Liverpool have taken the Premier League by storm this season and with just a handful of games left to play, they have a very good chance of winning the title for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.
Many people will point out the striking duo of Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge for the main reason for Liverpool’s success. But the reason for Liverpool’s success is a lot more than having one of the best striking partnerships in world football.
The person that deserves a lot of the credit for Liverpool’s rise to the top this season is manager Brendan Rodgers. The Northern Irishman took over Liverpool in the summer of 2012 following the departure of club legend Kenny Dalglish.
…forcing them into mistakes…
In Rodgers first season in charge there was evidence of his philosophies that he was trying to instil into his players. Pressuring the opposition and possession was key but at times it seemed that they over done it at times. Trying to play out from the back every time cost Liverpool dearly at times and teams would press Liverpool high, forcing them into mistakes or playing the ball long. Rodgers insisted that nobody made mistakes and gave players confidence that they can play that way.
At the end of last season, things took a turn for the worse when Luis Suarez bit Branislav Ivanovic and received a ten game ban. Many ex players, pundits, fans of the club and fans in general wanted Liverpool to get rid of Suarez. They felt he damaged the clubs image. No matter how good of a player he is, the general perception was that he let the club down. Rodgers stood by the Uruguayan through all of the problems he was enduring. Even when Arsenal came calling and it seemed Suarez wanted out, Rodgers still stuck by him. And when the 27-year-old returned from his ban, he fully repaid his managers faith. His relentless work rate, teamwork and ruthlessness in front of goal has seen him break record after record.
…The most impressive thing about Rodgers that goes largely unnoticed is his tactical knowledge…
Rodgers has also revolutionised Steven Gerrard’s career. The England skipper use to thrive in the role behind the striker and it seemed his best days of playing in behind Fernando Torres had gone. Now under Rodgers, he has been given a new role. A deep lying midfielder who sits in front on the back four and instigates the play. Gerrard may be defensively vulnerable against a world class number 10 but with Jordan Henderson next to him doing a lot of his donkey work, very few, if any teams dominate against Liverpool’s midfield.
The most impressive thing about Rodgers that goes largely unnoticed is his tactical knowledge. Liverpool’s manager studies teams in extreme detail and then goes about a plan to win the game. Nearly every manager does this but not many make as many changes as Rodgers does or have anywhere near as much success as he had had. A couple of the best tactical selections he has made is when Liverpool played Southampton away. The Saints are a tough team to play against and give the opposition very little space. Rodgers knew the game would be congested so he played Philippe Coutinho in behind Suarez and Sturridge because he knew the Brazilian has brilliant close control and would be able to thread balls through in a tight situation. When Liverpool went to Old Trafford to face fierce rivals Manchester United, Rodgers knew that the size of the pitch at Old Trafford would leave spaces between the defence and midfield, so he played Raheem Sterling instead of Coutinho as he would have the pace to exploit these spaces.
Liverpool have a great chance at the title. Going forward they are frightening and no team wants to visit Anfield. If The Reds fall short then at least next season will bring Champions League football. The squad will need to be improved and their defence needs tightening up but if they manage to keep hold of Luis Suarez, then they can only get better.