Brendan Rodgers at Liverpool : A Tactical Preview
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What can we expect to see from Liverpool this season under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers? What approach will the new manager bring to Anfield? Today on the blog Think Football's Amit Singh takes a look at some numbers and delivers us a tactical preview for Liverpool season 2012-2013.
With Liverpool set to bring in Allen from Swansea they'll have a total of 10 centre midfielders who will likely be competing for just three positions. Brendan Rodgers signing of Allen indicates that he wants Liverpool to play in the same way Swansea did last season, by holding the ball well and patiently building up to attacks, but where does this leave Liverpool's midfielders? And how successful with Rodgers methods be at Liverpool?
Who might leave?
Clearly at least 4 midfielders will have to be moved on with 6 players probably the maximum Liverpool can afford in centre midfield. The ten midfielders includes Joe Cole, Aquilani, Pacheco, Spearing and Shelvey. These five might be the most vulnerable on the face of things with at least one of Cole or Aquilani likely to be sold and at least one of the Pacheco, Spearing and Shelvey likely to go out on loan. Brendan Rodgers has shown with the way he is dealing with Carroll that he is prepared to be ruthless and move on players he doesn't feel will fit into the system, this could mean that Adam is vulnerable. Adam is supposedly a ball playing midfielder but his passing accuracy was less than 80% last season.
Will Rodgers style work?
Below is a comparison of stats from Liverpool's prominent midfielders and Swansea's from last season:
|Player||Club||Average Passes||Passing Accuracy|
On the face of it Liverpool's players are not as technically gifted as Swansea's with relatively poor passing stats. If Rodgers goes for a three man midfield at Liverpool it would likely be Allen, Lucas and then Gerrard slightly further forward in the role Sigurdsson took up in the latter half of the season. Adam clearly sticks out here with what is really quite poor statistics and thus he could be vulnerable for sale. Swansea set up as a side that enjoyed 58% possession which is very high for a 'lesser' side, whereas Liverpool enjoyed 55% possession. Not a huge disparity. Swansea did complete considerably more short passes per game than Liverpool with 497 per game compared to Liverpool's 440 passes.
In the midfield Lucas and Allen would be a bit deeper and control possession with as stated Gerrard getting closer to the front three, in this regard the system could work quite well as Lucas is an adequate passer for a holding player as his stats suggest. If Allen is signed it might mean that Henderson sees playing time difficult to come by. Question-marks have to remain over whether Gerrard is technically gifted enough for this role. He was widely praised for his role with England but England's inability to hold the ball must be at least partly down to Gerrard and Parker's inability to dictate the tempo.
Rogers side actually enjoyed the majority of their possession in defence and thus his system requires defenders to be technically good and able to move the ball on quickly. Below is a comparison of Liverpool and Swansea defenders, compared by position:
|Player||Club||Average Passes||Passing Accuracy||Long Passes|
Frankly Swansea's defenders were vastly superior to Liverpool's in terms of possession and passing stats. Williams played almost double the amount of passes as Agger whilst still maintaining a better pass completion rate than him. The only Liverpool player to beat their Swansea counterpart in terms of passes played was Enrique, who has the lowest accuracy of all players listed. Perhaps then Liverpool should have spent big on bringing in a ball-playing defender as well as Joe Allen.
Johnson is a good attacking full-back and thus can probably do a similar role to Rangal who was a very important out ball for Swansea this season and enjoyed a great deal of the ball on the right. Johnson and or Enrique can fulfil this role for Swansea. Most possession sides have a full-back who enjoys a lot of the ball such as Lahm at Munich or Alves at Barcelona.
On the face of it Liverpool simply lack the personnel to play the same way Rodgers did at Swansea. Especially evident in defence where Liverpool's defenders enjoyed less of the ball with worse completion rates. Swansea's defence were one of the main reasons they maintained such high percentages of possession as they knocked the ball around the back four with such ease. In fact no team enjoyed less possession in the opposition half than Swansea last term with the majority of their possesion being focused in the middle of the park and in their own half.
Rodgers may set the side up differently but with him experiencing so much success at Swansea playing a possession based style of football it seems likely that he will continue this at Liverpool. Liverpool's defenders may enjoy better stats under Rodgers who will allow them to play the ball out of defence and adopt a more patient approach. The style that Rodgers will adopt will be much different to Dalglish. A system might involve Borini as the lead forward with Suarez and one other winger playing off him and then three midfielders and a back four. Rodgers is a very talented manager and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the step up in pressure and expectation. It will also be interesting to see if Liverpool's players can adapt their styles of play to suit his tactics.
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Stats from WhoScored.com
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Interesting piece Amit. Really looking forward to seeing how Rodgers goes with Liverpool. Their first 3 home games against Man City, Arsenal and United are going to be fascinating viewing.
Most of the top 10 club in the premiership have at least ten midfielders in their squad. So there is no surprise to see Liverpool having ten players and also fringe players like Pacheco, Spearing and Shelvey getting the look in or the loan out. That is what happened last season when Lucas, Gerrard and Adams (all backbone to the liverpool midfield) were injured. You forgot to mention Stuart Downing as he was one of the players that consistently got the nod from the manager. You mentioned that Charlie Adams might get the drop from Rodgers although your stats does seem to prove that Adams is not up the standard player in the midfield and make him look weaker than someone like Lucas. The Brazilian was out since October 2011 so you can't really compare a player who play less than 10 games to someone who has played over 20+ for liverpool in the season of 2011/12. Both of them play a similar role for Liverpool but Adam had to alternate due to injuries. Liverpool also plays the patiently build up and possession football under several managers with Kenny, roy, rafa and even souness, so nothing will really change otherwise Rodgers wouldn't been hired in the first place. I would have love to see a review of Rodgers coaching ability over his matchup with swansea vs. the top teams. How he used possession football and the percentage head to head in possession, tackling and compared it with kenny daglish head to head and see if there would be any improvement for Liverpool future games tactically. I think very much that Liverpool was in transition under kenny and played some "back to foundation" football and Rodgers is there to carry on the work with more offensive and stylish football. However, the possession will remain the same and also the build up so same philosophy that Liverpool will be taking in but with one minor tweak and that is the hype, hope and young fresh mindset and mentality to succeed. The hunger of success is what Rodgers is looking for and Liverpool fits the bill with the talent he has and what the current Liverpool squad has. Good Article but hope to see more in-depth analysis around the possession football comparison and also match ups to demonstrate Rodger's talent.