The myth of the “Brendan Rodgers method”

After one of the youngest sides Liverpool have ever put out claimed Brendan Rodgers’ first domestic victory in charge over West Brom as the Reds progressed to the next round of the League, in came the praise again for the so-called Brendan Rodgers philosophy.

The “Rodgers Method”, which involves blooding youth who are capable of espousing a high-tempo, probing passing philosophy, was perfectly showcased by Swansea under the Northern Irishman’s management last season. The Swans set the Premier League alight at times with their wonderful midfield interplay flanked by tricky wing whippets. Once given the Liverpool hotseat, Rodgers’ remit was simple: to bring the “Rodgers method” to Anfield.

One has to say that it has not quite worked just yet. Liverpool have made their worst start to a league season since 1903 and remain winless in the Premier League under Rodgers in a lowly 18th position. Liverpool have attempted to play a more progressive passing style than the “up and at em” approach pursued by Kenny Daglish and Andy Carroll last season, but with funds at the club tighter than ever (as shown by the club’s ludicrous handling of Andy Carroll’s departure and Clint Dempsey’s non-arrival), Rodgers has hardly hit the ground running.

The question has to be put forward however, what is the “Brendan Rodgers method”? Should it perhaps be known as the “Roberto Martinez method”? Rodgers takes the plaudits for Swansea’s success as he of course should, having led the club to promotion into the Premier League. But Rodgers did not impose the passing philosophy in the way that he is attempting to do so at Liverpool. Rather, Rodgers arrived to already find a continental style put in place by first Roberto Martinez and then carried on by Paulo Sousa after the former had departed for Wigan.

Many of the players who led the club’s promotion campaign under Rodgers had been already there before his arrival, such as Ashley Williams, Nathan Dyer, Angel Rangel and Joe Allen. Yes, Rodgers did brilliantly to get them up and added to the squad diligently, as he did once in the Premier League with the additions of Scott Sinclair, Danny Graham and Gylfi Sigurdsson but Rodgers fundamentally was not asking the players to do things they were not already comfortable doing or indeed had not been already doing for the previous two to three seasons.

Herein lies the problem around the “Rodgers method” at Liverpool. The squad at Anfield is unsuited to a passing philosophy, that much is clear. Rodgers arrived to find a squad that contained the likes of Martin Skrtel, Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adam, Steven Gerrard, Stewart Downing and Andy Carroll. All seemed unsuited at the time to high-tempo pressing and passing and it has proved to be so with many of those sidelined or departed from the club and those who remain in the team, such as Gerrard and Skrtel, cheaply presenting the ball to the opposition in positions that have cost Liverpool dearly against Arsenal and Manchester City in particular.

Rodgers fundamentally appears to have arrived at Liverpool with an inflated ego of himself and his philosophy. It’s often said that a good manager works well with the players he has and slowly but surely, imposes the way he wants to play. In contrast, Rodgers appears to be forcing the players he has into a certain system or philosophy and those who do not wish or simply cannot comply successfully are jettisoned as quickly as possible no matter what other qualities they may bring; Andy Carroll a perfect case in point.

It’s commendable that Rodgers wants to play football the right way, but did he just strike lucky when he arrived at Swansea to find players who were for example, comfortable playing the ball out of the back? Should Rodgers perhaps have a little more nous and tell Martin Skrtel for example that if he has to get rid of it, get rid of it, rather than give the ball away by attempting a pass infield. Should Rodgers perhaps not tell Steven Gerrard, one of the best strikers of the ball in the world from distance, that when outside the box and the pass isn’t on, maybe have a crack, rather than attempting a risky short intricate pass. The arrival of Joe Allen from Swansea is a positive one, but the young Wales international cannot do it all on his own, particularly when surrounded by players who are ill-suited to playing in such a manner.

The other “myth” of the “Rodgers Method”, particularly at Liverpool, is that does it perhaps camouflage some of the failings of the team and the club’s hierarchy. For example, Fabio Borini was bought for big money from Roma and has struggled somewhat since his arrival at Anfield. However, the Italian seems to escape criticism from Rodgers because he subscribes to his method of hard work and pressing. Does it not matter that Borini currently does not look like scoring a goal? Andy Carroll may have been criticised but no one can say that he was not a presence on the field, in the way that Borini is currently anything but.

Furthermore, while the vibrancy that youth supposedly brings to Liverpool through the “Rodgers method” is also on the one hand true, particularly when you see the performances of youngsters such as Suso, Oussama Assaidi and Samed Yesil in the wins at Young Boys in the Europa League and West Brom. But does the necessity for such youth surely just indicate how Rodgers has had his hands tied in the transfer market by the club’s owners. It’s clear that Rodgers wanted to add to his squad in the closing week of the transfer window. Moves for Theo Walcott, Clint Dempsey and Daniel Sturridge were all mooted and yet nothing doing. Yet now we have Rodgers coming out and singing the praises of Yesil and Assaidi, fantastic young players, but players who really should not be anywhere near the Liverpool first team at this moment in time.

On the face of it, this may simply come across as an attack on Rodgers and Liverpool Football Club – this is certainly not the intention. If Rodgers can bring the passing philosophy that we witnessed at Swansea to Liverpool then it would be fantastic for world football, let alone the Premier League. Rather, this is simply attempting to point out the faults that currently lie at Anfield, faults that are being lost as fans praise Rodgers and his attempts to bring his so-called “method” to the club.

Adam Mazrani