Attention to detail will serve Rodgers well at Anfield
There’s an opinion that here in the United Kingdom, the media and managers, among other members of the footballing community, don’t put enough emphasis on tactics, which has apparently contributed to some failings on the European and world stage. This is perhaps true; some newspapers rarely ever delve into the somewhat-unfamiliar-to-them world of tactics, while the likes of Tony Pulis and Harry Redknapp sometimes seem to think that shouting louder or doling out more pats on the back for players is more effective than tweaking with the finer details of the game plan.
However, this disregard towards tactics seems to be slowly but surely fading away. In the media you have the likes of Michael Cox further making his mark and being taken more seriously (except by Owen Coyle, bless his soul), while managers like Paul Lambert, a purveyor of a 4-3-1-2 formation among several others this season, and Brendan Rodgers, a one-time protégé of Jose Mourinho and an advocate of tiki-taka, are both on the rise.
It would seem that the influences of foreign football have led to Lambert and Rodgers’ tactical approaches to the game. While neither Pulis or Redknapp have played or managed outside of the UK, Lambert played for a year at Borussia Dortmund, and is likely to have experienced different methods to those we see here at times (a preference for man management over tactics). With Lambert, the mere fact that he went abroad to play football shows an openness to other cultures and other countries.
With new Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, it’s a little different. While foreign football did not make its mark on him through a career elsewhere, the influences of a different footballing culture found him; Jose Mourinho employed Rodgers at Chelsea as the manager of his reserves side.
While the footballing philosophy Rodgers has had in place at Swansea is quite different to the style Mourinho imposed on his Chelsea side while the Northern Irishman was there – and it’s likely that ‘the Special One’ requested a similar set-up for the reserves to make the transition easier for reserve players to the first team – it can be suggested that Mourinho’s different approach inspired Rodgers to think outside the box too. After all, it was Mourinho who pioneered the move from 4-4-2 to 4-5-1/4-3-3 in the Premier League.
Rodgers’ excellent attention for detail is outlined superbly here at The Path is Made By Walking, and clearly it is this approach to the game that has helped to mould the Swansea side which has won so many plaudits this past season for their footballing style, which is seen by many as a breath of fresh air.
It’s a relief to see attention to tactics paying off, as it will hopefully spread across the Premier League and mean we see better English managers; when Harry Redknapp was forced down our throats as the only candidate for the England job, it became apparent that we have very few good English managers, and this can partly be attributed to a fear of/stubbornness towards trying new things, meaning both careers in foreign countries and different approaches to the game.
Rodgers is not like that – he once said he felt he was from “a different bottle” to the majority of British football managers – and he has reaped the rewards of his analytical, intelligent approach this season. Liverpool will be a different challenge; when he arrived at Swansea, there were already foundations firmly in place to create a side immersed in tiki-taka, while the likes of Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam (prince of the “Hollywood” pass – the king is team-mate Steven Gerrard) might need a little more coaching.
Kenny Dalglish also seemed reluctant to focus too much on tactics at Liverpool – he at times appeared out of touch with the modern game, and it may be that his absence from management meant his approach was too out-dated to work – and a problem that Liverpool faced was that they never seemed to have a set style. This might actually work in Rodgers’ favour though, as he won’t have a firmly imposed blueprint to rip up and start anew from.
If you believe the rumours, Rodgers refused to work under a Director of Football at Liverpool, and this stance of desire for full control most likely means that he wants to impose his own style on the team, and wants as much freedom to do so as possible. It may take a while for this philosophy to settle in at Liverpool, as players will have to adjust and any new signings will have to settle in, but he proved at Swansea that with the right players his methods work very well.