It's no secret that Brendan Rodgers takes inspiration from Barcelona's model of playing football. The new Liverpool boss adopted some key principles from the Catalans during his time at Swansea in particular, and now he's looking to take take that one step further by using his take on total football to guide Liverpool to success. talkSPORT takes a look at some of the methods Brendan Rodgers will use to inject some Barca style into Liverpool...
Love the ball
Several Premier League sides favour physicality over technique, and their training methods reflect this, but at Barcelona it couldn't be more different. Lionel Messi once stated that at Barca's training sessions players "hardly ever run without the ball at their feet" and training with the ball is seen as one of the basic principles in putting Barcelona's model into practice. Reports from Liverpool's pre-season training suggest that Brendan Rodgers has already significantly increased the time players spend with the ball, and Jamie Carragher in particular has commented that "normally you have your football work and your running, but this time it's all incorporated in one, so you have the football all the time". In designing exercises around keeping and using the ball well, Rodgers is attempting to drill a new-found love of the ball into his Liverpool players, with the hope that this will translate into increased possession on the pitch.
FC Barcelona training almost always involves playing with the ball...
The six second rule
Though for decades Barcelona's model has been based on possession, the major innovation Pep Guardiola brought to the team as a manager was increasing their work in getting the ball back whenever they lose it. Guardiola did this with mathematical precision, incorporating a 'six second rule' which comes into play any time Barca concede possession. The idea is that Barca's players have to recover the ball within six seconds of losing it, starting with the forwards as the first line of defence. For an example of how this impacts Barca's play, roughly 60 per cent of the balls Barcelona recover occur in their attacking zone, meaning they win the ball closer to goal and are in a prime position to attack as soon as they regain it. Alternatively, if the players fail to recover the ball within six seconds the team then retreats to form a compact ten-man wall, making it tough for their opponents to hit them on the counter-attack. It's thought that Brendan Rodgers has adopted a similar 'seven second rule' this summer with Liverpool. Presumably the extra second is to allow Charlie Adam to catch his breath...
Check out Barca's 'six second rule' in action, a similar rule is likely to be a key feature of Liverpool under Brendan Rodgers...
The midfield pivot
One of the most important players in Barca's system is the 'midfield pivot', a role once played by Pep Guardiola and perfected by Sergio Busquets. This deep-lying midfielder is tasked with linking the defence and attack, and needs to be capable of assisting the central defenders, winning the ball back and then recycling possession accurately without wasting time.
If Liverpool can get Lucas Leiva back to full fitness, they have the perfect player for this task. The Brazilian recovers the ball as well as anybody, and his passing is also underrated. Lucas performed admirably under Kenny Dalglish before his injury, so it's not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that he could do even better under Brendan Rodgers' tactical influence.
This video demonstrated how a Barcelona-style midfield pivot should play. Can Lucas Leiva do the same for Brendan Rodgers?
The midfield duo
In Xavi and Iniesta, Barcelona have a telepathic midfield pair that are always close to one another on the pitch, ready to exchange the ball and outsmart even the best of opponents. Unfortunately for Liverpool, they can't sign either player, but they can take some influence from them and apply it to their own middle men.
Though not particularly similar to Iniesta in style, one thing both Steven Gerrard and the Barca man share is their directness. While Xavi likes to stay slightly deeper and keep things ticking over, Iniesta can often be seen running at defenders and terrorising them with his dribbling ability. Gerrard has made a career out of causing the opposition problems with his driving runs from midfield, so it's likely that he will be asked to do something similar for Brendan Rodgers.
As far as Gerrard's partner goes, it's not yet clear whether Rodgers will look to sign a player to fill this position or take his pick from one of the midfielders currently available to him. Anfield misfit Alberto Aquilani impressed during Liverpool's pre-season game against Toronto FC, gaining praise for his pressing off the ball and selfless passing, so there may yet be a route back into the Liverpool set-up for him under Rodgers. Charlie Adam is another alternative for the role, but he'll need to cut out his love of the Hollywood pass and improve his decision making if he hopes to stake a claim. Finally, should Liverpool look to sign a player for the task, then Swansea City's Joe Allen is an option. The midfielder rarely wastes a ball, and it's this kind of eye for the simple but effective pass that makes him an attractive potential signing.
It looks like Alberto Aquilani is finally finding his passing rhythm in a Liverpool shirt. Could he be partnering Steven Gerrard this season?
The three forwards
In Luis Suarez and Fabio Borini, Liverpool have two exceptionally gifted forwards with technical ability and potential goals in abundance. Suarez enjoyed the best years of his career at Ajax, so the Uruguayan will be relishing the prospect of playing under Rodgers with his similar tactical approach. Fabio Borini scored 26 goals last year under Luis Enrique at Roma and was one of the few players to truly excel as part of the former Barcelona man's new tactical approach in Rome. Like Suarez, the Italian should slot in to the Rodgers system seamlessly and he has already shown in the past that he understands Rodgers' methods well.
The only dilemma Liverpool have in their forward line is who will join the two in attack. It looks like Liverpool's number one choice is Clint Dempsey and it's easy to see why, as the American has and excellent goal-scoring record and is familiar with the Premier League. His aggression and desire to win the ball back is fits the mould of what Rodgers expects from his players, so Liverpool will hope they can convince Fulham to sell.
One player who doesn't look likely to fit in, however, is Andy Carroll. Though the Englishman clearly has his own strengths, they aren't necessarily qualities which fit the Brendan Rodgers philosophy, so the old adage of square pegs and round holes applies. Perhaps he can prove his new manager wrong, but the most likely outcome looks to be a transfer, though whether that's in the current window or at a later date remains to be seen.
Luis Suarez scored 35 league goals in one season at Ajax, and he'll relish the opportunity to play in a similar system under Brendan Rodgers...
Do you think Brendan Rodgers can get Liverpool playing in the Barcelona style, or is it too much to ask too soon? Comment below and have your say...