EPL: Rebuilding continues for Rodgers at Pool

English Premier League, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers gestures to his fans.

With all the upheaval at the top of the table, Brendan Rodgers has enjoyed a relatively calm pre-season campaign.

With the obvious exception of the Luis Suarez saga, his team have been spared the scrutiny to which they are usually accustomed.

Unfortunately, while Rodgers could be forgiven for counting this as a blessing, it's really a searing indictment on Liverpool's place in the food chain these days.

Liverpool are not expected to challenge for the title any more.

There are few who would consider them contenders for a Champions League place.

The ruinous regime of former owners Tom Hicks and George Gillett has left them a shadow of themselves.

But for all the gloom over their new status, there are reasons to be cheerful.

A manager like Rodgers, ideological and passionate, needs time to lay down the foundations for his tenure.

He isn't there to wheel and deal, he's there to build for the future.

Changing the style of play, creating a template for all levels at the club, is not something that can be done by clicking a button.

It takes many months for players to grow comfortable with having the ball played into their feet quickly, even when they're being closed down by markers.

While it took Liverpool an age to beat a team from the top half of the table last season, many promising positions were squandered after individual errors brought about, in part, by the insistence on playing clever football.

They were learning.

But many months have now passed and, while Liverpool are by no means at the end of their journey, they should be far more at ease with themselves this term.

Rodgers has also performed well in the transfer market, despite a less than promising start. The catastrophic communications breakdown that led to Andy Carroll being sent out on loan without a suitable replacement should have been far more serious than it was.

Fabio Borini's October injury left the Reds praying that Suarez would survive until Christmas unscathed.

They got lucky.

But they learnt.

The acquisitions of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have proved masterstrokes. Sturridge has shown no sign of the selfishness that dogged his time at Chelsea, while fears that Coutinho may be too frail for the English game have proved misplaced.

Much will be expected of new signings Iago Aspas and Luis Alberto. Replacing Pepe Reina with Simon Mignolet is an interesting move, but not without logic.

For all of the Spaniard's protestations, he did tell his manager that he would welcome a move to Barcelona, something that may have given Rodgers cause to doubt his commitment.

Reina has also suffered numerous dips in form over the last two years.

Mignolet might have been made to look better than he is by Sunderland's abysmal defence last season, but he remains a promising goalkeeper.

Of course, Liverpool's expectations will be defined by that Suarez saga.

If they can somehow placate and retain him, and that's quite a big if, they might have an outside chance at a push for fourth.

If he leaves, and he will be impossible to replace, sixth looks a far more realistic target.

This is where Liverpool are right now.

They do not play in the prestigious competitions that attract the top players and they do not have the money to pay them, even if they did.

Rodgers is doing the only thing he can; working patiently to change the mentality of the club.

With good, inventive football and a squad of talented youngsters who have, for whatever reason, lost their way, he can rebuild the Reds.

But it will take time to return to their former heights.

And it will not happen this season.

 

npsports@sph.com.sg


Get The New Paper for more stories.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES