Liverpool charged up by Rodgers’ positivity
It was Liverpool’s press officer who first saw the signs, and his swift action subsequently saved us all from a very late night. Brendan Rodgers was, and this is a technical term, ‘on one’, and had it not been for the intervention of his staff, it’s quite possible that he would have remained in the press room, happily chuntering away, until the cleaners arrived the next morning.
Speaking as someone who still bears the scars of many Avram Grant press conferences, Rodgers’ enthusiasm for his trade is enormously welcome. While Grant would shuffle through the door and mumble sad nothings to no-one in particular, Rodgers hits the room like a particularly perky college lecturer, immune to cynicism, desperate to educate and illuminate.
He still drifts too easily into fluffy sentiment, a highlight of Wednesday’s chat being his declaration that he couldn’t speak highly enough of Jamie Carragher “as a footballer…and as a human being”. That’s generally the kind of thing you say when someone has retired or died, not when they’ve just played quite well against Arsenal. That said, a room full of journalists, none of whom are immune to hyperbole, can hardly be sniffy about things like that. And if Rodgers is this relentlessly positive with the press, it must be rubbing off on the players.
Liverpool’s gradual improvement – and we’ll try to brush over the whole Oldham affair – has been a testament to Rodgers’ positivity. It’s also been a testament to Liverpool’s fans. Pilloried for the speed with which they turned on Roy Hodgson, their defence was always that they could accept the results, it was the grim mentality that was twisting their tallywhackers. Their steady support of Rodgers’ rebuilding project, in the stadium at least, has vindicated that stance.
And Rodgers is getting there. Though Liverpool allowed Arsenal to claw back a point on Wednesday, the football that preceded their nervous last half-hour was extremely encouraging. This wasn’t passing for the sake of passing, there was a directness to the play, a desire to pinpoint and punish Arsenal’s weaknesses – particularly the one named Bacary Sagna. For 60 minutes they looked, if not quite like champions, then at least like a team capable of playing in the Champions League.
Without the Champions League cash, of course, they haven’t been able to reinforce themselves in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed over the past four decades. More than £20m has gone out, but it’s gone on two young players, one with a bad personal reputation and one who struggled to make an impact in Italy. And yet, Rodgers has made this seem positive too. Daniel Sturridge has settled quickly and there are few signs yet of an untrammelled ego. Philippe Coutinho has been publicly praised for his technical ability and potential.
The real test, of course, is on the pitch. At the moment, Liverpool have been found wanting against the elite group of clubs among whom they believe they should be counted. More composure is needed at the front and, given the room that Olivier Giroud was afforded on Wednesday, more concentration is needed at the back. But you sense now that Rodgers is slowly turning this team around to his way of thinking.
He’d tell you all about it himself, were it not for that pesky press officer…
Follow Iain Macintosh on Twitter @Iainmacintosh
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Watch Liverpool live on BT Vision:
Man City v Liverpool, 3.30pm, 3 February, Sky Sports 1
Liverpool v West Brom, 7pm, 11 February, Sky Sports 1
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