I DON’T like Stoke City very much. I find them boring and uninspiring to watch. I don’t appreciate constant long diagonal punts up field.
Watching the clock tick away dozens of time per match as balls are wiped with towels and set pieces are prepared meticulously isn’t my bag either.
I don’t find their physical approach easy on the eye but most importantly, I don’t like it when Liverpool have to play against them because I know it will be a tough game for the Reds to win.
Say what you will about Stoke (I often do), but they are a team you can set your watch by.
Liverpool conceded three times against them on Boxing Day. The first goal came from a long punt and flick on, the second from a corner and the third was from a long throw. Quelle suprise. The fact that Liverpool seemed ill equipped to deal with such obvious tactics was alarming but more frustrating still was the Reds inability to impose their contrasting style of play on their opponents throughout the game. Was that really a shock though?
Stoke are a team that have been pieced together in their managers image over several years. Tony Pulis knows how he wants his team to play, he knows what is effective and he has purchased footballers who will carry out his instructions consistently. The fact that these instructions are winning headers, being first to second balls, hitting percentage ‘diagonals’ and generally working as hard as humanely possible rather than attempting to play dazzling one touch pass and move football doesn’t matter.
The point remains that over a period of time Tony Pulis has assembled a squad that is able to successfully implement his preferred style of play. It doesn’t matter that his team play unattractive football, all that matters is that they are doing exactly what their manager wants them to.
Conversely, Brendan Rodgers’ group of players contains many who seem at odds with his football style. Whether or not his philosophy will ultimately be successful remains to be seen, but calls for his sacking (and there have been some, let’s not kid ourselves) and the growing lack of faith in his management at such an embryonic stage in his Liverpool career is depressing and unfortunately symptomatic of the modern day game. Time is hard to come by for managers these days, especially at Anfield.
Liverpool haven’t done as well as they should have this season in terms of league position, no one can dispute that and Rodgers has made mistakes, sometimes very important ones that have cost his team points (in my opinion). But cast your mind back 6 months and most Liverpool fans were applauding the notion of having a young manager with a vision.
Excitement surrounded the appointment of the softly spoken Northern Irishman who had a defined idea of how he wanted Liverpool to play going forward. 6 league defeats later and the goodwill and talk of steady progress over time is quickly evaporating.
Rodgers inherited a club that had been outside the top 6 under the stewardship of Rafa Benitez, Roy Hodgson and Kenny Dalglish over the past 3 seasons and then lost important players like Maxi Rodriguez, Dirk Kuyt and Craig Bellamy in the summer. Is it any wonder Liverpool are barely hanging on to the coat tails of the teams fighting for fourth place when you look at it like that?
Whatever reservations are held about the clubs American owners, in the summer they appointed a manager who they believed could bring success within their business model. They didn’t move for a Harry Redknapp style manager and seek a quick fix, they appointed a 39 year old with a clearly defined plan for the future which (like every manager in world football) was not guaranteed to work.
They put their faith in Brendan Rodgers and so did the supporters of Liverpool. So, given that most Reds on Merseyside this summer embraced the notion of introducing more youth team players and building for the future with slow steady progress under a new manager is it not just a little short sighted for people to be condemning Rodgers as a failure after half a season and only 2 first team additions to the playing staff (one of whom has been injured for most of the season)?
Liverpool are a team who have finished between 6th and 8th for the past three seasons. A return to the Champions League is their obvious objective but the chances of it happening this season were only remote to begin with and with the criminal loss to Aston Villa and the surrender at Stoke it now seems outlandish that Liverpool will finish in the top four. But would it be asking too much to give this new manager another transfer window or two to actually bring in players to the club who actually fit his style of play and to wait and see if improvement occurs?
Daniel Sturridge is on his way from Chelsea, and while he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, does anyone seriously think that he wouldn’t have provided more league goals than Raheem Sterling (one), Stewart Downing (one), Jose Enrique (one) or Suso (zero) have this season?
Joe Cole, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson and the like aren’t players that fit Rodgers system right now and he must be given time to acquire players who will before he is judged. Like Rodgers, Liverpool supporters want to see their team playing attractive, passing football and winning games. Why not give the man who intends to make this dream a reality the time and players to do it before getting on his back?
If you buy into a philosophy and a long term plan then you have to accept that it is likely going to take a while to perfect. Stoke are one of the best defensive sides in Europe this season and that didn’t happen overnight.
It happened because Tony Pulis, a man whose footballing philosophy I wholeheartedly disagree with, was allowed time to work with the players at his disposal and gradually mould a team in his image over numerous transfer windows. Giving Brendan Rodgers the same opportunity might just be an idea.