“You’re attitude needs to improve, okay?…You say to me ‘steady’ again and you’ll be on the first plane home.” It was a warning shot to the Liverpool youngsters and in to particular one young man. These were the words uttered by Brendan Rodgers at the end of training session during Liverpool’s pre-season tour in America. As Rodgers gathered Liverpool’s younger generation in a circle and told them that they were ‘fortunate’ to be here, a cheeky seventeen year old had underestimated Liverpool’s new boss.
Raheem Sterling had made a smart-aleck comment, intending perhaps to impress his team-mates but it certainly did not impress the man who, if the Liverpool squad thought was an ever jovial Northern Irishman, showed on this day that he meant business and that if any of those potential future Liverpool stars were going to have the chance to show they can be an integral part of the Liverpool way, it was going to be Brendan Rodger’s way.
A few weeks on and Rodger’s has showed he not only has the strong character to keep his squad in line but he has the ambition and the guile to spring surprises and take risks. The Liverpool line up against Manchester City was exactly what the doctor ordered in terms of galvanising the home support. Raheem Sterling must have taken Rodger’s words on board as he found himself starting his first Premier League match against the Champions of England. With the suspension of Daniel Agger, there were fears that Rodger’s would resort to the tried, tested and sadly failed in Jamie Carragher. Whereas past managers may have fallen into the trap of sentiment over success, Rodger’s wasn’t afraid to effectively downgrade Carragher to fourth choice centre back, opting for 21 year old Uruguayan Sebastian Coates instead. The midfield looked assured with Lucas and Gerrard perhaps, for once, taking a lesson themselves in the art of Rodger’s philosophy with Joe Allen as their meticulous tutor.
Allen, signed for £15 million was not exactly cheered from the rafters by all Liverpool fans. Some said it was too much money whilst others, who had kept a keen eye on Swansea’s football last season, argued it was an absolute steal. On first glances, it appears the second category of fans will be grinning smugly. The 22 year old Welshman has slotted in perfectly to Liverpool’s midfield, displaying a readiness to receive the ball even under pressure and the ability to pick out his team mate time after time. There have been comparisons to Xabi Alonso and whilst this will overwhelmingly flatter Allen, his comfort on the ball and eagerness to make things happen certainly don’t make the two a million miles apart.
The early injury to Lucas may have been cause for concern, potentially disrupting the system and game-plan but Jonjo Shelvey came on and showed a different side to his game. Allen’s smooth passing and quick tempo appeared to be infectious as Shelvey provided link up play as well as tracking back to defend. Rodger’s appears to have located this side of Shelvey’s game very quickly which has seen him rise above Jordan Henderson and Charlie Adam in the pecking order of midfield ball players.
Liverpool started the game nervously and the injury to Lucas no doubt disrupted the flow but, roared on by a passionate Anfield, they quickly found their rhythm. Raheem Sterling started the game where he left off at Hearts last Thursday; fearless and ambitious. His perfectly weighted ball for Fabio Borini should have handed him his first Premier League assist but for the Italian to fire wide of the mark. Luis Suarez and Borini took a while to find their feet with Rodger’s perhaps still experimenting with who should play central and who should take up a wider position.
Martin Skrtel’s bullet header from an inch perfect Gerrard corner was just rewards for hard work and determination as well as managing to boss a midfield that contained heavyweights in Yaya Toure and Nigel De Jong. Liverpool’s second goal also came from a set piece, which is nice to see after years failing to make them count. A dubious Jack Rodwell handball gifted Liverpool a free kick from 25 yards out, perfectly curled around the wall and past Joe Hart into the bottom left hand corner by Suarez.
It was Liverpool who created their own downfall, however as City’s two goals came from two defensive errors; one from Martin Kelly who failed to clear his lines, allowing Yaya Toure to stroke the ball home whilst Martin Skrtel made a horrible defensive clanger, passing the ball back to Carlos Tevez for him to round the keeper and put the ball into an empty net. These mistakes will have to be ironed out if Liverpool are to push for a Champions League spot, as points thrown away in a difficult set of fixtures are hard to claw back.
Despite dropping 2 points, the signs were extremely positive. Rodgers showed he is not afraid to be bold and to start players in form rather than letting price-tags dictate. The team selection perhaps showed that Rodger’s may use the Europa League as a springboard for players to stake a claim for domestic selection as well. The football Liverpool played is the football Rodgers wishes the team will play week in week out; it is now sustaining it and adding more players to bulk up the squad. Nuri Sahin and Oussama Assaidi have yet to kick a ball for Liverpool whilst Rodger’s is still keen to bring in more players before the transfer deadline on Friday.
The old mantra ‘fortune favours the brave’ was slightly contested during the 2-2 draw; Rodger’s was indeed brave and his team mirrored that but fortune perhaps eluded the reds at the pivotal moments. Despite this, the foundations are being laid, the fans are optimistic rather than jaded and with a bit more braveness will hopefully come a lot more fortune.
Image Credit: www.Guardian.co.uk