BRENDAN RODGERS believes the return of Lucas Leiva will allow Liverpool to mould a more cohesive, creative team, and says their first-half performance against Southampton was a sign of things to come at Anfield.
The Reds picked up their fourth Premier League win of the campaign with a deserved 1-0 success over thee struggling Saints at Anfield, with Daniel Agger’s first-half header enough to secure back-to-back home league wins for the first time in 15 months.
Lucas had missed the last three months with a thigh injury, but returned to the starting line-up, playing 88 minutes and turning in an impressive performance.
And Rodgers believes the Brazilian’s presence will add an extra dimension to his team, his defensive awareness freeing up the likes of Joe Allen and Steven Gerrard, as well as full backs Glen Johnson and Jose Enrique, who impressed here, to join in attacking moves.
"The idea here is to build a team that has a method to it," said Rodgers. "We are trying to build an identity here so that over the next couple of years people can come and look at Liverpool and say ‘this is how they play’. We pass the ball, we move the ball, we interchange, and we defend as one’.
"You see with Lucas today. All of a sudden, you put the right profile of player in the right position, and it frees up your offensive threats. He gives us great stability when we haven’t got the ball, he intercepts, his transition is good, he gets the ball back quickly.
"He knows the game, and he can read the game.
"With the midfield working like that, it gives your two full backs the chance to go and join in. I thought Jose Enrique today was unplayable, and Johnson too.
"So you see those two bombing on, you’ve got your controlling midfielder protecting the centre halves in that defensive triangle, your two advanced midfield players joining in in Joe and Steven, and then you’ve got your front three. That gives you a real creative threat, and I felt we had that today. Today, especially in the first half, was probably the first time it was really there systematically and relentless."
The win was not enough to move the Reds out of the bottom half of the table. They remain 11th, but are just seven points behind third-placed Chelsea, and Rodgers believes his side will continue to improve in the coming months.
"We’re not far," he said. "It’s only seven points to the top four.
"And one thing is for sure; we are going to get better. We are on the move. It’s a steep climb for us, but we’re climbing steadily, and I would rather do that than be a flash in the pan where we drop off and are back to square one again.
"For us, it’s about getting a way of playing in place which will serve us well going forward. We’ve made changes throughout the club, in the Academy structure this week. Rodolfo (Borrell), who has a way of thinking that is very similar to mine, has moved up and we’ve got Alex (Inglethorpe) in to coach the reserves.
"That will drip feed its way through the club, and we then have a vision that will serve us well in the future."