“Storms make the oak grow deeper roots…”
…or, at least that’s how the saying goes.
Trailing behind Brendan Rodgers while he prepared himself for life as the manager of Liverpool FC was a philosophy – one that Rodgers has been advocating, persisting, practicing, and implementing ever since the start of his managerial career. ‘Tiki-Taka’? ‘Totaal-voetbal’? Yes – those styles of football are indeed the roots in which he built his managing style from. For about two years now, we’ve got to witness Rodgers’s philosophy slowly materialise.
However, what Brendan Rodgers (finally) did with this philosophy of his whilst managing a young and talented Liverpool squad for the 2013-14 season, was evolving it. Midway through the season, Liverpool transitioned and played a 4-4-2 formation instead of Brendan’s bread-and-butter 4-3-3 – deploying a diamond midfield which allowed Steven Gerrard to be played as the deepest midfielder, while having the luxury of his team to be spearheaded by two potent strikers in Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suárez.
How Rodgers tried and persisted with the diamond midfield in a variation of the 4-4-2 in the 2013-14 season was very admirable given that it was straying away from the norm. And it wasn’t at the expense of success too, given that Liverpool managed to finish as the league’s runners-up after years and years of disappointing Premier League placings.
From then on, it was clear that what was once an ‘on-the-dressing-room-whiteboard’ plan is now what we call and see as ‘magic’ on the pitch. What was once the roots and the stem that laid out the foundation necessary to revive this legendary football club has started to bear fruits. Liverpool are finally playing The Liverpool Way again.
However, as Rodgers and Liverpool commenced preparations for the 2014-15 season, the flowers that bloomed a season ago with the help of Liverpool’s instrumental 31-goal striker, Luis Suárez, wilted when he left the Merseyside club to join La Liga runners-up Barcelona in a move that may come as a surprise to many.It may seem that the departure of the club’s Uruguayan trouble-maker is an indicator that Liverpool have taken a step-back again, but not all hope is lost, if any at all.
This “storm” in the form of the departure of Luis Suárez may just fuel Rodgers to return to his roots. We may very well see his favoured 4-3-3 being deployed again, and this is somewhat backed up by the nature of the club’s signings in the 2014 summer transfer window.
Rickie Lambert was the first player to be signed by Liverpool, where he returns to his boyhood club after spending a lot of his career in lower league sides. The veteran striker who scored 13 goals in the Premier League last season will add a lot of depth and adds an option to the squad up-top.
The signing of Lazar Marković is sure to turn heads in the Premier League, as he is well-known to be one of the brightest prospects in Europe. Adding to that is another top prospect in Emre Can, who could be deployed in almost every position except the forward line for Brendan Rodgers’s team.
Adam Lallana, who followed Rickie Lambert from Southampton to Liverpool could be the trump card for the club in midfield and/or out wide. Dejan Lovren, another Southampton player moving to Liverpool, who’s also a regular for the Croatian national team that participated in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, has also joined the ranks, being brought in to shore up the central defensive line.
Liverpool also welcome two exceptional youth talents in Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo who play at both full-back spots, and finally adding some quality in those areas, easily and hopefully for at least the next half-a-decade. This is surely going to excite fans, as the days of Glen Johnson and make-shift left-backs are almost gone.
Lastly, the impending arrival of a top-tier striker as a way to replace a world-class player in Luis Suárez looks to be in the form of Mario Balotelli. Swapping out one bad boy for another, the move for Italy’s first-choice striker will surely be questioned by some, but embraced by most.
On the attacking-front, Liverpool seem to be quite well-equipped to take on the upcoming season. The fluidity that can be facilitated by the sheer ability and talent of the current crop of forwards is further accentuated by a ‘4-3-3′ that spreads out the front-three into the flanks as well.
Being dubbed as the club with one of, if not the best brand of attacking football in the world, Liverpool has little to worry about. The pass-and-move football with constant movement off the ball, quick one-time touches and everything else in that proximity is definitely a fascinating sight to see.
What’s incredible about this beautiful style of football that we see at Liverpool is that it became a catalyst that allowed more than 100 league goals to be scored by the team last season – a number only bettered by Manchester City.
However, it is Sun Tzu who wrote, “invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack”, and this holds true.
A clear chink in Liverpool’s armour (still) lies in its leaky defence, and these are mainly due to reasons that ranges from poor positional awareness, to a distinct lack of pace, to atrocious defensive errors – you name it. And with that said, it is no surprise that the title slipped away from the Reds in the 2013-14 season. The goal-scoring calibre was no match for the leaky, error-prone back-line and defensive tactics being deployed by Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool.
With just days of the summer transfer window left, Brendan Rodgers and the transfer committee will surely look to bring in another signing or two to further add to the already-improved squad depth at Liverpool – an element that was lacking in the squad in preceding seasons. These signings could very well include a competent goalkeeper who’s able to keep Simon Mignolet on his toes and stray away from complacency.
Regardless of who flies over to the city of Liverpool, gets examined by Doctor Zaf, sits at that table we are all familiar with whilst signing the contract and finally, lean on a random object during the photo-shoot for Liverpool though, how they fit into the system, and how willing they are to be a sponge to soak up everything that is Liverpool matters so much more.
While many of the new arrivals are talented in their own ways, none have been particularly “world-class”, as they say. It seems that Rodgers is banking on the chance that the sum of the parts of the squad will be greater than its individual components, and that this chemistry – this intangible, this unmeasurable, this unquantifiable attribute – will pay dividends in May. Nevertheless, we’re likely to see the squad return to its roots in many aspects – play-style, philosophy, man-management, formations, and all that jazz.
So what’s there to be too negative about? Liverpool will continue to play the Liverpool Way, with Brendan Rodgers and the coaching staff continuing their path to get us back to our roots, regardless of what ‘storms’ may come our way. Besides, despite the many downs that everyone in Liverpool – the owners, the manager(s), the players, and most importantly, the fans – have gone through and experienced, the unwavering hope and faith persists.
With that said, what’s to be expected in the 2014-15 season for Liverpool Football Club?
Well, we’ll evolve from our roots once again.