Brendan Rodgers returns to Swansea City on Sunday for the first time since taking over at Liverpool in the summer.
The former Chelsea coach, who oversaw the Welsh side’s promotion to the Premier League, has taken on a rebuilding project at Anfield while the Swans, meanwhile, have entered into a transitional period of their own under Michael Laudrup.
But which side has benefitted from the split between Rodgers and the Swans?
By Jamie Dunn
The main problem that Brendan Rodgers has encountered at Liverpool is that some not only expect him to rebuild Rome in a day but rather resurrect the entire Empire; such is the stature of the club of which he now takes charge.
That the first baby steps of the dawning of a new era were allowed to be played out somewhat embarrassingly on Channel Five have not helped his cause among onlookers eager to deride the Anfield club, either.
It is not too outlandish to suggest Rodgers is playing a small part in the improvement of Suarez’s output
Every defeat – especially a potential one to his former club, Swansea, on Sunday – will be subject to an inquisition after an indifferent start but, in the former Swans boss, Liverpool have hired a real gem and the evidence is already there to see.
Liverpool were thoroughly impressive against reigning league champions Manchester City at the start of the season and, were it not for a Martin Skrtel error, everyone would have been singing the praises of Rodgers’ charges, not least Joe Allen, who of course followed his boss to Anfield. Lucas Leiva suffered an injury early on in that game and is only now due to return.
Naysayers will of course point to an over-reliance on Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan has scored 10 league goals already this season in comparison to just 11 over the whole of the last campaign. Granted, 2012-13 has thus far been undisrupted for the striker, which was not the case previously, but surely it is not too outlandish to suggest that Rodgers is playing at least a small part in the improvement of the 25-year-old’s output.
Sure, 15 points from 11 games, an uninspiring position in the table and only two home wins so far this season may on the surface appear unacceptable.
But pragmatic football fans – and there must be some out there – will understand that Liverpool under Rodgers are progressing as the halfway point of the current campaign approaches.
The Reds are unbeaten in the league since their 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in late September – and that was a game played with 10 men for the majority. Swansea, meanwhile, are yet to produce any kind of consistency. Their results under Michael Laudrup thus far include an impressive draw against Chelsea, a narrow defeat to Manchester City and a victory over Newcastle but also losses to Aston Villa and Stoke City
A return to the top four this season might not happen but, for the long term, Liverpool have got their man – and it may prove to be at Swansea’s expense.
By Ewan Roberts
The departure of Brendan Rodgers to Liverpool (and the subsequent £15 million sale of Joe Allen) has heralded a wave of new signings and more adventurous play at Swansea, currently a point and a place above the Reds in the league table.
The Swans appointed another progressive, long-term, philosophy-first manager in Michael Laudrup and under him have found a greater sense of fun; Laudrup has adapted Rodgers’ possession-heavy mantra, installing a more direct and gregarious style of play.
While his predecessor overlooked the Spanish scouting network established by Roberto Martinez, instead largely raiding the Football League (and arguably only made one successful overseas signing: Michel Vorm), Laudrup has returned Swansea’s gaze to Mediterranean shores, plundering a La Liga market that he knows well.
The funds accrued from the loss of Rodgers, Allen and Scott Sinclair allowed the Swans to expand their squad and, boasting a good reputation thanks to spells at Getafe and Mallorca, Laudrup managed to lure Michu, Jonathan de Guzman, Chico Flores and Pablo Hernandez to the Liberty Stadium.
In Michu, Laudrup has found this season’s unexpected star and best value signing – the Spaniard is the fourth-highest scorer in the league with seven goals – while the quality and talent of the side is more evenly shared now.
That is not the case at Anfield, where Liverpool – and Rodgers – are criminally reliant on one player, with Luis Suarez scoring or assisting 12 of the Reds’ 17 league goals this season, or 70 per cent – no other player has more than one league goal.
Laudrup has dispensed of Rodgers’ negative possession (i.e. passing between the centre-backs in their own half) and brought more penetration and final third creativity to the Swans, which saw them net five times against QPR (a goal haul never managed under Rodgers). The side are more direct, more cavalier, more boom-or-bust than they were under the Northern Irish manager and his softly-softly-catchee-monkey approach.
That is typified in the contrast between Allen and De Guzman. The former Villarreal midfielder has attempted 238 fewer passes than the Welshman this season but played 72% more key passes, notching three assists compared to Allen’s zero.
Rodgers’ departure has unequivocally benefitted Swansea most. Once patient to the point of boredom under the new Anfield manager, the Swans have become more frenzied, direct and chaotically entertaining under their Danish boss, the ‘Breaking Bad’ to Rodgers’ ‘Treme’.
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