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Saturday, 18 January 2014 | MYT 7:30 AM

Rodgers the great thinker and tinkerer

Brendan Rodgers has tweaked the way Liverpool play by capitalising on Steven Gerard's key ability – his passing. – AFP Photo

Brendan Rodgers has tweaked the way Liverpool play by capitalising on Steven Gerard's key ability – his passing. – AFP Photo

THE game against Stoke City last week was an evolution of sorts for Liverpool.

It’s not the fact that Liverpool registered their first win against Stoke at the Britannia Stadium but the way the team played.

Much of that had to do with accommodating captain Steven Gerrard in his return to first team action.

Sitting deep and in front of the centreback pairing of Kolo Toure and Martin Skrtel, the decision to play Gerrard there may be two-pronged.

First, it’s to offer height and size in front of a pair of centrebacks who are not at their best.

The second is maybe it’s time the team change the way they play to incorporate an ageing captain.

The one thing this season has shown is that Brendan Rodgers isn’t a manager who has a pigeon-holed style of play. Not only have styles changed but Rodgers too has changed the team’s formation to adapt to the players at his disposal.

Many would have taken him for the manager who subscribes to a fluid passing style, which he did earlier in his career at Liverpool.

That soon changed when he capitalised on the better technical skills of his players where the pass-until-you-drop mantra was tweaked for a more direct style of play.

In the Stoke game, it became apparent to me that Rodgers has tweaked the way Liverpool play.

With Gerrard sitting deep, it allows Rodgers to capitalise on the one key attribute of Gerrard, which is his passing ability.

Yes, I know Gerrard has the penchant for the Hollywood ball and in the Stoke game, he gave the ball away to Stoke’s midfielders many times, when trying to pull off a defence-splitting pass.

The reason for many incisive balls from deep is to take advantage of another strong point of the team, which is counter-attacking play.

With Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge, Liverpool have two players with afterburners in their boots. Luis Suarez is no slouch too in that category, and quick passes up front allow the team to utilise the speed advantage and Suarez’s, and even Philippe Coutinho’s, blessed ability of creating something out of nothing.

The less time opposing defences have to dismantle Liverpool’s attacks, the better the chance the team have to score a goal. Scoring five against Stoke was testament to that, but giving up three goals shows a problem that Rodgers needs to work on – which is plugging the gaps at the back.

Liverpool have only kept three clean sheets since Suarez came back. They had the same number in the league when Suarez was suspended for the first six games.

With Liverpool at home to Aston Villa Sunday morning, the team now have to capitalise on their counter attacking fervour against one of the under-performing teams in the league. Villa have won only twice in the past eight league matches.

The importance of three points in this game cannot be understated should the team harbour any ambitions of cementing a place in the top four.

Jagdev Singh Sidhu has booked a victory for Liverpool against Aston Villa.

Tags / Keywords: football , EPL , English Premier League , Liverpool , Brendan Rodgers , Luis Suarez , Steven Gerard , Stoke , Aston Villa


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