"If you want to control someone," wrote Paulo Coelho, "all you have to do is make them feel afraid." As Brendan Rodgers ponders the next stage of the Anfield evolution he is trying to set in motion, he may have the Brazilian author's words in mind, for it is the Liverpool manager's intention to bring back to Anfield, the feeling of intimidation that once had opposition teams beaten before a ball was kicked.
Upon his arrival, much was made, not least by Rodgers himself, of the new 'style of play' that the Northern Irishman would try to establish. Much of this was a smoke-and-mirrors media construct. Liverpool, under Kenny Dalglish played possession football, dominated vast tracts of matches and pressed high up the pitch. They just didn't win enough while doing it.
To listen to some so-called experts last summer, however, one got the impression that Rodgers was some kind of footballing sophisticate come to rescue the provincial oafs from their crude hoofing. This was Liverpool Football Club! With the exception of the bleak mid-winter of Hodgson's tenure, Liverpool have always played good, possession-based football.
To be fair to the young coach, his "death by football" notion of passing teams into submission was taking it to a new level. As the team began to implement his ideas, us fans spent an inordinate amount of time with clenched jaws, wincing as our defenders played it short from the back and individual errors revealed gaping gaps in our defensive structure. As the campaign has rolled on, however, there are tangible signs that the manager's ideas are taking shape.
"I enjoy watching my team," said Rodgers, ahead of the Southampton game. "They are good value. we are now turning up at games with the feeling that we're going to play well and win. But the reason we have this way of working is because we are building towards something. It's important to win - players enjoy this way but they also enjoy winning."
Speaking about the changes he has made, Rodgers claimed that his players now have "the confidence that this way is effective," and, whilst maintaining the one game at a time mantra, he insisted that there is a "real buzz" amongst the squad as they face into the final nine games. The manager complimented the players he has whilst suggesting the 'group' will evolve.
"The squad we have is healthy and strong and I can't fault the players because they have worked incredibly hard to get it and make it work but we know we need to add more. We want control and domination going forward, but we want real steel in our defensive work too, and it takes time. With every window you will see more players arriving of the type we want."
That last sentence presupposes a long stay for the boss and a slew of Rumour Mongering pieces for LFC Offside scribblers and I'm well disposed to both eventualities.
"Hopefully, in the future," Rodgers went on, "that will get us to a point where teams arrive at Anfield and don't enjoy their visit rather than maybe thinking what an incredible ground this is and maybe they can win here. We want to make it a fortress and you do that by performing well and getting results over a period of time."
The majority of Liverpool fans will welcome the inhospitable attitude to future visitors evinced by our manager and they will be even happier if Liverpool can bring this same uncouth and merciless winning mentality with them when they travel, starting today at St. Mary's.