13 May 2014

Arsenal Hero blasts: BR 'got it wrong' in 2 major areas this season. Tactics fail?

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers is rightly renowned for his progressive football philosophy, and since arriving at Anfield, the club's performances on the field have become more attractive to watch. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Reds defensive performance, which is pretty atrocious so far this season. This should not come as any surprise though, since Rodgers' teams have always struggled defensively.

Soon after Liverpool appointed Rodgers, I posted an article presenting his entire career stats.

I've reproduced the stats table below, and as you can see, defensive issues are a consistent theme throughout Rodgers' career:

Brendan Rodgers: Career Stats Pre-LFC

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers stats

* Every one of Rodgers' teams has a history of leaking goals. His teams concede an average of 1.3 goals per game (GPG)

* This has not improved at LFC. In his two seasons at the club, the Reds have conceded 93 goals in 76 league games.

At Liverpool, Rodgers theoretically has higher quality defenders at his disposal, yet this has made no real difference to defensive solidity:

* In 2011-12, Swansea conceded an average of 1.4 goals per league game.

* This season, LFC have conceded 1.3 GPG (Rodgers historical average), which is a regression from last season's result (1.1 goals conceded per game).

Rodgers is generally considered to be one of the most tactically astute managers in the Premier League, but some - Arsenal legend Martin Keown - argue, that his tactical naïveté cost LFC the title.

Speaking on Sunday to the BBC, Keown argued that Rodgers will need to 'pore over this season to see how he got it wrong tactically', and highlighted two key areas for improvement. He explained:

"Rodgers has to adjust his tactics. The full-backs are constantly flying forward, but they are left too exposed and there are massive gaps at the back. Perhaps one of the midfielders will drop back and support Gerrard in that nightwatchman role."

Given Rodgers' history of producing teams that concede a lot of goals, it does seem likely that his tactical approach is one of the main reasons for Liverpool's defensive frailty (along with individual errors). It can't just be coincidence. Issues at LFC include:

* Insisting on playing out of defence, even when it brings pressure on the team, and causes individual errors.

* Constantly switching systems/formations. This season alone, we've seen 352/442/433/4231/4222 etc.

* Utilising the wrong system at the wrong time, i.e. the Chelsea and Crystal Palace games.
* Allowing the midfield to become overrun to often, and not reacting quickly enough.
* No effective tactical plan to triumph over teams that 'park the bus'

Is Keown right? Does Rodgers need to a 'adjust his tactics', or do LFC just need better defensive players in the team?



  1. I do think some adjustments need to happen but don't agree with all of Jaimie's suggestions. Tactical flexibility helped us this season and playing out from the back is only going to help us in the long run. If the defenders can't do it successfully then they need replacing, we need a team of footballers. Concentration and bottle is still an issue in the side and whilst I do believe the system needs tweaking perhaps players too need replacing. We need to get rid of the individual errors. How many own goals have we scored this season? How many errors have lead to a chance on goal. This is not just the defence. Gerard has been brilliant in lots of ways but he has too many errors this season to his name. I am sure trhat will improve with further understanding of his role. As for concentration Skrtel despite being our best defender this year reverted back to dropping very deep against Palace which did us no favors, he was much more on the front foot against Newcastle but should a 29 year old international captain need to be constantly reminded what not to do? Perhaps he lacks the leader next to him.

    The lack of preseason this summer worries me. I really feel we can get rid of a lot of the issues in our game with work and I am sure Rodgers knows what needs doing. Previous records don't bother me as I have seen first hand that Rodgers can change his ideas if he feels it would be best. We were less possession based in 2013 and 2014 up to now we know what our strengths are and can surely work on weaknesses in both preparation and the transfer market.

  2. How about Martin Keown concentrate on what a bang up job Wenger is doing not winning the league in spite of being top of the table longer than anyone else...

  3. Harsh.

    I think Wenger does well to deliver top 4 year after year despite persistent lack of funds from his board, the worst fixtures (certainly this year and last) and a very injury prone squad.

  4. I'd rather constantly be at the top then not be and not win - wouldn't you?

  5. I broadly agree with this.

    We don't need to concede as few as Chelsea. We don't need to only concede 20 or so goals. We need to shave 10 or 15 goals off per season.

    So many of our goals are individual errors and basic stuff, that I blame the players more than the manager. With the way Rodgers wants us to play, we wont be the most secure team, that is true. The problem we have is that even when we have the whole team back and set-up, we can't defend. Palace proved that. It isn't as if we're being consistently carved up by counter-attacks.

  6. I also think we should buy Messi and Ronaldo.

  7. Yes this. The Palace game showed a lack of in game intelligence. Foul a player in their half, don't send both CBs up when you are ahead in a game, waist time like every no mark team (including Chelsea) have done to us all season. A couple of seconds here and there, to get organised and take the sting out of what they are doing. These things are not changing our way of playing as we like to control games at times anyway, it just adds that winging slyness that every other team has.

  8. I think we should breed Messi and Ronaldo and play the offspring. Menaldo!!!!

  9. I'm surprised none of his 'commentator' peers asked him those questions.

  10. My opinion is that BR needs to bring someone who can coach the defense. I am not going to jump on the blame bandwaggon claiming that Sakho is terrible or Agger can't make it. I know these two are very good defenders as is Skrtel but I feel the lack of organization is what has let in all those goals. A great defense has one voice that is drilled to instruct where everyone should be; for us it was Cara (even when we weren't doing well we didnt concede too many), Chelsea have Terry, UTD had Ferdinand, Barca Puyol etc but we need to determine who in the current crop needs to take that mantel because you dont hear anyone yelling out instructions in defence during games. Even on corners, there was a lote more talking when Cara was in the team. Steve Clarke, Hyypia, or even Cara are the kind of coaching additions that BR needs to add to the team but I dont know whether they'd want to go from managers/pundits to coaches. BR doesn't need to change anything with the overall mentality of the team and even the personel defensively (at least except for the wing backs), he just needs a defensivly smart coach who can teach the defenders a side of the game nobody on the current staff is cabable of doing at the level we drastically need. For me, that is the top transfer targets for the summer

  11. ...or just get ROnaldo and MeSSI to mix and make: ROSSI.

    We should buy Giuseppe Rossi, it seems.

  12. Yep, I think game management is a major issue. I've moaned about loads of times this season.

    Jose's teams are excellent at it. You don't have to be as risible as Chelsea were against us, but you can be a bit less naive. Carvalho used to be the master of this during Jose's first reign.

  13. Yes Brendan can be very naïve at times. It's not always possible to score four or five goals....we should analyse the situation accordingly instead of going for more goals thereby exposing ourselves at the back. Its better to win a boring match 1-0 then lose an exciting one 4-3. Often the right thing to do is shut up shop, close the back door with some good defending.

  14. Big Sammy is free and would surely jump at the chance to coach us.

  15. To be honest I don't think our defence is any better than Swansea's. Hopefully that'll be addressed over the summer. Combination of tweaking the tactics and improving personnel needed IMO

  16. That all makes sense to me

  17. We could always get Houllier back. He would have everyone behind the ball and hoofing it long to Suarez and Sturridge.

  18. Rodgers has'nt really got the hang of this defending malarky has he? need to get a defensive coach sharpish. Interesting who we'll have come in during the summer, then we'll see if we're a one season wonder or not.

  19. i dont think you need to be a rocket scientist or even martin keown to recognise there was tactical naivette on display. Especially in the last few games.

    Further I dont think Sakho is a ball playing centre half - to insist on this is tantamount to suicide. The next thing is that our whole team is set up to score - and for most of the season it worked. It was exposed by chelsea - but maybe BR should have expected that chelsea werent going to come and lie down and expect us to smash 4/5. When we saw chelsea tactics - there was nothing stopping us to sit back ourselves. if they were wasting time - it shouldnt have been a problem. We only needed a draw. And they had nothing to unlock our defence since hazard wasnt playing.

    This was a classic case of believing our own hype. And it cost us in 2 games. Maybe bringing in someone like steve clarke to sort out the little problems in our defence would have been a good idea - still maybe.

    It is imperative that we build on this season - lallana seems a decent buy. I liked the look of bolassie from palace - and perhaps one top of the range signing like Pogba. But I wouldnt be blackmailed into paying Southampton over the top for lallana or even shaw.

  20. Guys. We were within a hairs breadth of winning the league.

    Yes, of course 50 goals conceded is way too much but it almost worked.

    I find determining exactly what formation we are playing ata given time to be extremely difficult, given the nature of TV coverage.

    The Palace match was a freak, everyone lost their heads when it went 3-1, the playersknew goal difference would be the only way we could win it and we werenaive in the extreme.

    Rodgers will surely have to learn from Chelsea game. We could have sat back for most of the game, Chelsea needed the win and would have had to come out. Thenwecould have picked them off. Instead we lost valiantly, but utterly stupid ly.

    BR will be haunted by this.He was too proud and we played into Jose's hands

    The plan to beat a team that parks the bus as brilliantly as Chelsea is to keep passing, side to side, our players lost their heads. BR needs to address this. Another point is that we were unlucky that Hazard was injured. He was the weak link v Atletico

    If we had Kompany, or maybe even Carra, we would have won the leaguewith games to spare, in my opinion. We just needed a leader back there.

  21. Liverpool needs a defensive leader who has authority over the back. Thiago Silva, Lucio, Vidic (in their pomp), Cannavaro. Skrtel hardly commands respect (Even I wouldn't listen to him), Sakho (I hoped he'd come good) is meh, Agger is made of glass and Toure started well but then fizzled out.

  22. The team and manager just need to work harder at defence. The players are capable and the system, when it doesn't fall to pieces, is generally sound. What happens is that we occasionally get exposed. The common scenario is that a CB ends up having a player running at him at pace and in that situation there are very few defenders who can stop a goal scoring chance. To me, stopping that is mostly about discipline and knowing your role, knowing exactly what to do at each moment in the game. We need to defend as a team and you can't do that without extensive drilling and a crystal clear set of tactics. My view is that Rodgers just doesn't work his teams that hard at defence and prefers to focus on moving forward. That's been a massive success for us but it has left certain areas of the game a bit incomplete. Given that we now have established how to score goals it follows that next season they can spend more time on defence. I don't believe the general tactics, the high level approach, the playing out from the back or the different formations are an issue for us. I think it's just that if you're not well drilled enough and if the manager hasn't worked through enough different scenarios then you're going to get caught out from time to time.

    Man City have shown how to score a ton of goals playing out from the back but also being capable enough in defence. Their goal record is what we should be aiming for. To get there that means conceding 10-15 less goals next season. I don't think that needs a huge adjustment.

  23. The lack of a defensive midfielder exposes our defense too much. We need a defensive midfielder like Yahya Toure & Mascherano to help protect our defense

  24. We made far more errors that lead to a goal scoring chance than any other team by a distance. We cut out own goals (as much as pos), errant passing and silly mistakes and that 10-15 goals is achievable.

  25. And who has assembled the squad? The same players that finished fourth are the same players that topped the league twice as long as we did this season. And it's not the first time Arsenal has collapsed after Christmas in recent years.

  26. Oh it's fine balance. I want a team that attacks with style but I want them to win. There is a balance to be struck but I'd rather play like City than Chelsea.

  27. I agree. Clearing the ballout of defence is fine but it's only 50/50 at best that you'll win the ball back if you hoof it. Considering the problems we had in defence overall I think BR did a good job.

    We might have done better of course but with injuries to key defenders and Cissokho and Toure not really up to it we could easily have fallen away much earler. . I think the Chelsea and Palace matches had moret to do with pressure than any thing else.

  28. As I said, it isn't like he's been able to go out and get all the players he wants.

    In the past 5 years, his gross spend is comparable with Villa and well less than ours. His net spend is one of the lowest in the league over the past few years too.