What to do about Liverpool.... I have several opinions on this, so bear with me. None of them are "sack the manager, buy Neymar" either.
First, with Rodgers... He deserves another year, as would any manager thrust into his position. The team he inherited lacked quality in several pieces and are unfit to run the system he prefers. He has been naive in some matches (the first West Brom game, the first game and last 20 of the second with Arsenal) but in many regards his players have let him down.
As far as quality, the team needs a consistent midfielder (Ericksen?), a consistent winger (I like the idea of Julian Draxler, despite his being young), a new left back, a new centerback and a new keeper. All 5 of these need to be high quality players. And here is where Liverpool is both strong and weak. When we examine the PL, there is really only one "strong" team, and that is United. And why? They are very experienced, everywhere. They have proven, tested goal scorers, a manager willing to play to his teams strengths and players across the board who have already won games. Liverpool is just not that club right now. The average age is 23. Many of the players called on to impact highly competitive games are very young and new to the rigors of the PL. Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen being the main culprits, but it doesnt stop there. Borini, Coutinho, Sterling, Suso, Shelvey, Wisdom may all become very good PL players, but need the time on the field. This time to gain experience has come and will come in big matches. We can assume that their will be negative results. There is no way around that.
But this needs to be coupled with another, bigger problem that I am beginning to (fretfully) realize. Im not sure the 4-3-3 and its components in the way that Rodgers/Wenger want to run it can be successful in the PL. In nearly every match that Liverpool has been in they have been better for longer stretches of time than their opponent, and yet been undone by the simplest of mistakes. (Wenger's Arsenal teams of the very near past have succumbed to the same issues.... defensive breakdowns have undone title/cup chances)
The 433 in the way Rodgers plays it asks that its team defends by possessing the ball for long stretches of time. this involved intricate, tight triangles throughout the field, but mostly through the middle third and into the attacking third. And this is where I see our biggest problem... Liverpools players are not geared to do this, neither mentally nor technically. the triangles break down far too quickly, leaving gaping holes in their shape. the triangles are far too big, never truly unbalancing the other team's shape, leaving Liverpool without options after a few passes. In reality, Liverpool become weaker and weaker with each pass they make through the midfield. And often their decision making leaves them more exposed or at the very least shapeless in attack, with some players moving to build around the ball only to see it pinged long in the very English manner. Look at what United do at the moment. Sit, defend in shape, hit on the wings with counters... top of the league. When Liverpool do push the ball, they have been undone by their own lack of quality near goal (as illustrated in the recent stat that indicate them as bottom in the league in shot on target percentage, and more clearly their last 5 matches, all of which should have been Liverpool victories). This combination of poor finishing, naive defending and disorganization (lack of tactical understanding and technical ability) in shape in key moments is the basis of our mediocrity. The issue is less about formation and system and more about philosophy.
The recent question I have mulled is whether Liverpools current players are the issue, or the players in the system are the issue (meaning would the current squad be more successful in a different system/philosophy). Would Barca succeed in their system in the PL? Hard to say, but it needs to be said that even they have gone "longer" this season. I think a better 433 system to emulate would be Real Madrids. Liverpool's current players would be more suited to a 4231, with deeper lying midfielders and more direct attacking. If Rodgers is insistent on the Barca version, he will need an overhaul at the positions I listed above with true world class quality
Either way, this is my long answer. Rodgers is the right man (for now). However, he needs to balance his system with the players... or the fans need to be patient while both learn. This is the issue with Liverpool as a brand. Its fans are buried in its past glories. and despite the fact that those glories came with homegrown mostly English Liverpool players, many Reds fans expect the club to purchase the worlds best, regardless of price tag. This is contrary to anything the club has ever done. But many fans scream "But we are Liverpool" without really knowing what that means, or where it comes from.
Personally I can wait. but next summer I expect atleast three very strong new players in and a renewed philosophy. I expect top 4, I expect Rodgers to have gained a better understanding of life in the Prem and to be willing to adjust and adopt to his players strengths while implementing a system that can be successful.
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