Brendan Rodgers was the manager of the season.
I’ll take your Alan Pardew and I’ll raise you an Alan Pard-who? I jest, Pardew did incredibly well with under the radar signings and clever tactics. Just how close he really was to the champions league cannot be underestimated, a last minute goal from Thomas Vermaelen (last kick of the game even) at the Emirates worth a vital “6” points to Arsenal.
However, Swansea’s football was a hedonistic blend of perfect precision passing, a work ethic for off the ball pressure that would put Pep to shame and then add to this cocksure combo a lovely dash of giant killing and Swansea were comfortably my favourite team outside Ashburton Grove.
Prior to this season it was assumed that for a team without access to the champions league honey pot, or without an oil rich oligarch hungry for glory, success in one on one duels with the big boys was hard to come by. The only way to achieve success in these mano el mano’s was to neutralise the big boy, then sneak a goal and run off into the sunset, sharing cheeky high fives with your charming urchin comrades.
The best example of this would be Everton, a team who seem to have so little money they’re always just one loan repayment away from having to take public transport to their next fixtures. Whenever Everton play a team bigger than themselves they rarely seek to impose themselves on the game. Instead allowing the opposition to play their football, then exploiting any inherent weakness to sneak a point(s). This tactic has served David Moyes extremely well, consistently performing above expectations and occasionally outperforming their more financially blessed Merseyside rivals. Blackpool provided ammo to this ethos, with Holloway’s side of 10/11 attempting to beat the big boys at their own game. But in the words of the sensei they racked disciprine (www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdbORXEmbnk) and failed to close down off the ball, leading to a glorious relegation. The futility of this noble failure was proven when Iain Holloway remarked that while he was nominated for sports personality of the year in 10/11, he didn’t even receive an invite to the ceremony in 11/12.
Swansea took one look at this Status Quo, told it that Rocking All Over The World was a pile of wank and proceeded to rewrite the rule book. Like Barcelona and Bilbao they used their ability to retain possession as a defensive tactic. If possession was lost, every team member forced the opposition to feast on an extra large serving of pressure flan, inevitably forcing an error or restricting available options and allowing a team mate to intercept the oppositions desperate passing. This impressive disciprine allowed Swansea to kick Mr Goliath right in the japs eye and take 3 points from Arsenal, Manchester City and, Brendan Rodgers future employers, Liverpool at the Liberty Stadium.
Which leads us to the current conundrum. Liverpool have spent over £100 million pounds on British (shit) talent, and their style of play this season has been that of a traditionally British team. A direct brand of football, focusing play down the wings and utilising long, Hollywood passes via Adam or Gerrard. Suarez being the exception to the rule, with his impressive dribbling skill only matched by his ability to be a massive cunt.
The mismatch between the Brendan Rodgers philosophy and the current Liverpool squad has led many to doubt the current teams ability to adapt, with Andy Carroll bearing the brunt of this doubt. However one look at Llorente, one lingering look at that sultry Basque bastard, will suggest that all may not be lost for Andy the antihero.
Llorente is a really handsome guy. He’s so attractive that just one look at him will turn your penis into a homosexual. Your mind may remain totally straight, you’ll go around quite happy with the favourable clothes to boob ratio synonymous with the summer months. Then the next time El Capitan Corrigan is called into action there will be an alarming ceasefire in your Basque cannon, and you’ll know that your penis is now a homosexual.
Andy Carroll will never do such a thing to your penis, he just doesn’t possess that quality. More importantly to Liverpool he does possess similar qualities to Llorente in: his height, strength, ability to hold up play, clever runs in the box, and his impressive close control (see the goal he scored in the FA cup final, outfoxing Terry with a sidestep in the box). Now admittedly, these qualities I’ve generously assigned to Andy Carroll are the qualities of Andy Carroll at his best. Qualities he seemed to be rediscovering towards the end of the season and qualities he has displayed whenever playing for the England team.
Now I’m not saying that Carroll is as good as Llorente, and I’m certainly not saying that he is as enchanting. But the style of play that allows Llorente to flourish in Bielsa’s Bilbao is almost exactly the type of play that Rodgers will look to instil in Liverpool; constant pressure on the opposition, retaining the long diagonal balls from deep in midfield, and short accurate passing when in the oppositions half. Andy Carroll doesn’t have to be sent to the knackers to be made into glue just yet, he may yet Basque in the glory of Rodgers.