In the summer of 2012, when Brendan Rodgers first made his way through the famous corridors at Anfield as the new manager of Liverpool Football Club, he made his intentions of what he wanted to establish and build during his tenure clear right from the off.
The Northern Irishman was inheriting a club that, in his opinion, had neglected stability, the integration of youth players and the footballing ethos to entertain that is thoroughly ingrained within the roots of the Reds’ rich history in the last few years.
Rodgers, during his unveiling, addressed those watching and listening by saying that those three important features needed to be, and were going to be, re-energised as long as he is the one stood on the touchline.
Fast forward one-and-a-half-years later into what he called ‘the process’ of morphing Liverpool from severe underachievement back into eventual title challengers, Rodgers’ vision is not just moving along nicely, with his side sitting in the top four of the Premier League, but the objectives he set out to achieve in the long-term are also blossoming well.
I have to find a different solution; it might have to be an intermediate way of working that allows us to get results but also allows us to keep the principles going of what I’ve tried to establish so far. It runs as a two-fold. I understand you people [Liverpool supporters] need to see your team winning, that’s the reality. But also the other reason I came here was because it wasn’t just about winning for Liverpool, Liverpool Football Club has been about the style and there’s a way to win games. So the balance is trying to run those two things alongside each other and it takes a bit of time.
Rodgers told ‘The Redmen TV’ exclusively last September that every result won’t always personify his preferred footballing philosophy until he has the right balance, and type, of players at his disposal to do so.
Although the possession-heavy, fluid style of football Rodgers represents and ultimately plans to implement on a consistent basis hasn’t always been evident so far this campaign, he said last season that it will take him time to institute the balance of earning crucial results that meet expectation, along with bringing in the fundamental additions to play the way he deems right.
But the former Swansea City chief’s other beliefs that education towards the young and improvement to those that need it are flourishing, with players such as Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan of late all thriving from Rodgers’ coaching.
The more everybody works together and the more Liverpool sign the types of players that fit Rodgers’ way of working, then the decisive goal to challenge for major honours once more, within a specific yet traditional pass and move attitude, becomes even stronger – with the upcoming January transfer window being a fantastic opportunity to continue this progression.
However, whilst there were other problems that Rodgers took control of during his appointment last June such as an astronomical wage spend, in which he has done well to ease, he was left with a world-class talent in the making – known as Luis Suárez – amongst the mess he was given the task to clean up and he has so far worked wonders with the forward.
On the back of a sensational 2012/13 schedule under Rodgers’ stewardship, in the first 12 games of 13/14, Suárez hasn’t just continued to improve but is already remarkably surpassing last season’s statistics within the same fixture amount, and also inside the whole campaign. With certain meticulous tweaks from his manager, alongside individual brilliance from himself, the Uruguayan is now right up there with the best in world football unquestionably.
Whilst Suárez managed to impress on his own during the first-half of last season, the 26-year-old, regardless of missing the first five games, is currently exploiting the attacking support available to him in the opening period of this season with an outstanding effect.
In 2012/13, Suárez scored 10 goals and created one assist in his first 12 games, which equated to him being involved in a Liverpool goal every 97.9 minutes.
With significant signings from Rodgers in 2013, Suárez now has more options to help lessen the burden on his shoulders and in the same fixture amount right now, he has scored 19 goals and conjured up five assists which means he is involved in a goal every 44.9 minutes at present.
Throughout the whole of Rodgers’ debut season at the helm, five of Suárez’s 23 overall strikes came from outside the box whereas in contrast to this season so far, Suárez has already seen six of his goals come from that area of the pitch.
Alongside his shooting accuracy going up from 27.7% in the first 12 games of last season to an incredible 63% presently, Suárez is now just four goals away from the equivalent number he scored in 33 appearances last season, which saw him involved in a Liverpool goal every 105.3 minutes overall.
But a key observation that shouldn’t be understated from Liverpool and Suárez’s barnstorming start to the 2013/14 season is that the signings Rodgers has made are playing their part in helping the main man succeed, with Daniel Sturridge (2), Kolo Touré (1), Aly Cissokho (1), Philippe Coutinho (1) and Luis Alberto (1) each grabbing an assist for Suárez this season.
Though whilst more and more of Rodgers’ acquisitions in the transfer market are getting involved, Henderson – who exemplifies his manager’s burning desire to tutor and improve young players – is helping out Suárez the most so far which is a further sign of Rodgers’ managerial acumen.
By and large, Liverpool have seen Suárez’s ‘SAS’ partnership with Sturridge grab the headlines for their telepathic understanding upfront, with Coutinho’s sharpness just in behind them earning deserved credit as well, but it is Henderson who has struck up the best link, in terms of end product, with Suárez so far this season.
In the first 12 games of 13/14, all five of the former Sunderland midfielder’s assists have been for Suárez and each pass that continues to aid him sheds light on how his improved vision for a pass, and also being on the same wavelength at times with Suárez, has dramatically enhanced thanks to Rodgers.
Rodgers is now seeing the best example of his willingness to recover and nurture players in Henderson start to bring out the most potent side of his best asset. The 23-year-old, who only got four assists in total last season, has picked out Suárez with a sumptuous pass on a number of times so far this season, with a great illustration being his first-time, perfectly weighted ball into his path against Cardiff City on the weekend just gone.
Together with that shining exhibit, Henderson’s back-heel to set up Suárez’s second in the same game and his pass through to him against Fulham earlier in the season shows how much Rodgers merits appreciation not just for Henderson’s evolution, but the impact that’s having on Suárez’s form.
But with Rodgers’ amazing methods with Henderson, in conjunction with his signings all chipping in with assists for Suárez, sometimes it’s not all management and instead down to the ex-Ajax man’s solo talent that has seen him throttle last season’s statistics already.
Without a doubt, the managerial decisions Rodgers has made since he first stepped foot into Liverpool have seen both the club make progress, and also see Suárez rise into debatably the best player in the world on current form, during his brief spell in-charge so far.
But just like last season before the support came, there have been instances this time around were Suárez’s unique flair to do just about everything on a football pitch means he deserves credit on his own for moving into the esteemed ranking many people put him in today – alongside both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the world’s greatest players.
Even though Suárez has had more help around him to score additional goals in the first-half of this season, his aptitude at creating a similar number of chances hasn’t faded away. After the first 12 games in 12/13, Suárez created 35 chances whereas compared to this season, he has created 37 in the same quantity of matches.
Throughout the whole of last season, Suárez conjured up five assists for his team-mates and that remains another statistic he is on course to beat – having already set-up five goals.
He makes the impossible possible and breaks records, or sets exceptional standards, left, right and centre. Suárez became the first ever Premier League player to score three hat-tricks versus the same opponent (Norwich City) and his two goals against Cardiff City was the seventh time he has scored two or more goals in a game this season.
When delving into who has benefitted from Suárez’s five assists, on three occasions he has found Sterling and picked out both Sturridge and Flanagan on one occurrence each against Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur respectively. Much has been made about his controversial manner at times but having been handed the captain’s armband in the last two matches, the noticeable impact Suárez is having on the younger players as a result is phenomenal.
We are a young side with an average age probably the lowest for a number of years and he has [Suárez] taken on that mantle in order to help and support those young players while having that X-factor to his game.
Rodgers praised Suárez’s work with Liverpool’s youngsters this month.
Still early into his own Liverpool career, Suárez has been instructing the likes of Sterling and Flanagan were to move and when and that speaks volumes not just about the player’s mentality, but how he is helping out his manager at the same time because those youngsters Rodgers wants to combine around Suárez are being trained well by the man himself, too.
On the whole, Suárez is an exclusive talent and in certain instances this season – such as his free-kicks or his first and third goals against Norwich City – his performances are down to nothing else but magical individual ability.
But at the same time, it’s about the balance that has seen Liverpool start so well this season and that includes Rodgers’ signings in 2013 and players he has transformed enormously such as, Henderson playing an essential role in helping bring out the best of Suárez.
With a great chance to sustain their solid start, and the development Rodgers wants to preserve going forwards, coming soon via the January transfer window, he deserves credit in the meantime for what he has started in his first year-and-a-half at Liverpool and how Suárez is currently flourishing under his reign.
Luis Suárez’s chances created images via the excellent FourFourTwo StatsZone app.
Matthew is currently studying a Journalism degree at Liverpool John Moores University and writes Player Focuses, Team Focuses, Player Analyses, Transfer Reports, Scout Reports and much more for EPL Index. He is also a writer for FTBpro and an Everton juror every two to three weeks for the Liverpool ECHO newspaper.
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