Brendan Rodgers believes Arsenal drubbing flagged the best of British
‘I think it is a good signal . . . especially for young British players, that if you come to Liverpool you will get your opportunity . . .’
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. Photograph: Nigel Roddis/Reuters
Brendan Rodgers has said Liverpool’s 5-1 mauling of Arsenal issued “a statement” about British talent and advised Roy Hodgson to capitalise on Steven Gerrard’s development as a holding midfielder at the World Cup.
Liverpool had five English players in their ranks when obliterating the then Premier League leaders at Anfield – Gerrard, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Jon Flanagan. Rodgers has backed Flanagan to follow his team-mates into the England ranks, though concedes Brazil may come too soon for the 21-year-old defender, and believes Saturday’s performance demonstrated Britain does produce players equipped for the highest level.
“I think it is a good signal [the five players] and a good statement, especially for young British players, that if you come to Liverpool you will get your opportunity if your focus is right. You will get that opportunity to play,” said the Liverpool manager before today’s visit to Fulham.
The match will go ahead after planned strikes on the London Underground – that Fulham claimed would affect the number of stewards able to get to Craven Cottage – were suspended yesterday.
Rodgers added: “It has been a life’s work for me. Since I started as a young coach, British players were told they were not technically good enough or not tactically good enough. I set out on a journey to prove that wasn’t the case.”
Long ball game
“They can be. What we had was coaches in this country who maybe didn’t have the faith or the nerve to play how Europeans would play. It is the easiest thing in the world to get your goalkeeper to smash the ball as far as he can up the pitch, away from danger, and when you haven’t got the ball just drop back in. It is the easiest thing in the world to coach. You could get someone, with all due respect, who is working with kids on the park to do that.”
As in Liverpool’s previous home game, the 4-0 Merseyside derby win over Everton, Gerrard produced a commanding display against Arsenal to reinforce Rodgers’ belief that his captain will flourish in a deeper role. And the Liverpool manager believes Hodgson should consider adopting the same tactic with England at the World Cup.
“Everyone knows Steven’s qualities but I think it would be good for Roy to see him in that central pivot that we play,” said Rodgers. “We don’t play with two holders, we play with one and two more attacking players. Even in that role, he has amazed me at the quality he is playing at so quickly. When he was playing as the number 10 . . . His movement in the box was like a striker. So to flip that into a playmaker in the other half of the field shows the real tactical intelligence that he has.”
Flanagan has also impressed since returning to the Liverpool team this season and rendered Santi Cazorla anonymous throughout the 5-1 win. Rodgers is confident the youngster will soon increase the England contingent at Anfield. “I think this year might come too soon for him but there is absolutely no question he has got all the qualities to play in that position for England,” he said.
“The key for Jon is consistency . . . I have been pleasantly surprised by how tactically good he is. Playing against someone like Cazorla, who jumps inside, we asked him to go with him at the right moments and he did. If he can do that for Liverpool in these types of games, then he can do it at international level, that’s for sure.”