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Monday Moan: Is Rodgers' project working?

Monday 8th October 2012 12:19

Rodgers: Yet to convince our man Mark

Rodgers: Yet to convince our man Mark

Mark Holmes questions Brendan Rodgers' 'project' and gives his verdict on Robert Huth, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie.

Last week I defended Luis Suarez (I know!), laughed at Sir Alex Ferguson's moan about injury time, and called for tackling laws to be clarified. Today I discuss Brendan Rodgers' 'project' at Liverpool and discuss four controversial incidents across three games on Sunday.

Is Rodgers hype justified?

Disclaimer: Liverpool fans, you can moan about Stoke's tactics all you want, but the following is a blog about your team's failings, which go beyond one game.

Like many people, I have taken a keen interest in Brendan Rodgers' 'project' at Liverpool this season.

His appointment split opinion - did John Henry and co. show great vision to turn to a young manager that had got Swansea playing the sort of football Liverpool are famed for playing, or had they been duped by a manager that failed at Reading and had no great reputation as an innovator before taking on a Swans team that had already learnt to play in a certain way thanks to Roberto Martinez and Paulo Sousa?

Whatever your opinion, taking on a Liverpool side in need of major surgery was clearly his biggest challenge yet. Now it's still early days in his reign, but the jury is definitely still out.

I have watched a lot of Liverpool since he took charge, and there have been some promising signs and some good football played at times, but last season's goalscoring issue has remained, while defensive problems have arisen which did not exist before.

So I travelled to Anfield on Sunday with great interest to see first hand how his project was getting along. I can't honestly say I returned having noticed any positive change between the Liverpool of this season and the Liverpool of last under Kenny Dalglish.

I listened to a radio talk show after the match in which the pundits eulogised about Rodgers' style of play in comparison to Roy Hodgson's, but it seems to have been conveniently forgotten that Dalglish had already got the team playing a decent brand of football last season.

He lost his job not because the football was not good enough but because, ultimately, the team did not score enough goals.

I fail to see what has changed. Liverpool passed the ball nicely at times against Stoke, but the game was still notable for a number of long-range Steven Gerrard passes which did not find their man, and the Reds' only two shots on target came from outside the area. Is that progress?

The biggest noticeable difference was the fact that Pepe Reina was committed to passing the ball out short rather than booting it long, and twice in the opening 20 minutes that almost led to Stoke goals. On the second occasion, Reina passed the ball out to Nuri Sahin and the midfielder instantly attempted to pass it back, with Steven N'Zonzi intercepting. But even if the ball had have reached Reina, what was the point of those two passes? Apart from keeping the stattos happy, that is.

Liverpool caused few problems with their passes in the final third so why anyone would point to their possession as a sign of what a good job Rodgers is doing is beyond me.

The one thing I have to give Rodgers praise for is his nurturing of Raheem Sterling, Andre Wisdom and Suso, all of whom started on Sunday. All three look good prospects, and it's great that a manager is giving them their chances early on the big stage.

However, on the flip side of the coin, Rodgers recently publicly criticised Jose Enrique and Stewart Downing, upsetting the latter after he questioned his "fight". Is that good management? It seems as though Rodgers is so determined to stamp his authority at the club that he wants to rid it of every Dalglish signing.

That certainly seemed the case when he agreed to loan Andy Carroll to West Ham without having a replacement signed and sealed. A ridiculous decision which Rodgers must take responsibility for as manager, especially with £11million signing Fabio Borini looking badly out of his depth.

Nobody can say for certain whether Rodgers will prove to be a success at Liverpool but, based on what I have seen so far and particularly what I witnessed on Sunday, my inclination is that he will not be.

Suarez shows off his worst side

Believe it or not, I actually defended Suarez last week. He has a reputation for diving but I regard him more as an exaggerator - every time he is touched, he makes sure the referee knows about it.

I have said many times that I find the 'contact means penalty' argument ridiculous, but I don't think you can blame Suarez too much considering referees actually encourage players to go to ground.

However, Suarez's belly flop against Stoke was laughable. I think he probably was clipped by Wilson but, unusually for the Uruguayan, he stayed on his feet. Well, momentarily! A couple of seconds later he then threw himself to the floor with no player even close to him, and quite how he escaped a booking I will never know.

Huth in the wrong, but no stamper

Contrary to popular belief, I have no problem criticising a Stoke player when they are in the wrong. And Robert Huth was definitely in the wrong at Anfield on Sunday.

He was involved in a running battle with Suarez throughout the game, but the big German took it too far when he deliberately walked over the Liverpool forward as he lay on the floor.

It was a snide thing to do and I have to admit not particularly out of character for Huth. He claims it was unintentional, but I find that extremely hard to believe, and nobody at Stoke can have any complaints if the Football Association decides to charge him.

I also believe what he did has been blown out of proportion because he's a Stoke player - he dragged his foot over Suarez but at no point 'stamped' down - but it was still a stupid and needless thing to do, and does the club no favours whatsoever at a time when outsiders had started to pick up on the team's softening of style.

RVP 'elbow' not worth discussing

Another incident blown out of proportion was Robin van Persie's 'elbow' on Yohan Cabaye.

I blogged last season that players leading with their elbows is the most dangerous act in football and must be stamped out, but there is a big difference between an elbow and a raised but straight arm.

Van Persie did not elbow Cabaye. Like Huth, what he did was wrong and outside of the laws, but he didn't put Cabaye in any danger in the way a proper elbow can. It was a bookable offence and nothing more.

Bale ducked out but didn't dive

Even Tottenham fans will tell you Gareth Bale is one of the Premier League's most prolific divers, but I don't actually think he did dive against Aston Villa on Sunday.

He went to ground without any contact whatsoever from Brad Guzan, but I think he went down fearful of a clattering rather than to gain an advantage - backed up by his lack of an appeal for a free-kick.

I am as big a critic of divers as anyone, but it irritates me every time I hear someone argue a referee either has to give a foul or book a player for diving when they go to ground.

Sometimes players just fall over and sometimes, like Bale on Sunday, they just 'wuss out'. Not every fall is a dive.

Let me know what has annoyed you over the past seven days, and remember you can follow me on Twitter @Homzy.



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