16 July 2012

Can Brendan Rodgers Put His Stamp On A Liverpool Side Forever In Transition?

With Liverpool's pre-season tour to the USA and Canada coming up there are still heavy clouds hanging over the future of much-maligned striker Andy Carroll. His former suitors Newcastle United have made an improved offer for a loan with the view for a permanent deal but it remains unclear if the Reds want to offload Carroll so soon after his 35million pound move from the Magpies back in January last year. However he will accompany the Liverpool squad on their tour alongside new 11million pound signing Fabio Borini, a man who many have tipped as Carroll's replacement. 

Borini scored nine goals in 24 Serie A appearances last season for AS Roma as well as collecting his first Italy cap this year and was also part of the squad that reached the Euro 2012 final. He played under new Reds boss Brendan Rodgers on loan at Swansea in the 2010/11 season scoring six goals and the Northern Irishman has been an admirer ever since. He holds high hopes for his first signing in his new job as he said: "I'd anticipate that over the next two or three years he'll really progress and I'm sure do very well for Liverpool. Fabio fits the model of what we're trying to do in building not only for now, but also for the future."

Also on the plane to North America are Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani, both of whom have only had one full season at their parent club. Last year Cole was on loan at Lille while Aquilani was at AC Milan after his spell with Juventus the season before. Both had very disappointing debut seasons in the North-West of England but also found returns to form while overseas. Former England winger Cole managed to miss a penalty in his first game and be sent off in his debut league game while Aquilani struggled to find a place in the starting line-up after being hailed as Liverpool's next midfield maestro after the departure of Xabi Alonso. 

Despite their relative failures at Anfield they both thrived on the continent as former Hammer Cole scored nine goals and made six assists in 42 matches in France. Aquilani played much more often in Serie A and was voted by the supporters as Liverpool's best player in pre-season last summer. When these two players were at Liverpool before it was clear that they did not really fit in with the side's ideology or style of play. Cole seemed disjointed and out of place in a side in transition while the Italian centre midfielder hardly got a look-in under Rafael Benitez's deteriorating side.  

Cole seems pleased to have Rodgers at the helm: “When I was hearing about Liverpool looking at certain managers, I was praying it was going to be Brendan — not just because he’s not an unknown for me and I know his philosophy on football, but I think for the club the owners have made the right choice." Cole worked alongside Rodgers when he was a coach at Chelsea and the 30-year-old is looking forward to playing under the manger's philosophy:  "I love the style of play. At Lille, we played like that as well — getting the ball down and moving."

Aquilani will also be much more used to a passing style of play than the fast-paced, slightly more long-ball tactics employed under former Reds bosses. His acute touches and flicks in midfield and his excellent close-range passing was one of the clear positives in his first spell at Anfield. Liverpool fans will be excited to see how the former on-loan men fare in the new-look side. 

Rodgers will also be keen to make the most of what is already at the club and made it clear that legendary captain Steven Gerrard is firmly in his plans when he called him the evening after being appointed manager. Luis Suarez looks set to stay and it is rumoured that he is being coaxed into signing a new deal. The new coach is also looking to bring in one or two more players before the transfer window shuts to further enhance his squad but one big question remains - will all these changes make a difference to Liverpool's fortunes? 

The last three years Liverpool have failed to finish in the Premier League top five and have lost their invincibility at home. Last season there were signs of a return to form but ultimately they did not hit the back of the net enough and Dalglish lost his job as they collected their lowest amount of points in a league campaign for nearly fifty years. 

This season Rodgers will be looking to begin his Red Revolution as he brings his own flair and style to the Kop. The team are likely to play with a 4-3-3 formation with plenty of width, as opposed to the more rigid 4-4-2 shape that previous managers employed. However there are some top teams above them that will also be attempting to finish in the hallowed top four spots that bring Champions League qualification. The likes of champions Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United all have world-class players and plenty of depth to their squads. Liverpool will have to significantly improve if they are to break into the top five, let alone the top four. 

However this may not be as hard as some people think as there is a wealth of talent at the club. Luis Suarez has been a prolific goalscorer for previous teams and his country and although being criticised for his lack of goals last year, did finish as top scorer. Borini will be out to impress while Andy Carroll hit some form late on  last spring and did well for England at Euro 2012. Craig Bellamy's pace is always a threat and Steven Gerrard is an inspirational figure in the heart of midfield. Add Joe Cole's creativity, the technical ability of Aquilani and the impending return of Lucas Leiva and Liverpool's side immediately looks a lot stronger. 

All that is needed for them is to gel and work as a team, like Rodgers's Swansea City did last term. Liverpool will continue to be relatively tight at the back but will be sure to have a lot more of the ball and with it almost certainly more goals. All that remains to be seen is if Rodgers can successfully put his stamp on the team and put history behind them in an attempt to create their own; something the club has struggled with over the last couple of decades. Yes, it will obviously be a far cry from the glory days of the 1970s and 80s and they will not mount a title challenge, but this season they may just make a more threatening push for a place with Europe's elite.

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