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Monday Moan: Rodgers' raving wearing thin

Monday 5th November 2012 12:04

Brendan Rodgers: Ever the optimist

Brendan Rodgers: Ever the optimist

Mark Holmes ridicules Brendan Rodgers' constant positivity, dismisses the importance of possession, lambasts Arsenal fans and hails a referee.

Last week I welcomed Fernando Torres' booking for diving, hailed two pieces of sportsmanship and explained why I still don't want video technology. Today I look at Brendan Rodgers' latest uber-positive interview in the wake of a draw, plus the meaningless nature of possession statistics, Arsenal fans' chants towards Robin van Persie, and Adam Le Fondre's booking for simulation.

Rodgers' positivity won't wash forever

Brendan Rodgers hailed Liverpool as "outstanding" following their 1-1 draw with Newcastle at Anfield on Sunday.

"Our intensity and possession was relentless in the game," he said. "I thought we were brilliant, and deserved the three points."

Liverpool certainly dominated possession, but their overall performance was far from outstanding and, although they were the better team, it would have been rough justice on Newcastle had the Reds claimed all three points.

Rodgers, however, does not seem to take overall performances into consideration. As long as his team has bossed possession, Rodgers is happy.

Remember, this is a man that said the following after Swansea were beaten 2-0 at Sunderland last season: "It is great for the public here at Sunderland to see us. They must have been wondering what this team everyone is talking about are all about, and now they have seen. We were wonderful."

This is also a man that explains his philosophy as this: "If you can dominate the game with the ball you have a 79% chance of winning a game of football. If you're better than the other team with the ball you've got an 8 out of 10 chance, nearly, of winning the game."

Well, 10 games into the Premier League season and Liverpool have not won eight or even seven of their games, but two.

In a way I admire Rodgers' eternal optimism, and if he can add a quality striker to his ranks in January Liverpool could yet turn their season around. But Rodgers is starting to embarrass himself with his constant claims that Liverpool are unlucky not to win every game they play in.

Possession is not nine tenths of the law. Nine tenths of the law is defending well and taking chances. Focus on that, Brendan, and you might find it a little more difficult to be quite so positive.

Potters proving my possession point

Tony Pulis is the antithesis of Brendan Rodgers. While the latter believes possession is key, Pulis has regularly spoken about the percentage of goals scored from set-pieces during Stoke's five seasons in the Premier League. He has also previously alluded to Charles Reep's findings that most goals are scored from moves of just three passes.

Thus Stoke have focused on set-pieces and used the long ball to good effect to establish themselves in the Premier League.

This season, however, following pressure from supporters and possibly the owners, Pulis has changed his mentality. Stoke have begun to make more short passes in the middle third and have had more possession in each of their last two games, against Sunderland and Norwich.

Yet Stoke have scored no goals and claimed just one point from those two games. It's not a moan as such - clearly, it will take time for Pulis to implement a new style - but it has served to remind me once again of the pointlessness of the possession statistics Rodgers and co. love to peddle.

It is not the amount you have the ball, but what you do with it that counts. Neither Liverpool nor Stoke are doing enough with it at the moment, and neither Rodgers' positivity nor Stoke's improved possession percentages will keep the fans from turning if results do not improve.

Loyalty a one-way street for fans

Briefly again on the subject of possession, I have to commend Arsene Wenger for his comments following Arsenal's defeat at Manchester United. The Gunners had marginally more of the ball at Old Trafford but, unlike Rodgers, that alone was not enough to make Wenger happy.

"We had a lot of possession, but not very progressive, but had a lot of possession so it was important to find some space in the final third of the game and not lose the game before that.

"We didn't create a lot and had a lot of the ball."

However, as bad as it was, it is not Arsenal's performance I wish to moan about. It is the chants which their supporters aimed at Robin van Persie.

It is not the fact that they were a little close to the bone that annoyed me - I have often said that people should not get so offended by the actions by a large group of mainly men, many of whom have been drinking - it is the fact that they were aimed at Van Persie at all.

This is a player that won them more points than probably any other player in the Premier League won for their team last season. Without him, Arsenal would not have made the top four - and that may well be proven as fact come May.

Yet Arsenal's supporters are angry at him because of the lack of loyalty he showed in leaving them for Manchester United in search of trophies.

First of all, it is remarkably harsh of them to criticise Van Persie's loyalty given the length of time he stayed with them despite a lack of success. But, more importantly - and this is aimed at all football supporters - why is loyalty only ever important when a player leaves against their will?

Will Arsenal fans be lambasting the club's lack of loyalty if they sell the under-performing Andre Santos or Aaron Ramsey? Were they showing loyalty to Emmanuel Eboue when they took to booing him during games a few years ago? Would they have mentioned loyalty had Arsenal bought a better player than Van Persie and then sold him because they no longer needed him?

The sad fact is, there is next to no loyalty in football. Clubs mercilessly cast players aside when they no longer need them, and players happily turn their back on a club when the offer of more money or more success comes from elsewhere.

Instead of moaning about Van Persie's loyalty, Arsenal fans would have earned my respect by showing their loyalty to Van Persie in thanking him for his great service to the club with a standing ovation on Saturday.

Are referees finally wising up?

There was an incident towards the end of the QPR v Reading game on Sunday which would be dominating discussion today had it happened in a game involving one of the 'big' teams.

With the score at 1-1 and the clock ticking down, Royals substitute Adam Le Fondre went down in the penalty area having felt a brush of Adel Taarabt's leg.

The contact was nowhere near enough to force Le Fondre to the floor, and referee Michael Oliver correctly booked the striker for diving. Well done him.

Yellow cards seem to be getting shown a lot more frequently for simulation this season and it's fantastic to see referees having the bravery to hand them out even when contact has been made, as it was here and it was on Fernando Torres last weekend.

As I keep saying, players should be encouraged to try to stay on their feet at all times, and the only way that'll happen is if they see other players being booked for going down too easily, even if touched.

Regarding the Le Fondre incident specifically, it annoys me that it has provoked so little discussion. Had it been Torres, Walcott, Young, Suarez or Tevez to have gone down, I suspect Taarabt's challenge would have been replayed a hundred times to show the minimal contact.

The 'pace of the game' would be brought up, someone would insist the player was 'entitled' to go down, and I'd get dozens of messages of abuse for daring to suggest said player was a diving cheat.

Because the player was Le Fondre and the teams involved were QPR and Reading, nobody has batted an eyelid. Do people really want to see the game cleaned up? Or only when their (big) club has been wronged?



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