From the word “steady”, Brendan Rodgers kicked off his Liverpool tenure with a blunt bit of man management. Like the team he inherited, Rodgers has come a long way since that moment, but the man management that has defined much of the success of his sophomore season in charge on Merseyside has progressed to a whole new level by his own reckoning.
"I think there is now an inherent belief in the team,” Rodgers explained. “You see the players, and what was great for me (against Cardiff) is that you see the self-coaching going on. We spend a lot of time coaching on the training field, but now the players are self-coaching each other in the game to operate, to have more numbers around the ball, making angles.
"There was a great moment whenever Steven Gerrard filled in at right-back and Glen Johnson played in midfield for a little period. That's what we talk about. It doesn't matter where you are on the field when you change, as long as you fill the spaces."
Filling in the spaces was not entirely successful on Saturday at Cardiff, but the overall idea of the team being openly communicative and positionally aware enough to implement such a self-governing style of play is certainly appealing. Some might call this plain old teamwork, but the manager has been singing the praises of his club's teamwork all season to the point where this “self-coaching” seems to be a different beast to him. Rodgers has spoken regularly about ensuring that the players are well drilled in the ideas he has for Liverpool's style of play, and it's clear that his coaching is making a deep impact on his squad.
"I am a coaching manager,” Rodgers continued, “so me and my staff, we work tirelessly on improving the individual. It's about the environment, coaching, giving people an opportunity. Coaching is key to that, both on and off the field, and that has really helped us this year in developing our team ethos and individuals."
Coaching, opportunity, ethos. Staple words in the Brendan Rodgers lexicon, and for good reason based on the results he's been able to coax out of his team this year. That this still isn't the finished product is very exciting, and another pre-season spent perfecting the successes of this season will provide good ground work for Liverpool's expected return to the European stage.