The 2013-2014 Premier League season is fast approaching its end. Only four weeks remain and the title race is getting electrifying day by day.
“The Two and a Half Horses race is still on” would be Mourinho’s response if you questioned him about the title contenders. Known for his mind games, Jose made his famous ‘horse’ comment in January.
Its April 15th today. 100 days have passed on since then, but did anyone notice the change in the EPL table? A swap. Liverpool are leading the table and Arsenal are fighting for the fourth place. Yes! When Jose made his comment, it was the other way around – Arsenal leading EPL and Liverpool fighting for Champions League Spot.
Liverpool finished 7th in the table last season, with 61 points, two points less than their Merseyside rivals. This season they have already bagged 77 points with four games to spare.
The upfront trio of Suarez-Sturridge-Sterling surely deserve applauds. With the likes of Coutinho, Hernandez, Skrtel scoring goals regularly along with S-S-S has put Liverpool in a position, from where there is no looking back. They are on the verge of 20th English League title. Then there is this man – Brendan Rodgers.
All the credits go to Brendan Rodgers. When Rodgers took over Kenny Dalglish, he promised to make Liverpool the “Barcelona” of England. It only took him just one year to do so. Liverpool are not playing Tiki-Taka as Barca does, but they surely have developed that winning mentality, which had been lost for years. He changed the mentality of the whole team. He invested money to make all the necessary changes. Took a few brave decisions, like sending Pepe Riena out on loan. But now, the team which once dreamt of playing Champions League football, has taken a clear shot at the English League title.
The way Rodgers has played with his midfielders, shows us what a master tactician he is. In the beginning of the season if anyone told you that “4-4-2 diamond” formation is the Premier League winning formation you would probably consider that person as mad. Rodgers used 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 diamond formations throughout the season. Look where his team stands now. In both the formations, midfielders were the key part.
In 3-5-2 formation Lucas would play in front of the back three, providing them cover as well as pumping the ball higher up the pitch. Central midfielder role was played by Gerrard. Coutinho was the attacking mid-fielder, Sterling and Henderson playing wide while Suarez and Sturridge lead the attack. Wingers were always given the freedom to play narrowly. At times, the formation turned out to be 3-3-4. Such was the intensity of Liverpool’s attack. Evidence is the amount of goals they have scored this season.
To explain his 4-4-2 formation, let us consider their game against Manchester City. Suarez and Sturridge played as the strikers, Skrtel and Sakho played as the central defenders. Johnson and Flanagan completed the last four. Now coming over to the most interesting part- the diamond. Gerrard played as the CDM, Countinho and Henderson played wide. Sterling was given the tough task, to play as No.10, which he did pretty well. He was the best performer against City. City midfield had no answer for Liverpool’s diamond. City’s midfielders were always overrun by Liverpool’s. Fernandinho suffered the most – as to mark Sterling or Coutinho. Gerrard’s job was just to protect his back four. Now tell me, how did Rodgers do it?
He is the one who believed in Jordan Henderson. Henderson is playing superb football at the moment. Rodgers deployed Gerrard as a defensive midfielder. It was difficult for the England captain most of the times. Against City Gerrard was dominated by David Silva. He was unable to check Silva’s erratic wide runs and sudden forward gushes. But Gerrard somehow managed to get himself together and tried to do his best.
No other manager in EPL would have been so courageous to try out new tactics, but Rodgers did it! He was not afraid of losing out the Premier League medal. Brendan was sure that Liverpool would be one among the top 4 this season. He played around with new formations, that’s it. But he did it fantastically.
But on the other side of the road there is Roberto Martinez, equally shrewd as Brendan Rodgers, he knows the hardships of the game. But he took, and built upon, the previously un-built, but well planned Everton team, whereas Rodgers joined Liverpool at rock bottom, when the club was it’s worst. Back-to-back failures and mid table finishes had shattered Liverpool. He resurrected such a team, both mentally and tactically. Now all he needs to do is carry on the momentum.
For everything he has done to Liverpool, Rodgers deserves the Premier League manager of the season award. I bet no one else would have been able to do it.