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Monday 25 September 2017

Rodgers setting worthy example

Swansea boss proves you don't need big money to prosper with passing football

BRENDAN RODGERS didn't need Barcelona to win the Champions League playing champagne passing football to inspire his vision of the way the game should be played.

It's something he has had in his head and in his blood all of his life and for me, it's the same basic instinct every professional footballer who ever lived starts out with.

Kids want to be Messi or Rooney or Ronaldo these days just the same as I had my boyhood heroes.

No young lad starts out in the game with the thought that he will have achieved all his dreams when he gets to play the long-ball game at Wembley.

Thankfully, the tide is now in full flow in favour of football at its most attractive and entertaining.

There are still outposts of old school, long-ball tactics, but the majority in the Premier League are now leaning towards a more thoughtful approach.

It has been moving in that direction for some time now and the most successful clubs in the Premier League have been playing a version of football which focuses on skill and ability over athleticism and strength for years.



Excuse

But Rodgers and Swansea remove the excuse used by many who use the long ball as the only means of attack.

How often have we heard a coach talk about playing the long ball because he doesn't have the same resources as the top clubs and must therefore cut his cloth appropriately?

Rodgers and before him Paulo Sousa and Roberto Martinez didn't have much money to spend on their team, but between the three of them they established a way of playing which Swansea fans now expect and want to see.

The squad Rodgers has assembled at Swansea is bursting with confidence and pride in the way they play. They are talented but not unusually so, yet they took on Arsenal at their own game and made them look ordinary at times. It was a lesson for all coaches. Players can play if they are let.

To beat Arsenal so comprehensively at their own game is a fantastic achievement for such a small club and one, it should be remembered, which was on the brink of extinction not so long ago.

Arsene Wenger, in particular, should understand how hard it is for someone like Rodgers to stay true to his beliefs when there's no money to spend.

After losing to Swansea, I thought that perhaps for once, Wenger might stop moaning for long enough to acknowledge Rodgers' success but he can't help himself and has become something of a caricature.

Instead of doffing his cap to Rodgers, he went on another rant about the referee when he should have been looking in the mirror for the reason why the Gunners are a spent force.

There are more young managers like Rodgers following their instinct and I've been impressed with Paul Lambert and the way he wants Norwich to play.



Trenchant

Martinez has always been a trenchant supporter of the passing game and Owen Coyle is another. Both men are under severe pressure at the moment but Wigan and Bolton have not changed the way they play.

This course of action takes great courage and knowledge and not all managers know enough about the game to do it.

It may seem strange, but there are many managers who, while good footballers in their day, did not pick up enough knowledge of the game along the way and are not really equipped to be managers.

They try to compensate with coaching badges and the trappings of management and are often the ones who will use the long ball first.

For many years, the cult of the coach tried to reduce the game to something which could be printed in a manual, and young players were groomed to fit criteria.

There's still a way to go before we can say that the environment which discouraged risk takers and weeded out anyone who didn't fit certain physical requirements has been eliminated, but I think there's great hope for the future.

We have Barcelona to thank for that and in a smaller but no less significant way, Swansea City and Rodgers.

Owners and directors who might have thought that while Barcelona's breathtaking football is wonderful on the eye, it is an impossible target for small clubs with limited resources, can now think again.

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