Rodgers hails Reds "natural leaders"

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has emphasised the character and sense of team ethic as the Reds look to move on from a disappointing January transfer window.


The Merseyside outfit's attempts to strengthen during the window did not yield a single signing, with one of their targets, Mohamed Salah, opting to join Chelsea and a deal for another, Yevhen Konoplyanka, failing to materialise before Friday's deadline.

But Rodgers, whose side are fourth in the Barclays Premier League and thrashed derby rivals Everton 4-0 on Tuesday, has insisted he is "very optimistic" about the group of players already at his disposal in terms of their prospects of having "a really good finish" to the season.

And he sees their character - something he thinks they have in "bucketloads" - as being key to that.

Asked about leaders in his team, Rodgers said: "If you look at the game the other night, (captain) Steven Gerrard was organising, dictating the game, ordering people about.

"Martin Skrtel is really taking on board the leadership qualities and was outstanding, Kolo Toure is a natural leader and before the game, young Jon Flanagan was really vocal in the changing room. Luis Suarez is a natural leader and Jordan Henderson is coming out of his shell.

"It is a natural evolution of the team and the group and you see that character and personality starting to come into the team, which takes time.

"It is players understanding the kind of characteristics we are looking for and it is good to see.

"I think we have been challenged since I have been here, especially early on, about if we have enough character, if we can come back from losing positions, if we can fight, and I think we are seeing all those qualities now - and that will only improve as we grow together."

Reds striker Daniel Sturridge, having scored twice and then missed a penalty in the Everton game, shot off-target later in the match rather than passing to the better-placed Suarez, and appeared to show a degree of petulance with Rodgers when being substituted soon after.

Sturridge subsequently apologised and Rodgers has stressed that the 24-year-old, along with everyone else in the Liverpool squad, is very much focused on the collective.

He said: "Everyone - whether it is Daniel, Luis, Jon Flanagan, Aly Cissokho, whoever - all has to buy into the team, and I think we have seen that over my time here.

"I have tried to manage a team and everyone fits into that culture."

Liverpool are next in action on Sunday when they take on West Brom away.

The same fixture last term was Rodgers' first league game as Reds manager, and a disappointing one for the Northern Irishman as Albion ran out 3-0 winners.

Reflecting on Liverpool's progress since then, he said: "We've grown.

"If I look back at my time here over the last 18 months, I look back at the first game we played against West Brom and where we were at then was we had some talented players but we were very much a group of individuals.

"Over the course of 18 months, we've implemented a method to our play and we have become a team.

"We're understanding the game much better in terms of how we want to work and how we want to play.

"The important trait in any successful team is character, and we have got that in bucketloads.

"It's something that makes me very happy, but we've still got a way to go."

Midfielder Joe Allen, who has missed the last two games because of a hamstring problem, is set to return to Liverpool's matchday squad for the clash at The Hawthorns.

The Reds still have Daniel Agger, Mamadou Sakho, Jose Enrique, Glen Johnson and Lucas Leiva all unavailable due to injury.

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