Swansea can detect more of Rodgers’ legacy than Liverpool

Richard Jolly explains why Brendan Rodgers left more of an impression on Swansea than he did on his most recent employers.
Every game seems a derby game now. In an era when meetings between two clubs with a common denominator, no matter how loose, is branded as such, this is the Brendan Rodgers derby. But with one glaring absentee: Brendan Rodgers. Liverpool against Swansea on Sunday is a meeting of clubs the Northern Irishman managed, shaped and left.
Yet if they seemed twinned when Rodgers swept into Anfield equipped with his 180-page brochure, his supposedly revolutionary philosophy and the confidence of youth, now they appear distanced. His career was on an upward curve when he walked out of Swansea, while his sacking by Liverpool represented a gravitational drag downwards.
His final game at the Liberty Stadium was in 2012, a symbolic win over Kenny Dalglish’s Liverpool, and his last on Merseyside was in October, a dour draw with Everton, but his sway seems stronger in Wales now. If Swansea prosper, it is in part because of Rodgers. If Liverpool do, it seems in spite of him.
Consider the managers who will occupy the Anfield dugouts on Sunday. Garry Monk remains influenced by, and an admirer of, Rodgers. Jurgen Klopp is a reaction to him, as tall as Rodgers is short, with the silverware-studded CV and the stardust the younger man lacks. The German is too diplomatic to criticise his predecessor but is diametrically different in his methods and judgments.glum at Liverpool v Norwich – Reuters
Whether Dalglish loyalists, alienated by Rodgers’ more egotistical statements or simply accustomed to the high turnover in an unsentimental business, most managers kept their counsel when the Northern Irishman was dismissed. His former captain Monk, was an exception. He pronounced himself shocked.
Rodgers may be mocked elsewhere, but he is revered in west Wales. Roberto Martinez transformed Swansea by introducing a passing game and Michael Laudrup won their first major English trophy, the 2013 League Cup, but there is the sense that Rodgers was the pivotal manager in their rise. He accomplished the two hardest tasks: getting them into the Premier League and keeping them there.
In contrast, he represented Liverpool’s nearly man. He was almost a champion in 2014. But by then he had abandoned his original plan of “death by football” for high-speed counter-attacking. Some 17 months later, when he was sacked, it was harder to say what he stood for, besides frantic, frequent tactical switches. Rodgers’ Swansea had retained their identity. His Liverpool lost theirs.
Klopp has forged a new one, based on belief and gegenpressing. His brief reign is notable for the way he has embraced players Rodgers did not want, picked them in different positions and suggested the much-criticised transfer committee were not the financially incontinent, wretched judges of footballers they seemed. Alberto Moreno has excelled as a left-back, whereas Rodgers preferred to play the Spaniard as a wing-back. Emre Can has had an extended run in midfield, capped with a glorious backheel for Roberto Firmino’s goal at the Etihad Stadium. The Brazilian, who scarcely seemed to fit into the Northern Irishman’s team, has flourished for Klopp as the false nine who leads the pressing game.
And then there is Lucas Leiva, the second most prolific tackler in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Signed by Rafa Benitez, dropped by Rodgers, the Brazilian considered his future in three successive transfer windows after being marginalised. He will sit out Sunday’s game, but only because of suspension after mistiming five of those many challenges. It may afford a reprieve to Joe Allen, but it is notable how Rodgers’ first flagship signing has been a bit-part player for Klopp. His biggest buy, Christian Benteke, may be confined to a cameo again on Sunday.
There are set to be more of Rodgers’ recruits in the Liverpool team than the Swansea side. Yet they include Dejan Lovren, the £20 million misfit who is only starting because Mamadou Sakho, the transfer-committee addition who began the season on the bench but who Klopp was quick to identify as Liverpool’s best centre-back, is injured. The German began by saying Adam Lallana could be 20-30 percent better and he no longer resembles Rodgers’ ineffectual lightweight. Nathaniel Clyne and James Milner represent two of Rodgers’ best signings. Simon Mignolet does not, but plays anyway.
Three-and-a-half-years after his departure, Swansea bear the imprint of seven transfer windows under successors. Gylfi Sigurdsson, loaned by Rodgers in 2012, and Leon Brittan, who he brought back to Swansea, are alone among his recruits in being possible starters on Sunday. Jonjo Shelvey was a player he exiled from Anfield, albeit one he initially rated higher than Jordan Henderson, his eventual captain – although he will not play through suspension.Brendan Rodgers won Swansea promotion to the Premier APhotos
Yet Rodgers helped create the conditions when they could spend more, either in fees or wages, on upgrades. Indeed, the £20 million Swansea received in transfer fees for Allen and Rodgers himself contributed. The similarities are not so much in personnel, but in attitude. There has been a continuity to Swansea. While Monk placed a greater emphasis on defensive solidity than his mentor and does not believe in passing for passing’s sake, a line can be traced through Swansea sides, back to Martinez’s era and encompassing Rodgers’ years, whereas there is the feeling that regime change at Anfield brings a “year zero” approach.
That is partly Rodgers’ fault. A willingness upon his appointment at Anfield to describe his passing plans in the manner of a man who had invented the wheel antagonised those who felt ball retention had long been a part of Liverpool’s ethos. If the past was either dismissed or airbrushed, now there is the feeling that Klopp is starting from scratch. His changes feel dramatic and emphatic. None are his signings, but this seems his team. It has come full circle.
Perhaps Rodgers will. There are mischievous suggestions that he could replace Monk. But, wherever he watches it, if sees his last two employers in action, it may be with the sense that Swansea are more of his team than a Liverpool side being Kloppified.

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