Thursday 19 October 2017

Brendan Rodgers agrees to lead new Reds era

Cometh the hour: Brendan Rodgers (right) could become the new Liverpool manager Photo: Getty Images
Cometh the hour: Brendan Rodgers (right) could become the new Liverpool manager Photo: Getty Images
Brendan Rodgers: poised to replace King Kenny and complete his remarkable rise. Photo: Getty Images

Chris Bascombe

Brendan Rodgers will become Liverpool's new manager, having agreed a three-year deal with the Anfield club yesterday.

Rodger's appointment will be confirmed once he has completely severed his ties with Swansea, with Liverpool hoping to be in a position to formalise their selection today.

Negotiations regarding a £5m compensation agreement with Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins are not a stumbling block.

The 39-year-old was given permission to meet Liverpool's owners, Fenway Sports Group, when the lure of Anfield proved too great to resist.

Rodgers has received the re-assurances he needed from Liverpool's American owners that he will have control over team affairs, although the style and philosophy he wants to impose on his side is entirely in keeping with what FSG were looking for.

High on the criteria for a new manager was a young coach with a passion for fluid, attractive football. That is why Liverpool were prepared to wait patiently to meet Rodgers, despite his initial reticence to join the recruitment process.

Rodgers harboured concerns about how the selection process was being handled at first and latterly whether the arrival of a powerful sporting director such as Louis Van Gaal would compromise his position.

Those reservations were laid to rest during his conversations with the Liverpool hierarchy, particularly when the Van Gaal interest cooled despite a meeting with the Dutchman last week.

Liverpool do not deny speaking to Van Gaal -- managing director Ian Ayre held talks with the 60-year-old -- but they insist no job offer was ever made to the Dutchman. The same applies to Wigan's Roberto Martinez, who was granted an audience with John Henry.

CONTENDER

Martinez was a serious contender for the Anfield role, but ultimately Rodger's broader experience, apprenticeship at Chelsea under his mentor and friend Jose Mourinho and success at keeping Swansea comfortably in the Premier League at his first attempt by playing an eye-catching brand of football gave him the edge.

Rodgers' cause was also assisted by the fact he led Swansea on one of the few Premier League occasions Liverpool owner Henry attended Anfield last season.

On that day, despite a 0-0 draw, the Welsh side outpassed and outplayed Liverpool and were unfortunate not to win -- a performance Henry will have recalled during talks with the Ulsterman.

Liverpool were making no statement on the imminent appointment last night, but an official announcement is anticipated in the next 24 hours.

Rodgers will be one of several Anfield appointments in a summer of transition, but essentially he will be the major influence on signings and the team's philosophy.

Liverpool have been reviewing how to restructure the club, redefining scouting and technical roles, although there is a feeling much of this shake-up is being over-analysed amid a plethora of lavish titles.

Essentially, the club will be appointing a glorified chief scout, an experienced administrator to negotiate transfers and contracts and a figurehead to ensure a seamless transition between the youth and senior set-ups.

Liverpool want their teams to play the same brand of football played at all levels -- a philosophy they stuck by rigidly during their most successful periods under Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley.

Some of the new appointments will be internal promotions and will not intrude on Rodger's role.

It will not be a summer of revolution at Anfield, but it would be underestimation to suggest it is mere evolution.

FSG are pursuing a modern reinvigoration of the club's well-established values, and the appointment of dynamic, young coach fits entirely with the promises they made on buying the club nearly two years ago.

That vision has been subjected to compromises ever since as FSG inherited an ageing, defensive coach in Roy Hodgson and had little option, but to turn to club legend Kenny Dalglish as a short-term solution to stabilise a fraught situation.

In turning to Rodgers, there is a sense they are now finally following their own blueprint.

Rodgers is likely to assess the existing coaching staff before determining his backroom team, with Dalglish's assistant Steve Clarke set for further talks on his future.

Clarke offered his resignation on the day Dalglish was fired. It was refused by the club hierarchy because they wanted Clarke to delay a decision until a new manager was appointed.

The current Liverpool first-team coach was instrumental in helping Rodgers join Chelsea's coaching staff under Mourinho and now the apprentice has graduated into the manager's seat at one of Europe's most esteemed clubs.

In another twist, Swansea's potential record signing Gylfi Sigurddson may now stall on penning a £6.8m new deal as he waits to see if Rodgers wants to take him to Anfield.

An agreement is in place between Swansea and German club Hoffenheim, but part of the attraction for Sigurddson was working with Rodgers.

It now remains to be seen if the 22-year-old Icelandic international feels he can commit his future to the Liberty Stadium given the managerial uncertainty that will follow Rodgers' exit.

Rodgers' ideas about football were formed when he was a youth player in Northern Ireland -- a small, creative midfielder watching helplessly as the ball hurtled back over his head the few times his team managed to wrestle it away from the Dutch, French and Spanish opposition.

In the simplest terms, Rodgers wants his team to get hold of the ball as quickly as possible and then keep it.

One of his key beliefs is that a team's initial formation -- say 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 -- matters less than what that translates to on to the pitch.

Rodgers seeks to create as many 'lines' across the field as possible. In his system, you have a minimum of seven lines.

He wants his goalkeeper to be part of the play, then the centre-backs, then what he calls the 'controller' (a deep-lying playmaker), then the full-backs pushed on, the two attacking midfielders, the wingers and then the centre-forward. That allows you to draw seven horizontal lines across the pitch.

Through coaching, Rodgers ensures that every player knows his place in this system.

When the ball is lost, his players seek to win it back quickly by pressing high up the field. This means reacting as a unit and nobody shirking their duty.

specialist

How will this work at Liverpool? In Pepe Reina, Rodgers has the ideal goalkeeper for this system, coached to play as part of the team in the Barcelona academy.

Daniel Agger is the kind of ball-playing centre-back Rodgers likes, but he may need to recruit a specialist 'controller' to do the selfless job Leon Britton did for him at Swansea.

One of the main issues will be how Steven Gerrard adapts. Is he capable of subjugating himself to a role in a disciplined tactical system at the expense of playing by instinct?

Andy Carroll must also show himself capable of playing in a system in which he will be required to build the play more than he has done in the past. Physical strength is secondary to tactical acuity and technical ability for Rodgers.

There are plenty of technically adept players in the Liverpool team who will thrive on Rodgers' emphasis on possession when attacking.

The thornier issue is with Rodgers' defensive system, in which you are only as strong as your weakest link. If a player does not press off the ball, the whole approach unravels. That is why Barcelona are such an important example -- even Lionel Messi closes down and harries.

Selling this to Swansea players was not easy, selling to Liverpool players, with big egos, will be even harder. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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