Liverpool has gotten a Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola on the cheap. The Swansea City manager Brendan Rodgers worked under Mourinho at Chelsea, where the Northern Irishman was manager of the reserve team. Meanwhile, his Swansea team has idolized and copied the best facets of Barcelona’s football — their possession-based tiki-taka football that was a breath of fresh air in the Premier League last season. With Mourinho under contract at Real Madrid until 2016, and Guardiola on a one-year sabbatical, Liverpool got the next best thing — a British manager with experience in the Premier League, who is a hybrid of Mourinho and Guardiola.
But during his managerial days at Watford, Reading and Swansea, what were the secrets to his success? What was he able to do that other could not, which led to his managerial appointment at Liverpool?
Here are Brendan Rodgers’ five secrets to his success:
1. Select players who are hungry.
Swansea and Brendan Rodgers have succeeded by finding players who are hungry to win, and have something to prove. In Wales, he has taken footballers from the lower leagues and non-league football and given them an opportunity to shine at the highest level. While taking players from the lower leagues won’t work at Liverpool, there is the opportunity to take players from other clubs who would “die” to wear a Liverpool shirt — perhaps players from abroad who haven’t been given a top chance. Rodgers has connections in Spain, and a good eye for talent.
At the same time, there are several players currently at Liverpool who will find it difficult to fit in with a Rodgers team. Andy Carroll is the first that comes to mind. Rodgers doesn’t like a long ball game, and Carroll thrives on that. If Carroll is to stay at Liverpool, he’ll need to develop his goalscoring skills with the ball at his feet.
2. Win by keeping the ball.
Watch the above video from minute 7:16 onwards to learn more about Rodgers’s philosophy regarding his teams winning by keeping the ball. His philosophy about possession football seems simple enough, but it takes a ton of training, players with good technique plus a lot of stamina to make it work. It can be boring to watch at times, but as long as his teams control the ball, they have the greater opportunity to prevent the opposition from scoring. Plus, when his teams have the ball, his teams are resting, and finding time to catch their breath.
The supporters of Liverpool Football Club will appreciate possession football as long as it results in chances created or goals at the end of it.
3. When you lose the ball, press.
When I mentioned before that Rodgers teams rest when they have control of the ball, that’s because they press their opposition quite quickly and in numbers whenever they don’t have the ball. It’s when they press that Swansea is working the hardest. This tactic forces the opposition to be pressured into kicking the ball away quickly, which often results in a mistake, letting Swansea take possession once again. The tactic is right out of Barcelona’s book.
4. Think differently.
The transfer market is extremely predictable. The journalists and pundits talk about the same old players and how this club and that club is chasing their signature. But while the majority of Premier League clubs seem to chase the same pack of players, Rodgers swims against the tide, signing players that often go overlooked by other teams. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Michel Vorm are two perfect examples. They’re footballers that have the potential to move on to one of the biggest clubs in England, but very few Premier League clubs were talking about them. Until now, that is. With Rodgers, expect the unexpected.
5. Pass your way around teams.
Regulars to Anfield will remember the brilliant Liverpool sides of the 1970’s and 1980’s, where the Reds played opponents off the park with their glorious passing style. The simple but effective passing style that Rodgers prefers is similar to what Liverpool supporters know best. The combination of ball possession and passing your way around teams frustrates opponents. Plus, with Liverpool’s far greater resources, they’re able to afford strikers who are more clinical in front of goal than Swansea’s forwards.
The passing strategy sounds simple enough, but it’s harder to make it work — otherwise every team would be doing it already.
Overall, the secrets to Brendan Rodgers’s success have been a focus on the basics of the game. Maintain possession, pass the ball around and work hard when you don’t have the ball. Swansea benefitted greatly when Sigurdsson joined them on loan in January, so the side could utilize a creative midfielder to take the possession and turn it into something. Liverpool already has some talented players, but there’s an opportunity at the club to clean house and get rid of many of the footballers who are overrated or past their prime. Liverpool, under Fenway Sports Group, has the opportunity to build a new future for this club with Rodgers at the helm. For the continued upwards trajectory of Rodgers, let’s hope he’s a success on Merseyside.