With Swansea releasing a statement confirming Brendan Rodgers' departure and the BBC reporting he has agreed a three-year deal to manage Liverpool Football Club, the outcome of Fenway Sports Group's search to replace Kenny Dalglish seems more certain than it ever has. For all the previous talk of Manager A being John Henry's favourite or Manager B being interested or Manager C planning to hold a press conference some time in the future, this is the first time it has been suggested that the deal is quite thoroughly done.
Last week when we asked who you'd pick to manage the club, Rodgers wasn't an option after publicly taking himself out of the running, reportedly worried about the potential for fallout with Swansea City supporters were he to chase a job that had at least a dozen candidates at the time and few felt he had a realistic chance of getting. As the days passed, however, and with it becoming clear that managers like Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola were, as most suspected, never going to come, FSG returned to Rodgers to convince him that he was indeed a strong contender for the position.
His passion for possession football and high-pressure defending—as well as perhaps a willingness to work with the still rumoured Louis van Gaal, who many believe remains in line to arrive as Sporting Director and who casts an imposing figure some may have been unwilling to work under—appears to have won John Henry, Tom Werner, Ian Ayre, and the rest of Liverpool's selection committee over. It may also have helped that Rodgers previously worked with Steve Clarke under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, with the current Liverpool assistant remaining highly thought of by Liverpool's owners despite Dalglish's dismissal.
Certainly it wouldn't have hurt that he finished last season five points back of Liverpool in the league with a side that cost about as much to put together as Liverpool spent on Stewart Downing. Of course, stepping up to the pressures of Liverpool is a far different task than guiding an underdog through the ranks, and many will be quick to voice concerns over his being little more than the latest flavour of the month—the latest Owen Coyle or Ian Holloway, briefly getting a club to punch above its weight while playing attractive football. However, in Rodgers' case there is a compelling—dogmatic, even—tactical foundation to his success at Swansea, and on the surface at least his very continental approach seems well suited to many of Liverpool's players and to providing the sort of football most Liverpool fans claim they want to see the club play.
Rodgers himself refers to his belief in possession football—and of his desire to convince an at times resistant nation of its merits—as a crusade, and one that brings success in both attack and defence to any who would believe:
For me it is quite logical. It doesn’t matter how big or small you are, if you don’t have the ball you can’t score.
My template for everything is organisation. With the ball you have to know the movement patterns, the rotation, the fluidity and positioning of the team. Then there’s our defensive organisation.
So if it is not going well we have a default mechanism which makes us hard to beat and we can pass our way into the game again. Rest with the ball. Then we’ll build again.
When we have the football everybody’s a player. The difference with us is that when we have the ball we play with 11 men, other teams play with 10 and a goalkeeper.
In addition to working under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, Rodgers has spent time developing his approach in Spain with Barcelona, Sevilla, Real Betis, and Valencia, as well as in Holland, and last season's Swansea side was consciously modelled on Pep Guardiola's Barcelona. Whether he is ready for the step up to Liverpool, and whether his approach is flexible enough to work with the pieces he finds at the club—some of which may not be especially well suited to a pass and move game with the ball and heavy pressure without it—is an open question, and his rather short resume provides little information on which to make any kind of informed guesses about how he may turn out.
What information does exist, though, is at least encouraging, and in theory at least his devoted approach to controlling matches through possession football is hugely promising and exactly the sort of football Liverpool should aspire to play. Now we're left to hope that what he can deliver in practice matches the promise of that theory.
Note: Story has been amended to reflect Swansea's confirmation.