Liverpool FC have always been a team that ingrained the motto “Pass and Move” into any player who put on the famous red shirt. For a long time we have needed a manager to come in and get us playing football again; exciting, mouth-watering football, the likes of which we hadn’t seen for years.
The closest to it was the all-out attack served up by Roy Evans in the mid 90’s. Fowler, Collymore, McManaman, Berger all scoring goals for fun but with a defence that had the likes of an aging Mark Wright, an unfit Neil Ruddock and an injury prone John Scales in front of the Super Mario-addicted David James. Then came Houllier with his brand of defensive, stubborn football that got results but would have you watching from a hospital bed more often than not with shot nerves.
Rafa came in and sometimes set up to not lose a game rather than win it, which is all well and good, but when it doesn’t work it would leave you so frustrated you’d have pieces of hair in your hands from tearing it out. Hodgson and Dalglish, it seemed, just had eleven players on the pitch in the hope something happened. It happened for ‘the King’ in cup competitions, but league form was atrocious.
Carroll and Downing were bought to be on the pitch at the same time; Downing crossing for the big man to convert, but on more than one occasion Carroll would drift out to the left wing leaving no one in the box and invariably end up being subbed off for Downing. The two hardly ever seemed to be on the pitch at the same time. The Hodgson era has nearly been completely wiped from my mind, but I still wake up sometimes at night with cold sweats before remembering he is the England boss now, breathing a sigh of relief and rolling over.
Rodgers himself said “if plan A doesn’t work, plan B is to make a change to make plan A more effective”. Barcelona have no plan B, so why should Liverpool? A team built up to truly believe that control of the ball and movement off it determines the results and the style of play we all want to see. I don’t like the whole ‘tiki-taka’ saying that seems to have become cool in certain quarters, but the fact Rodgers wants to turn us into another “bastion of invincibility”, as Shankly once said, is fine with me.
Barcelona are a one off; a team of such brilliantly talented individuals that it makes it near impossible to copy their ethos man for man, but think of Liverpool in the years to come as Barcelona-lite. There are signs this season that, under Rodgers, the players are warming and growing to his way of playing, which is getting the best form out of Luis Suarez for one thing.
To play for Rodgers is to have faith in your own abilities whilst trusting your team mates to do the same. People raised eyebrows when Andy Carroll was allowed to leave for West Ham, but he is nowhere near technically gifted enough to warrant a place in this team. Are we to believe that if we are behind in a game we should just abandon everything and go long to the big man? We are not Stoke, and never will be, especially under Rodgers.
Rodgers’ plan A is to get the team playing so well that the opposition is exhausted into defeat, to bully and batter teams into submission by pressure and passing alone. The “6 second rule” is something borrowed from Barcelona, and you see it in the players; if they lose the ball they work hard to get it back and go again. This is where the plan starts to look all the more menacing.
Players like Gerrard, Lucas, Henderson all have the ability to hound and harass the opposition into making a mistake and give the ball back. Suarez and Sterling have been doing it from the front all season. It is imperative that every player closes the nearest man to him immediately, pressuring them to panic and play the ball before they’re allowed to become composed.
Rodgers might have appeared naive in announcing to the world his plans for the team, but in reality it’s a measure of how confident the man is in his own ability as a manager and the trust he has in those who play for him.
Long may it continue.
You can follow Liam on twitter @Jolly_Conductor
Live4Liverpool is recruiting columnists. For further info contact the site editor at firstname.lastname@example.org