Liverpool Would Have Won The Title If Brendan Rodgers Was More Pragmatic

Despite throwing away a 3-0 lead that ended in a draw against Crystal Palace earlier this week, Liverpool has made remarkable progress under manager Brendan Rodgers this season. Rodgers took charge of Liverpool in July 2012, and his first six months were all about getting both the players and manager in tune. Rodgers is a manager who likes a passing, possession game, and he wants his teams to play the game in a beautiful manner. With the players finally understanding what their new boss wanted of them, Liverpool made an impressive run from January 2013 to the end of this season.

During Rodgers’ reign, Liverpool’s points per game average has steadily increased.

The progress has been remarkable indeed. But if we take a look at the mini league between the Premier League’s top four teams, which can prove most important when it comes to winning trophies, then it’s quite shocking how only one team is dominating the table. And yes, it is Chelsea.

Chelsea has been spot on when it comes to the big games. The tactics and mindset that Mourinho has is simple: if it’s the first half of the season, and you are having an away game, he will be very happy to take a 0-0. Four clean sheets out of six against the rest of the top four is some record. If we put defense and clean sheets apart, one of the main reasons for Mourinho’s satisfaction with 0-0 is not only one point but that draw also damages your direct rivals by preventing them from securing an extra two points.

Liverpool were top of the table at Christmas with their three defeats up to that point coming against Arsenal away, Hull away and Southampton at home. Liverpool had played very attractive football and were entering the New Year with two big fixtures away to Manchester City and Chelsea. Those two games were always going to be difficult thanks to the amazing depth and wonderfully experienced players City and Chelsea can use.

On the other hand, Rodgers had a very thin squad and many of them were experiencing the busy festive period for the first time. Liverpool were entering that four-day period with not only a smaller squad than their rivals, but also with the injuries to the likes of Daniel Sturridge. In fact, Liverpool had only 16 players squad available.

Now at this point of time, a reality check was required. Yes, we all love attacking football with beautiful passing, but at the end of the day points – and trophies – matter more.

Being realistic in the Premier League is about relative positioning. Going for a victory in both the games was one of the biggest mistakes that Brendan Rodgers made. The loss at the Etihad left players completely exhausted. And with less energy, Liverpool went to Stamford Bridge and Chelsea took the advantage of the same weakness. Liverpool threw away 1-0 leads in both matches, and had they settled for a draw in both those matches, the landscape of the title race would have earned Liverpool two extra points but also left City and Chelsea with two precious points each.

It was an eye opener. But after those results Liverpool made an amazing recovery in 2014. Liverpool were unbeaten since that game at Chelsea and won 11 games on the run. Surely, with the kind of mistakes he learned against his two title rivals, Rodgers must have learned his lesson. But the Chelsea game at Anfield proved he hadn’t. Liverpool got into an emotional attachment with beautiful, attacking football and forgot that their opponents were more desperate for a win than they were. Chelsea came to Anfield to frustrate Liverpool. The plan worked to perfection. Had Rodgers played it wisely, Liverpool’s end to the season would’ve been even better.

Still, take nothing away from the young manager. Rodgers has done remarkable job in his first two seasons. Crucially, Liverpool are back in the UEFA Champions League, and that will attract very good players. Champions League football requires a strong squad and cool minds that can handle pressure. More importantly, Champions League knockout games are not about winning two games or having more shots on target. It’s about getting the job done and getting results. Hopefully Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool will grow from the lessons of this season and make Liverpool supporters dream again.

40 thoughts on “Liverpool Would Have Won The Title If Brendan Rodgers Was More Pragmatic”

    1. I think it needs to be featured on Schoolhouse Rock so we can understand what it means. I never used or saw the word as much as I have these last two weeks. :)

  1. So how was he supposed to account for Stevie G falling and giving Ba a goal?
    Nothing wrong with his tactics at all. One guy just screwed up big time and cost his whole team. Even if they had set up defensively there is no way to account for that Slip.

    1. That’s what is so absurd about all of this. Jose’s “masterclass” in bus parking would have amounted to absolutely nothing without one lucky slip. 0-0 would have suited LFC just fine and accomplished nothing for Chelsea (or Man City).

      Once the slip occurred and it got into late 2nd half, Rodgers had no choice but to all out attack.

      There was a much better chance of that game turning out like the Atletico game than turning out like it did – Jose got very lucky here.

      Now, you can certainly argue Rodgers should have been more conseravtive when up 3-1 yesterday, but if he honestly believed making up a near impossible goal difference was the only path to the title (which is probably accurate), they had to keep pushing.

  2. Liverpool have greatly improved this season under Rodgers. This article is so negative towards Rodgers. The Reds will only get better with this positive coaching.
    What would be better- keeping Roy Hodgson?

  3. I know worldsoccertalk currently has a raging hard on for the boring style rebranded as ‘pragmatism’, but anyone who has ever watch football longer than 10 minutes could plainly see that Liverpool is in the position it is in because it’s gone out each week trying to score more goals than the other team. With their shabby backline their best defense has been their offense, specifically their offense keeping the ball. If they played more defensive, inviting the other team into their half more it would just lead to more gaffes, of which we saw yesterday.

    OK, pragmatism might have helped them up 3-0 yesterday, but then pragmatism wouldn’t have got them up 3-0 in the first place nor would it have given them a chance at the title this year. Remember at season’s start most thought LFC was a #5 side… at best.

    This place is getting more and more terrible by the day. Let’s throw another pro-pragmatism piece on the pile and see how it goes!

    1. Jamie, whether you like it or not, the style of pragmatic football is a hot topic in the sport right now since it’s been so effective for teams — particularly Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. I had a conversation with Taylor Twellman the other day about how the style of soccer may permeate how teams play at the World Cup. The topic is not going away until teams can figure out a way to beat it.

      1. I could care less about the style of play; great teams will always play a great style of football.

        What I don’t like is this specific articles terrible short-sightedness that I already pointed out coupled with this blogs sudden need to post at least one piece of pro-pragmatic football drivel a day. It just stinks of click bait (you saying it’s a ‘hot topic’ right now is a nice tell) or worse, shoddy football knowledge.

        1. Jamie, it’s not click-bait. It’s topical, soccer-related articles that are pertinent to what is going on right now. Obviously you’re entitled to your opinions, but all of the articles on the topic have generated a lot of interest from the readers thus far.

          “Great teams will always play a great style of football” — That’s very subjective. What may be a great style of football to you is not going to be “great” to everyone else.

          1. Man City plays great football. I don’t think many would disagree. They are dominant on the pitch.

            But only the most ardent of Chelsea fans would say that the Chelsea performance against Liverpool was “great” football.

          2. And what is with thumbs down for an opinion?! Harris said something… said it constructively. For some, if it isn’t hivespeak, thumbs down!

          3. I don’t doubt they’ve generated a lot of interest from readers, that’s what click bait does.

            Yes, what constitutes ‘good football’ certainly is subjective, but one style is called ‘anti-football’ for a reason. Agree to disagree.

            1. Jamie, click-bait usually generates clicks but not many comments. Hence, the word bait. In the instance of the 3 articles we’ve published, they were all by separate writers with their different spins on the topic. I stand by all 3 articles as good content in my eyes.

  4. “But if we take a look at the mini league between the Premier League’s top four teams, which can prove most important when it comes to winning trophies, then it’s quite shocking how only one team is dominating the table. And yes, it is Chelsea.”

    And yes, Chelsea are about to finish in third, behind City and Liverpool.

    Though Rodgers needed to bring on Agger as soon as Palace scored its first goal, that’s about where the blame ends, as far as I’m concerned. Liverpool lost to Chelsea because Gerrard slipped. It was bad luck, and that happens to all clubs during the season.

    But a little perspective is needed, even though it was hard not to feel pretty damn negative after the match yesterday. Liverpool were being laughed at before this season. Just look at the comments from the regulars here who are Man United, Spurs, and Chelsea supporters, in particular, when Gaffer asked for predictions for this season. You would have thought Liverpool were capable only of mid-table mediocrity. Despite a much thinner squad and the spending power of its closest rivals (note, I didn’t say Liverpool didn’t spend or that they are somehow poor. They aren’t.), Rodgers has done an absolutely remarkable job with this team, which you note at the end of your post. It looks like they are headed for a second place finish, with a slim chance for the title, and guaranteed Champions League football next season. And they did this playing the most consistently exciting football in the league.

    I’ll happily take it.

    1. Unhappily, because of the slip and collapse and Suarez crying, they’re being laughed at right now. >:(

          1. I only said that because talksport put up a video that supposedly had Ivanovic laughing @ Suarez crying.

  5. Liverpool took for granted they had the win. They knew they had to make up goal difference on Man City so they went for it. Would anyone have thought CP would get three back in 10 or so minutes? No way. If Rodgers had Liverpool back off and they lost the title by a few goals difference, he would have been criticized for not attacking when he had the chances to.

    1. Exactly. There was a team really going for it, but around here we’d rather champion the sort of football that was playing Norwich to a draw a day or two before…

    2. Very true. Liverpool went to seize the moment. They didn’t hold back like a Chelsea would… hoping for the title to come to them.

      I can’t get too upset when the Manager says “go for it, let’s take the Title”.

  6. I hope, at least, if we lose the title or if we win the title it will be because of points earned and not because of goal differential. That seems sucky to me to have the effort of 30+ games come down to a statistic like who has the better defense in relation to offense

    1. But in the case of Man City, I wouldn’t sit there thinking Liverpool were the better team. I could handle Man City winning on GD.

      1. I just don’t like that tiebreaker. But I agree that City is a worthy champion. But look back and see City had just as much gaffes and errors as Liverpool. maybe more. Timing is the main ingredient in this potential disaster.

          1. and Villa (Weimanns breakaway)and @ the Bridge (Hart’s bad judgment that led to an open goal by Torres)and Sunderland and should’ve lost to Sunderland again if not for Mannone’s flub, and they lost to Wigan

  7. Let us not forget the botched calls in the Chelsea and Man City games (Eto’o red card and Sterling offside). Those two very very poor calls had a substantial affect on the outcomes of the games.

    Regarding Chelsea at Anfield, they did come close to scoring, and would have likely scored if they had a Carroll or Crouch up front to head in one of the 2383 corners that Chelsea gave Liverpool.

    1. What about the non-penalty to city for skrtel’s punch or his rugby tackle of fernandinho? Or suarez’ non-second-booking for diving?

      If youre going down the referees call route, every team gets bad calls and favourable calls. Liverpool have been awarded plenty of penalties this season.

      1. Firstly, I stated that the calls or non-calls had a substantial affect on the game. I did not say that the outcome would have definitely gone the other way. The point is, the author of the article is stating that Liverpool was coached poorly in these games, but if those two calls went otherwise (one man down for 85 minutes… though Jose would probably have sub’d Terry for the bus / going up 1-0 against Man City. Liverpool almost never gives up the lead *cough*), the games could easily have taken different tacts.

        Regarding the remainder of your points, who actually expects a ref to give someone a second yellow for an alleged dive?

        Skertl is pretty touchy on defense. He is however, not the only person that grabs and pulls.

    2. I agree. I posted that in the forums. Other events that could have had dramatic effect on the outcome of this title race. I didn’t count potential penalties because that is so subjective.

      1. Sterling’s goal improperly called offside @ City
      2. Joe Allen’s Open goal flub @ Everton
      3. Kolo Toure giving the ball up @ West Ham
      4. The “slip”

      6 pts right there.

  8. No one is pperfect. Liverpoll sould have adapted Mourinho’s Tactics after they were lading by 3 goals. That is by reducing the attacking line by 1 player bringing in a defence player from the bench incresing the backline to 5 and then maintain 3 mdfielders and 2 front.
    They lost to Chelsea the same way when all the players often push forward then the least chance to their opponent leaves them in a disaster..goals-

  9. I just want my side to win
    That’s all
    I play with my kids for entertainment
    If I’m watching I just want to win
    I have sex for fun
    I don’t need my football team to be attractive
    Woman are attractive
    I want my team to win
    I’ll let others enjoy losing
    This is professional sport
    Winning is all that matters
    It’s not the under 12’s
    We don’t live in a perfect world
    People get sick and die
    Football teams just need to win
    That’s all they’re for
    Fun is something you do with your family and friends
    Competition is about winning
    That’s all it’s about
    You win or you lose
    Some of you need to spend some time hugging your grandparents and putting life in perspective
    Have fun with your kids
    Watch your football team win
    My last post here

    1. “I want my team to win
      I’ll let others enjoy losing
      This is professional sport
      Winning is all that matters”

      “Football teams just need to win
      That’s all they’re for

      This is so cynical!
      I just finished watching “The Two Escobars” and it’s this attitude that contributed to Andres Escobar’s murder. Whatever happened to “It’s not how you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”? Unless you watch pro-wrestling, every league in the world can only have one champion. So if you root for a mid-table team, is this saying don’t bother, you’re not going to win unless your club spends 1/4 of a billion dollars on your payroll? How about the supporters who fill the seats of clubs they know in their heart of hearts can’t compete for a title in their league? Are they wasting their time? NO! Unless you work for the club, sports are for entertainment purposes only and not meant to be taken seriously. The love-hate relationship we all have with our clubs, in it’s simplest form, depends on how they are able to entertain us at the time. That’s why I love football. There are so many consolation prizes if you can’t win your league. Champion’s league & Europa league qualification, Domestic Cups, League Cups are all other ways clubs can be successful without winning the league and this helps supporter interest.

  10. It wasn’t lack of pragmatism that cost Liverpool the title, or so it seems, but some very poor decisions by Rodgers, especially in his substitutions. He got his tactics right and that is why they have been so good this season. If he can reduce his mistakes during games, Liverpool will only get better.

  11. Jay Majethiya wrote:
    “But if we take a look at the mini league between the Premier League’s top four teams, which can prove most important when it comes to winning trophies, then it’s quite shocking how only one team is dominating the table. And yes, it is Chelsea.”

    In your own article you already disqualified your point just by trying to bring the point above. So ok Chelsea won the so-called mini-league among the top 4 and by a long shot at that but last I checked it’s not Chelsea who are currently top of the league and there’s more of a chance of Chelsea finishing 3rd. So what does that mean for your so-called pragmatic football? That the best you can hope for when using that philosophy is finishing 3rd in the league? Meanwhile teams that prefer to steamroll their oponents end up in the top 2 positions. Pragmatic much?

    Btw, is that you Kartik using a different pen-name?

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