In the win-quick-or-bust climate of modern football the notion of solid incremental improvement has become an outmoded and naïve conception of a bygone time when managers could spend many years building and evolving their teams in the knowledge that their positions were safe. It is in that light that some Liverpool fans have afforded Rodgers a short leash of cautious trust on which they will base their opinions. To his credit, Rodgers has made a habit of saying the right things about developing the team over the long haul and creating a culture that harkens back to the high-quality but tough-minded approach of the Shankly and Paisley glory days when Liverpool was synonymous with stylish and winning football.
Rodgers' insistence on a passing game that some interpret as style over substance, has divided opinion as to his qualifications and ultimate suitability for the overhauling of the club. The fact that he was able to successfully rebrand an anonymous Swansea team into a respectable tenant in the middle of the Premier League is of little comfort to the demanding denizens of Anfield. For them, he has yet to prove that he is significantly better-equipped to lead the team than their beloved Kenny Dalglish, from whom he inherited the club last summer.
While this past season had its frustrations and too many points were dropped against opponents that should have been beaten, there were causes for optimism. The Rodgers doctrine of "pass the ball and build from the back" helped to give a sense of discipline and purpose to the team's play that had been lacking under Dalglish. Over the course of the season the fluidity and attacking edge became sharper, especially after the introduction of Daniel Sturridge and Phillipe Coutinho in the winter transfer window.
Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of Rodgers' approach were Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard who provided the thrust and incision needed to turn possession into genuine goal scoring threat. Suarez, as exhilarating and enigmatic as he is, has shown that he can be as dangerous as any player in the world and the club must do whatever it can to keep him in the wake of his disciplinary problems and the persistent interest of other clubs. In recent days however he has begun to engage in the pre-departure complaining that often accompanies the moves of high-profile players when they are going to jump ship.
In a strange, paradoxical way the excellence of Jamie Carragher's play last season was a definite cause for concern. Carragher's final campaign in the red jersey was one of his inspirational best and he will go down in Anfield folklore as an all-time great. However, the fact that his presence was necessitated by the tepid play of Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel, and Sebastian Coates, three significantly younger center backs, raises a red flag of the type that we never want to see on the Kop. Bringing in an effective central defensive player or two must be a top priority for Rodgers and with Skrtel and Coates possibly heading for the exit this summer finding somebody with Carragher's presence and leadership skills is a must if the club is to challenge. Kolo Toure will be joining on a free transfer, but the jury is resolutely out on whether he is past his sell-by date.
Being a long-time Liverpool fan whose memory stretches back to the days of Ian St. John and Roger Hunt, I have witnessed many comings and goings over the years and there have certainly been periods of misgiving. This new Rodgers era is not one of them. Unlike some fellow fans I am optimistic about Rodgers and his approach to the game. I like the tactical approach of keeping the ball intelligently while still looking to be incisive in attack. The defensive play can be a little harrowing in its inconsistency at times, but given the chance to bring in suitable players I believe he will get that right too. Fenway Sports Group seem like relatively patient owners who are willing to grant time to develop the on-field project and Rodgers is nothing if not a relentlessly positive thinker.
Is it possible to overhaul the Manchester clubs and make a dent in the supremacy of the London teams in one season? Maybe not, but with a year under his belt and shorn of the newness of taking over the club, it is reasonable to believe that the lessons learned and changes made by Brendan Rodgers will make the Reds a sufficient threat to require that the regular occupants of the Champions League places look over their collective shoulders with concern.