You don’t have to watch many Liverpool games to see what Brendan Rodgers is doing.
Liverpool is playing a clear and purposeful style of soccer that is winning games, thrilling fans and taking the club to a higher level. The creation of this distinctive on-field identity is Rodgers’ work, and the Liverpool manager deserves acclaim for how well his players carry it out.
Liverpool reclaimed first place in the Premier League standings Sunday after thrashing Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield. The Reds didn’t earn the 4-0 victory through sensational moments of brilliance, controversial decisions, luck or other outliers. Instead, it was the result of one team perfectly executing its game-plan for 90 minutes, while rendering their opponents’ grand designs useless after just a half hour.
Sunday’s victory was Rodgers’ 50th in 91 games at the Liverpool helm. Rodgers’ win percentage of 54.9% puts him in select company, as only eight managers have broken the 50% barrier (having managed at least 50 games) in Premier League history. Only two, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, currently works in England’s top flight.
Liverpool has achieved remarkable consistency, which its current eight-game winning streak only begins to define. The Reds haven’t lost a league game in 2014, winning 11 of 13 contests. They’ve scored in 21 straight league games — their longest such run since the 25-game stretch in the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons.
That Rodgers has done this with a similar group of players that finished eighth and seventh in 2011-12 and 2013-14 respectively is a testament to his managerial abilities. Players are performing well on a weekly basis, progressing in their careers and, in some cases, flourishing into stardom.
Their understanding and application of Rodgers’ philosophy — simply put: dominate possession and pressure opponents in order to win the ball back — allows the manager adjust tactics and systems without disrupting his team’s approach.
Liverpool has six games remaining this season, and everyone asks the same old questions: “Can Liverpool win the Premier League title?” and “Will Liverpool win the Premier League title?” As has been the case since the first kick of the season, the answers are “yes” and “maybe.” If Liverpool wins all six, it will claim domestic supremacy for the first time since 1990.
But the question and answer overlooks something more important about Rodgers’ Liverpool. He has been on the job since June 2012 and it’s clear that his methods work. Liverpool is back on the ascendancy, the limelight has already returned to Anfield and the UEFA Champions League will follow suit next season.
Rodgers and the Reds will face stiffer challenges in the seasons to come. Europe’s elite clubs will test Rodgers and his players like never before, prompting their continued development.
But nobody will wonder aloud if the manger knows what he’s doing. Rodgers knows exactly what he’s doing. He knows how he wants to do it, and Liverpool’s 533 million fans are seeing this for 90 minutes every week. The days of “hit-or-miss” Liverpool performances are gone. You know what you’re going to get when you watch Rodgers’ Reds.