said: "Time will tell for him and all the players whether they are in my plans, but my job is to assess that and then take it from there."
So how closely does the current Liverpool squad fit with how Rodgers will aim to play? Assuming he will adopt a similar style to the rough 4-3-3 he played at Swansea, which players should start to worry?
Pepe Reina may not have had a particularly good campaign (by his standards) last season, but talk of Liverpool still considering a move for Hugo Lloris is odd for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Liverpool have finite resources and they have more pressing problems than in goal, but it's also strange because Reina is exactly the sort of keeper that Rodgers might like. A good ball-player, Reina will buy in to Rodgers' insistence that his goalkeeper plays the ball out of his area, rather than aimlessly booting it towards the front man. With Alex Doni and Brad Jones still providing back-up, Rodgers should not need to invest in another stopper.
Again, one might think that this is an area where Rodgers will be relatively happy. Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique are quick and able to begin attacks from deep, Daniel Agger is a fine ball-playing centre-back and Martin Skrtel is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League. Indeed, keeping hold of that four might be a more pressing issue than adding to them. Another centre-back might be required as cover, with Jamie Carragher coming to the end of his career and not enough seen of Sebastian Coates to create a realistic impression of him in England. There's also no natural fill-in for Jose Enrique (unless Rodgers has real faith in Jack Robinson) - with Johnson generally the go-to reserve in that position - but one suspects Rodgers will be reasonably satisfied with his back line.
In the second half of the season at least, Rodgers' Swansea played with two deep-lying midfielders and Gylfi Sigurdsson ahead of them. The anchoring pair at Liverpool will surely be (fitness permitting) Steven Gerrard and Lucas, but the spot ahead of those two is a little more uncertain. The occupant needs to be a combination of an attacking goalscorer, while retaining the work ethic/discipline to form a three-man midfield when required.
It's hardly a surprise that Rodgers was so keen to get Sigurdsson himself, because there's no natural fit in the current Liverpool squad for this spot. Gerrard showed last season and for England that he's better used in a more withdrawn role these days, Jordan Henderson isn't dynamic enough, the 'running' aspect rules out Charlie Adam, Jonjo Shelvey is still too raw and Joe Cole is too...flighty. Arguably, Alberto Aquilani is probably the best fit in theory, but Aquilani's entire Liverpool career so far has been 'in theory'. Rodgers could probably just about muddle through with what he has, but ideally he requires an addition in this spot. Bologna's Gaston Ramirez is one candidate, and while Clint Dempsey has been mentioned a number of times, might his current Fulham teammate Moussa Dembele be a better fit?
This is where things get really interesting. Rodgers prefers his centre-forward to be strong and mobile, with his wide men quick and direct, and in truth there are no reliable current members of the squad who fit those descriptions. Luis Suarez could fill the central role quite well, but is a scoring rate of (roughly) one in three good enough? Scoring was Liverpool's problem last season, so to put Suarez in the middle would either rely on a massive improvement in his accuracy or place plenty of pressure on the rest of the team to provide goals. The interest in Fabio Borini seems real, but again his scoring rate (nine in 24 Serie A games last season) isn't brilliant. There's a clause in Demba Ba's contract that says he can leave for £7million (but only before the end of July), a move that would make a certain amount of sense. Rodgers talked coyly of possibly sending Carroll out on loan, but even if he doesn't fit with the new philosophy, this would be curious - if nothing else the big Geordie provides a thundering Plan B.
In terms of the wide positions, Liverpool have a few options, but almost all of them are more comfortable on the left. Stewart Downing, Craig Bellamy and Cole could all feasibly play on that flank (although there are obvious questions about Bellamy's durability), as could Suarez, but candidates for the other side are a little more thin on the ground. Maxi Rodriguez's future is unclear, so Rodgers will almost certainly be in the market for another wide man. The links to Scott Sinclair make sense (he can play on both wings), while Daniel Sturridge and Junior Hoilett are both viable options - though both will have other offers.
Reasons to be cheerful
In theory, this could work. Rodgers has the basis for not only a very decent team at Anfield, but perhaps more importantly, the basis for a team that will 'get' his ideas pretty quickly. Not a lot of work is required to the 'back seven' of his squad, and with a couple of shrewd additions further forward this team are more than capable of performing at a higher level than the 'heights' they reached under Kenny Dalglish. The trouble is, there are plenty of other managers also trying to be shrewd out there. An interesting few weeks await...
This article originally appeared on F365.