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Saturday 10 December 2016

Rodgers is not in need of sympathy

Bournemouth boss believes ’Pool are on verge of strongest team

Liverpool’s Joe Gomez
Liverpool’s Joe Gomez
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe

Eddie Howe believes Brendan Rodgers is on the verge of building his strongest Liverpool team to date.

The Bournemouth manager takes his team to Anfield for their second English Premier League fixture of the season, having lost their first 1-0 to Aston Villa - a day before Liverpool won by the same scoreline at Stoke.

Howe is familiar with Rodgers having observed his methods when the Northern Irishman was the Swansea manager and also worked under Rodgers' new assistant Sean O'Driscoll, as a player, while the latter was in charge of Bournemouth.

The combination of a disappointing season following injury to Daniel Sturridge and the departure of Luis Suarez, however, followed by this summer's exits of Steven Gerrard and Raheem Sterling and almost £300million spent on new players in the three years since his appointment have left Rodgers under a significant amount of pressure.

Despite their good relationship Howe explained that was something for which he has little sympathy, but while the wisdom of the recent recruitment of Christian Benteke, Roberto Firmino and others has been a source of further criticism, Howe believes that they will prove stronger than anything Rodgers has had before.

"He's building a new Liverpool team so I think this will be possibly the best Liverpool team that he's put together," said Howe, 37. "I don't think he needs any sympathy, certainly.

Talented

"Why not [can't it be better than the 2013/14 team]? He's got really talented individuals and he's had time, and longer to work with the players, so they'll be more in tune to what he wants them to do.

"He's manager of Liverpool, I don't think there's too much sympathy to be flying around. He's done a magnificent job. He did a magnificent job at Swansea, I think he's doing a great job at Liverpool.

"It's a tough challenge, when you have so many clubs fighting for league titles and Champions League spots.

"I think he's done very well."

The arrivals of Benteke, Firmino and James Milner suggest that, after building his reputation as a manager whose preference is for possession-based football, Rodgers wants Liverpool to be more direct.

Another new arrival at Anfield, defender Joe Gomez received the seal of approval from Stoke's Jon Walters last week and has impressed Rodgers since moving to Liverpool in the summer.

The 18-year-old, signed from Charlton for £3.5million this summer, was expected to go out on loan but, having done well in pre-season, was handed his Barclays Premier League debut against the hard-running Walters last weekend.

He acquitted himself well in the 1-0 victory and will make his home bow against Bournemouth tonight as he continues to keep out Alberto Moreno, a Europa League winner with Sevilla just 15 months ago but who has seen his £12million move to Anfield turn sour over the last year.

Outstanding

"For a player of 18 to make his Premier League debut away at Stoke against an outstanding player in Jon Walters, with the experience he has, and cope as well as he did was impressive," Rodgers said.

"I thanked Jon after the game for giving him that experience and he spoke highly of him."

What is even more admirable is Gomez is a centre-back who has also operated on the right, so being thrown in on the opposite flank ahead of an established left-back speaks volumes not only about his talent but also Moreno's short-comings.

"I felt comfortable (putting him in the team) as he had played games and was managed well at Charlton," Rodgers added.

"I wanted to assess where his pathway lay in terms of whether he needed a loan or needed to stay here and very quickly he showed me he could be a really important member of the squad.

"He can play in many positions, centre-half being the main one, but he has the flexibility and qualities to play at full-back so he is definitely a player who will add great value to our squad.

"What struck me when I met him was his maturity. He recognises his opportunity.

"When he was 15 or 16 he had the chance to move to bigger clubs than Charlton but he wanted to stay.

"He then had a decision to make in the summer with a number of high-profile clubs wanted to take him but he felt his best opportunity to develop and improve was coming to Liverpool.

"He has got into the team and I am sure there will be moments along the way when we need to manage him, but he knows there is a lot to learn yet.

"It is about assessing and managing where he is at."

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