Saturday 16 December 2017

Rodgers enjoying last laugh after Arsenal's 'derogatory' offer

Steve Tongue

Arsene Wenger was right to admit yesterday that Arsenal bidding one pound over £40m for Luis Suarez could have been considered "provocative".

That was one word for it. Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has now supplied a few more, including "derogatory" and lacking class, while claiming that his club merely laughed when they received the offer. It sounded from his tone, however, as though the laugh was of the bitter variety.

"I think Arsenal were ill advised on that, to say the least," he said.

"It was never going to succeed. At the time we certainly saw the bid as derogatory. The two clubs have historically had class, but our fight was always to keep him here because he is a top player."

Once Suarez made it clear in July that he wanted to leave, Liverpool appealed in vain to his sense of loyalty and gratitude for the way the club and its supporters had stuck by him amid his disciplinary aberrations.

Rodgers was then forced to take a harder line and make Suarez train on his own. "I'm sure all the players are looking to the manager in a situation like that to see what happens," he said yesterday.

"It cannot fester and be allowed to become a cancer within the group. No matter how difficult the situation was, we were leading up to our first game of the season having had a brilliant pre-season and nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of our preparation for that.

"My job is to protect the club and it was important during that time that the power of the club was seen."

Whatever Suarez's long-term intentions – which could well depend on Liverpool securing a Champions League place – he appears to have knuckled down, even before his 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic finished in September.

Six goals in four league games, including a hat-trick against West Brom last Saturday, have confirmed his value to the team and illustrated what Rodgers believes is a greater sense of responsibility.

"I see an improvement in his game and a maturity in his overall personality," the manager said. "I think his football intelligence is improving. You can't always try the tricks, especially if you're dropping in near the halfway line."

In Suarez's absence, Daniel Sturridge rose brilliantly to the challenge of becoming the main striker and now Liverpool have adopted a 3-5-2 formation to suit them both. Sturridge has 10 goals already this season and Rodgers said of him: "Daniel is a big talent. I've said that from when he came in. I genuinely believe he can be at Luis' level in the next couple of years." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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