Far Post Footy

Reviving Anfield

Reviving Anfield

By: Jonathan Townsend

@jon_townsend3

At Liverpool Football Club the cauldron of change has bubbled over, splashing onlookers with a taste of what’s to come from a resurgent Liverpool team. Surely, a revival or re-education is at hand, and it starts with philosophy. Philosophy is one of the most difficult subjects to not only absorb, but to integrate into a discipline. Adopting a new philosophy of football is a brutal practice, requiring a collection of players to augment—and often destroy—their old habits while allowing themselves to be rebuilt and tested. Under the tutelage of Brendan Rodgers, progress has required the demolition of a Liverpool whose style was stale and reminiscent of a club frantically clinging onto an illustrious, yet distant history, desperate for a return to glory.

Liverpool is an anomaly of sorts. For a club of Liverpool’s historical pedigree suggests that merely winning the league will not and should not satiate Liverpool’s loyal following. So, what would signal a revival, and is it possible under Brendan Rodgers? The question is rhetorical, but results suggest Rodgers has the right ideas in place while his tactics and team selections have left much to be desired. Mistakes are part of management, but the best managers don’t continually repeat the same mistakes. Under Rodgers, Liverpool has consistently shown a complete disregard for defensive responsibility and cohesion. Fluidity through the midfield is hit or miss. When Liverpool clicks, they’re unbelievable; when the tactics are wrong, they’re laughable.

It’s apparent the football on display in Rodgers’ Liverpool sides is both aesthetically pleasing and functional in its approach and execution on the pitch. There was a time when a players found themselves included in a Liverpool side without the requisite technical ability to play the Rodgers Way. Those players aren’t at Liverpool Football Club anymore. The resurgence at Anfield requires a style of play. At LFC, it resembles a gritty version of the Dutch-inspired Total Football complete with players interchanging positions and turning transition play into all-out attacking football while leaving themselves susceptible to counter attacks. What’s frustrating for the thousands of paying customers and the millions seat cushion coaches at home is the time required for a new style of play to become the habitual style of play. One of the detriments of modern football is the gap between developing talent through an academy and fielding a team of superstars via cash injections from billionaire tycoon owners. It’s a mistake to suggest that the sport is still a game when in fact, it’s a business.

And therein lies the red herring fallacy matching the red of Liverpool’s kits; the irrelevant diversion detracting from the topic at hand—talk of winning the Premier League title this year. To suggest the current Liverpool squad is ready to effectively compete for the league title based on this season’s form is an exercise optimism, not realism. It’s befuddling to compare the project at Liverpool to those taking place with the league’s title contenders. The truth is, anything short of acomplete rejuvenation aptly greased by Middle Eastern oil money to produce a team of mercenaries (Manchester City)won’t yield an instant league title. It didn’t at Man City. When the Abu Dhabi United Group injected over £100 million to overhaul the player personnel at City in the summer 2009, it put the club in a position to compete for the league title, and eventually win it in the 2011-2012 in thrilling, unrepeatablefashion. It took time. For all his critics, the project Brendan Rodgers has been tasked with will take time.

But, in light of the attractive football Liverpool has played this year, the old ghosts still haunt the club. Defeats to Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City are evidence that the real Liverpool revival is still at least a year away. The current squadis capable of beating similar (Tottenham and, dare I say it, Man United) while slipping up against lesser competition (Southampton and Hull City). Liverpool is a club that still finds itself on the losing end to the league’s other juggernauts. The Premier League doesn’t forgive slip-ups at against the league’s best.

There is no tycoon money and there is no Champions League football to attract star power to the club. Drastic improvement at Liverpool Football Club must be carried out The Liverpool Way.That means steady integration of Melwood’s fringe players intoreserve and eventual first team competition while fostering the talent within the Academy. It also means buying into what Brendan Rodgers is selling—decisive, possession-based football capable of breaking down and unlocking opposing teams through well-rehearsed patterns of play. Under previous managers, Liverpool opted for the “quick fix” approachresulting in panic buys and a culture of apathetic underperformance. Question marks still remain over players like Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto among others who might fall into that undesirable category. Liverpool has its star players; and it has the essential parts required for ‘the machine’ to function effectively in the players raised and programmed to play a new kind of football Liverpool has used on its quest for a top-four finish this campaign.

There is a saying that ‘one doesn’t build a house starting with the roof’ and the same is true in football. Players like Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Coutinho, Jon Flanagan, Martin Kelly, to name a few, must continue to play functional football. The more seasoned players like Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez, and Daniel Sturridge are consistently top players. Others, likeGlenn Johnson, Daniel Agger, Kolo Toure, Aly Cissokho, and Martin Skrtel have not played to the defensive standard becoming of a title-contending side. The truism exists thatLiverpool’s leaky defense is the major blight on a season that’s seen the club compete in the Premier League. Perhaps defensive frailties are this year’s cancer—something Rodgers will have to address sooner rather than later.

If executed properly, a strong second half of the campaign this year will see Manchester City, Chelsea, Everton, Tottenham and Arsenal visit Anfield where this Liverpool squad shouldcompete effectively. Although Anfield is a formidable place for any visiting side, Liverpool don’t defend it voraciously enough to put themselves in contention for the title. In football, patience is a tenant everyone claims to understand, but none have reallymastered. A real title challenge is realistically, at least a year or two away; but a top four finish may be within reach. Qualifying for the Champions League this campaign surely bolstersLiverpool’s revival for the coming years. Patience is exactly what’s required for the Liverbird to rise from its ashes to the summit of the league table for the first time since the 1989/90 season.

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