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.


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12 responses to “Attention to detail will serve Rodgers well at Anfield”

  1. Dude says :

    Not entirely true. Liverpool played some outstanding football this season. Only against Spurs/ManUtd away were we outplayed. Against Bolton we were just awful. The rest of the games we absolutely dominated but our ability to hit the back of the onion net was quite apparent to be non-existent. Our defence was second only to the Manchester teams. Indeed, it was not until the injury to Agger in February that the defence collapsed. Anybody who watched Liverpool every week will testify that we played well. We have weaknesses no doubt but I’m hopeful that Rodgers will sort them out. They’re apparent enough.

  2. Stratty says :

    Do you think stepping off the island makes you a football genius? I haven’t lived in England for ten years, and I can’t tell a Offside trap from a Christmas Tree.

    • Sam Drew says :

      No, not at all, and I didn’t say it was that simple. In terms of experiencing different footballing approaches first-hand though, like Lambert and Rodgers both have through Dortmund & Mourinho, it can open your eyes.

  3. Stratty says :

    Well, I’m sure Mourinho would be an education. Chelsea would be frightening in the hands of Guardiola, wouldn’t they. WIth the tiki-taka to hand when they school-ground bully approach proved ineffective.

  4. King Kong says :

    Liverpool dominated games, yes. But they also have one of the worst conversion rate in the game last season. Tactical? Presumably so as the final third lacked quality. How many times have we seen players running into the box and score? Crosses? Ppl attacking the balls are lacking. Adam Charlie and Henderson doesn’t make enough runs in. The balance could not be struck when that happens. They have to sacrifice defense for attack? Where’s the fluidity?

    • Sam Drew says :

      I’d agree – there doesn’t seem to be a particular strategy in terms of scoring goals. They had a great set-up defensively, perhaps where Dalglish did well, but could have had more fluidity in attack as you say. Cheers for the comment.

  5. Subatomicman says :

    I like your blog entry. Good observations about British newspapers and such completely avoiding tactics, I rarely see anything regarding tactics. Although I wouldn’t say that English managers completely avoid tactics, but there are those who seem to put more emphasis on man management. Wenger often criticizes other teams’ tactics when they “park the bus” and only play for the counter attack, or make many questionable tackles. I would think it’s impossible to manage a team from game to game without tactics or strategies.

    • Sam Drew says :

      Thanks! Yeah, that’s fair enough; there seems to be a certain level of trust lacking in tactics from a lot of English managers. I suppose “parking the bus” is a tactic, but it’s a very basic one at that. Cheers for the comment.

  6. G says :

    Good read!

  7. Izuchukwu Okosi, Lagos, Nigeria says :

    Rodgers will succeed at Liverpool but will do well to improve the team’s defence and midfield. He needs to continue his philosophy at Anfield.

    • Sam Drew says :

      Defensively Liverpool are pretty well set up, as shown by their good record in that aspect, but they definitely need to improve in midfield and attack. Might take a while to implement Rodgers’ philosophy as some don’t quite fit, but he may not try to radically change things straight away – depends if he’s afforded patience. Villas-Boas certainly wasn’t at Chelsea, and paid the price.

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