Date: 23rd January 2013 at 4:00pm
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AT the end of last season prior to Liverpool FC’s defeat at Swansea City, MOTD3 aired a show to celebrate 20 years of the Premier League.

One of the most prolific scorers in the league appeared in the shape of Alan Shearer, the former pro turned pundit, Robbie Savage and an up and coming Swansea City manager in the shape of Brendan Rodgers.

All three were asked to give their all time Premier League XI.

Interestingly both Shearer and Savage picked similar teams in a traditional 4-4-2 formation, whilst Brendan who admitted to spending a fair bit of time thinking about this took a different approach. He picked:

That’s a team of: P. Schmeichel; G. Neville, T. Adams, J. Terry, A. Cole; R. Keane, P. Scholes; G. Zola, C. Ronaldo, T. Henry; A. Shearer.

Whilst I’m sure most reading this might feel a sense of apoplectic rage given the amount of Manchester United players in the squad, there can be no denying this side probably would have dominated British football. Make no mistake; this side would have been a formidable one.

Note that this system is not a 4-3-3, it’s a variation on it 4-2-3-1. Rodgers also omitted from the starting XI, noticeable absentees including Gerrard, Alonso, Giggs, Hyypia, Vieira, Lampard, Mascherano…the list goes on and on.

Explaining his reasoning for omitting such players Rodgers went on that whilst indeed great players, he was thinking about the system and they way they all work together. Ronaldo and Henry need no explanation, Shearer the out-and-out goal-machine, Zola for his incredible ability to attack as natural playmaker in the no.10 role, Scholes for his ability to control the midfield, dictate play whilst serious aggression and bite comes in the shape of Roy Keane and a very dominant back four. Peter Shcmeichel also gets the no.1 jersey. I remember Peter just as much for his passion and leadership as well as his ability in goal.

The team he picked has an edge to it in the sense of all of those players would not tolerate errors and people not doing their fair share of work on the pitch. The collective, aggression and the shared responsibility the ever present factors in this Rodgers side. There’s also a fair amount of football intelligence in this side; Neville, Scholes and Zola all known for their insight and vision to manage games.

Whilst it’s interesting looking at the players here and debating for hours as to what your all time XI is, this is not the point of the article. I’d rather point out something which comes across clearly. All of these players are aggressive, not all of them are leaders, yet there’s no lack of leadership here.

There’s an abundance of skill here too with the front four amassing over 580 goals for their Premier League clubs, with other scoring options in the name of Scholes, Adams and Terry. It’s fair to say both Cole and Neville were never that prolific – instead solid full backs who added pace as well as skill.

Rodgers recently told the press that his current Liverpool squad is a quiet team. Then all of a sudden the shock of including Carragher on Saturday’s match over Skrtel explained later due to Carragher’s leadership on the pitch. Skrtel isn’t having the best of seasons, found often out of position, conceding 23 fouls just outside the box (which is worrying considering Liverpool’s inability to defend these set pieces just now).

He’s had a few key errors too, the noticeable one’s costing the team a win over City at the start of the start of the season, and then not being in his position by the post allowing Evra of all people to head towards goal deflecting off of Vidic which gave United the advantage in a game where Skrtel should have been sent-off.

Since losing Mascherano and Hyypia we’ve lost that bite and intelligence we used to have in the defensive areas. Whilst both Agger and Skrtel look strong and indeed scary, Skrtel is no leader and Agger doesn’t have that bite or those eyes that Mascherano had. Most of you will point out that Mascherano wasn’t a centre-back which is true, but he was solid sitting above the back four, providing that aggression which I’m not sure Lucas possesses.

In my view we’re far too nice a team at times and we lack leaders outside of Gerrard, Carragher and arguably Agger. Pepe Reina has in the past been seen as a leader, however he’s looked erratic of late; his usually sound communication struggling too often to organize a wall.

Rodgers always bemoans the lack of ‘power, character and aggression’ – something which can’t be taught on a football field. Maybe this would explain his desire to give Shelvey a run of games; someone with all the raw tools, yet lacks consistency. Most fans taking him to their hearts when he blasted Fergie for conspiring to get him sent-off.

If there’s an insight in Rodgers’ all time Premier League XI it’s that as well as those who have good technical ability on the ball and movement, Rodgers will look to sign players who have something about them. Strong, talented, and agile people who will fight for a win and who have true desire to win matches and championships.

There’s no coincidence with teams who win titles, often do so by getting results in the dying seconds of a game. Hunger in a player is a key element in the mind of Rodgers, he’s said before: if you don’t want to be a Liverpool player then you know where the door is.

Time will tell whether our youth have such characteristics, or indeed whether FSG agree with his approach.

Follow me on Twitter @JohnRitchie84

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