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Ronnie Whelan: Rodgers is stuck in a rut and needs to adapt

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Brendan Rodgers

Brendan Rodgers

AP

Brendan Rodgers

BRENDAN Rodgers is now facing the test of his life. Up to now, his career in management has flowed from one positive to the next but right now, he is in a bad place.

On Saturday, I watched Liverpool stick obsessively to the idea that the only way to play is by passing, even when they were under serious pressure and the only sensible thing to do was to whack the ball as far up the pitch as they could.

The Liverpool way of playing is a bit of a myth, really. Sure, one touch passing football is the target and during the great years, we achieved that more than not.

But I have a clear memory of cold December days when the pitch was awful and Ronnie Moran's voice would echo across the grass: "Kick it long for f**k's sake. Kick it long."

The long ball is an option, has to be an option in any team's bag of tricks. But Rodgers (below) set himself so firmly against the idea when he told Andy Carroll to stay in London a few years ago and insisted he didn't want him playing for Liverpool.

Maybe if he been a bit more flexible, Carroll would still be at the club and yesterday, he would have had an out ball, just as he might have had a role to play in the same fixture last year when Chelsea packed the box and closed all gaps on the ground.

For this episode of the Jose Mourinho v Rodgers drama, Chelsea did the complete opposite to what they did last season. Mourinho didn't park the bus but instead, gave his players licence to roam and once again, he won the tactical battle.

This was the time for Rodgers to show adaptability and maybe even reverse a double decker in front of the Liverpool goal himself. Sometimes you just have to do what it takes, no matter how pure your heart is.

No game of football is the same. Very often, the best laid plans go up in a puff of smoke in the first few minutes and great managers earn their money by coping with that and in the face of adversity, pulling results out of the bag.

It is the manager's job to make running repairs and to have alternatives in his mind and on the bench when a game is running against him.

Rodgers' dedication to playing football the way Liverpool did for four or five months earlier this year was admirable when Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge were in full flow and very few defences could stand against them.

But now, Rodgers simply doesn't have the players he needs to persist with his vision of the Beautiful Game.

The players brought in have so far failed to make the difference and I would not be that confident that they will.

To play the game Rodgers wants to play, you need lads like Iniesta and Xavi and with all due respect, I don't see anyone even close to them at Anfield at the moment.

Barcelona, for all their talent and creativity, were not above humping the ball out of defence when need arose. It's not betraying your vision to do that, it's just common sense.

I'm not suggesting for a second that Liverpool should simply hump the ball long all day. With Mario Balotelli rooted to the same spot and less than enthusiastic about chasing, it wouldn't work anyway.

UNDER THE COSH

But I am saying that when you are firmly under the cosh, trying to play clever one-twos to dig yourself out of a mess, is just dangerous.

Rodgers took some stick from the stands in this game and I haven't heard that before. I think it's unfair but inevitable, the way things are in football these days.

I don't think he is under any pressure from John Henry simply because this is a shared project and I don't doubt that the owners were involved in the summer transfer business that Liverpool did.

He will be given time to fix what is broken but Rodgers needs more than better players to maintain the successful start he has had to his management career. He needs to take a step back from his commitment to one way alone and be a bit more pragmatic.

From what I can see, he has not yet come to terms with the disintegration of his plans in the summer. Instead of adding two or three quality players to a successful squad, he ended up panic buying and Balotelli arrived at the club.

Often this season, he has looked ill at ease on the touchline, even overwhelmed by events, and that is not really a surprise.

But he has to find a way to deal with it and he must do it quickly.


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