Rodgers’ revolution could struggle to impress

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is the antithesis of former manager Kenny Dalglish but it may still not be enough to bring the glory days back to Merseyside.

Football News: Liverpool
Suhas Bhat

By Suhas Bhat

King Kenny had returned but his reign left few positives to look back on.

The Scotsman had been given the largest transfer chest in the club's history and he formed a British spine only for the signings from yesteryear becoming the club's saving grace. And while Dalglish was influenced by the reputations of players, Swansea, operating on a shoestring budget, unearthed unheralded stars that helped them finish in 11th place. 

Dalglish was also inflexible in his decision-making with Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing repeatedly used despite their lack of creativity in the second half of the season.

Rodgers, on the other hand, regularly rotated his players and fringe player Luke Moore scored the deciding goal against Manchester City in the Swans' most historic night at the Liberty Stadium. 

Tactically, Andy Carroll was championed by Dalglish who tried to bring about a traditional English approach to the game but the Northern Irishman instructed his teams to play a Barcelona-esque style of football which saw his side make 532 passes in their final-day win over the Reds, nearly double that of what Liverpool managed in the game. 

It also bodes well that while Dalglish was extremely defensive of his players, the ex-Swansea boss is frank and forthright and told scandal-tainted Luis Suarez recently: "Concentrate on your football. Everything else will be a hindrance."

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But despite their contrasting footballing philosophies and personalities, Liverpool still remain a club struggling to find their bearings and it will be a tall order for Rodgers to even break into the top four in his debut season. 

Captain Gerrard lacking quality partners

An injury-prone Steven Gerrard struggled to feature regularly but when he did, he showed glimpses of his immense ability. But his other midfield partners were poor in their passing, off the ball running and general willingness to contribute in defence. 

The sales of Alberto Aquilani, Dirk Kuyt and Maxi Rodriguez should lessen the competition for places and Lucas' return from injury fills a gaping void in the centre of midfield as Jay Spearing was an ineffectual deputy in the Brazilian's absence. 

But it's down the flanks that Liverpool continue to struggle, with Luis Garcia arguably the last winger to have terrorised opposing defences at Anfield. Downing failed to supply decent crosses while Henderson's performances demonstrated that the youngster is clearly better suited to life as a central midfielder. 

Adam still has the creativity to decide matches with his subtle passing and he formed a fruitful partnership with Suarez but a lack of physicality made him the weak point in games against hardier sides from the bottom of the table. 

If Rodgers is to impose a one-touch passing game then the return of Joe Cole, a player he worked with while at Chelsea, could prove pivotal but the Englishman lacks sharpness, if pre-season games are anything to by. 

Disciplining a complacent and error-prone defence

All good teams are built from the back. In this regard, Liverpool are supposed to be blessed with able hands in Pepe Reina with the classy Daniel Agger complementing brutish Martin Skrtel while marauding full-backs Jose Enrique and Glen Johnson provided options down the flanks. 

But it all went horribly wrong last term. The full-backs failed to track back while the central defenders, when fit, were poor in their communication and Reina, the three-time Premier League Golden Glove winner, made some uncharacteristic errors.

Age has caught up with Jamie Carragher and his lack of pace was repeatedly punished by agile opponents. Neither was 21-year-old Sebastien Coates ready for the demands of the Premier League as his lack of experience saw him make several questionable decisions. 

Rodgers' focus in the summer break should have been on improving their level of communication and shortening their reaction time while Reina will have to prove that he has moved on from his annus horribilis and is ready for a new campaign. 

The possible sale of Agger could lead to the purchase of a new defender but it will be hard to find a suitable replacement for the towering Dane, especially with the inflated prices of the transfer market. 

Suarez, Borini and Carroll with a point to prove

However, Liverpool can rest a little easier when it comes to their forward line. 

The Reds hit the woodwork 29 times in the past season and their luck can only get better. Suarez, especially, stands to benefit from the arrival of Fabio Borini.

The ex-Roma striker will likely play as a poacher looking to beat the offside trap or get on the end of a cross which would leave Suarez free to create mischief with his dribbling and shots from distance. 

Carroll's future remains uncertain but with the American owners unwilling to sanction a loan move and with no clubs willing to stump up the £20 million Liverpool reportedly want, the tall striker will have to be content with yet more substitute appearances. 

Liverpool did muster 120 headed attempts on goal, more than any other side last season, and so the ex-Geordie will try hard to prove himself and repay the faith showed by the Anfield faithful. 

More than anyone else, however, it's Suarez himself who has the strongest motivation to succeed in the wake of the Patrice Evra race row that damaged both his and the club's reputations. The Uruguayan international was banned for eight games and he became symbolic of Liverpool's dramatic fall from grace this year. 

Rodgers facing the toughest of starts

The 39-year-old manager needs to mould the players at his disposal, including new signing Joe Allen, into a functioning unit as quickly as he can as they have to contend with Premier League champions Manchester City (in their second game), Arsenal (third) and Manchester United (fifth) in the coming weeks. 

Moreover, the squad does not appear to have the depth required to deal with the demands of playing in the Europa League, Carling Cup, FA Cup as well as the league. Early exits from these competitions would not be a surprise. 

But most crucially, Liverpool were ranked 14th when taking into account results against teams from the bottom half of the league and it is this vital statistic that they need to improve on if they are to have any chance of securing a return to Champions League football in the 2012/13 season.

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