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Brendan Rodgers: A brief history of Liverpool’s new manager

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source: Getty ImagesHe’s only 39 years old. Kenny Dalglish was 59 when he returned. Roy Hodgson was hired at 62. Rafa Benítez was 44, and Gerard Houllier was 50. While the difference between Benítez’ and Rodgers’ ages isn’t that big, the former Swansea City manager’s lack of experience makes this a big shift for Liverpool. They’re going new. They’re going young.

They’re also going away from a man with huge playing experience to one with virtually none. Kenny Dalglish is thought by many to be the best player in Liverpool history thanks to his striking exploits from 1977-1990 (scoring 169 times). For Rodgers, a genetic knee problem ended his career just as he was leaving Northern Ireland.

At 18, he had moved to Reading, but Rodgers never played a senior game. By the time he was 20, the defender was done battling his condition in reserve games. He hung up his boots and started his second career.

In time, Rodgers became the head youth development at Reading, a job that would see him spend a large chunk of his 20s driving the English countryside trying to mine talent. While it wasn’t playing, it did lead to his big break: Being lured to Chelsea to join José Mourinho.

“I like everything in him,” Mourinho told the BBC last year, explaining why he sought out Rodgers to head Chelsea’s academy. “He is ambitious and does not see football very differently from myself. He is open, likes to learn and likes to communicate.”

His first manager’s job came only four seasons ago. He took over Jay DeMerit’s Watford after a slow start to the 2008-09 season had the Hertfordshire club near the bottom of England’s second division. After some initial stumbles, Rodgers had the Hornets mid-table by season’s end.

The turnaround earned him an ill-fated move back to Reading. Steve Coppell had just guided the Royals to fourth but left following his sixth season with the club, having failed to return Reading to the Premier League.

Rodgers’ tenure would be much shorter. He lasted half a season, winning only six of 23 matches before agreeing to leave the Madejski Stadium, leaving the then-36-year-old in a bit of a managerial wilderness.

It wouldn’t last. The next year, Rodgers was back in the game, moving to Wales to take over at the Liberty Stadium. It was a perfect match: A club committed to playing “progressive” soccer (as Rodgers calls it) hiring a man relishing the responsibility of implementing it.

In his first year on the job, Rodgers returned Swansea to the first division for the first time since 1983. Former Chelsea academy recruit Scott Sinclair, who Rodgers had brought to Swansea, scored three goals at Wembley Stadium to lead Swans through the Championship playoff. And in their Premier League debut, Swansea finished 11th, all the while while cementing their reputation for playing “progressive,” attractive soccer.

Now, four years after making his managerial debut (and just over two years after leaving Reading), Rodgers has one of the most prized managerial positions in English soccer. It’s a rise not unlike that of Mourinho’s, who was steering Chelsea to its first Premier League title just four years after debuting at Benfica.

Rodgers’ managerial career

Team Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Watford Nov. 2008 – June 2009 13-12-7 40.6%
Reading June 2009 – Dec. 2009 6-11-6 26.1%
Swansea City July 2010-May 2012 43-33-30 44.8

Previous Liverpool managers (July 1998-May 2012)

Manager Tenure Record
(W-L-D)
Win Pct.
Gérard Houllier July 1998 – May 2004 165-79-81 50.8%
Rafael Benítez June 2004 – June 2010 194-79-77 55.4%
Roy Hodgson July 2010 – Jan. 2011 13-9-9 41.9%
Kenny Dalglish Jan. 2011 – May 2012 35-21-17 47.9%

Seven unheralded stars of this Premier League season

during the Barclays Premier League match between A.F.C. Bournemouth and Tottenham Hotspur at Vitality Stadium on October 25, 2015 in Bournemouth, England.
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Look, it’s been a crazy year in the Premier League. Leicester City is top by five points, Chelsea is a bottom-half side, and not one of the league’s top three scorers hails from a team in last season’s Top Four.

So it follows that among the league’s other statistical leaders — advanced and traditional — are some surprisingly shining stars.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Or at least they aren’t mentioned a ton. We plan to rectify that here. By no means do we claim these statistical leaders without fault this season, but hats off to the good they’ve done (or, in some cases, the pain they’ve felt).

Most saves in a starring role

You wouldn’t know it from the goal totals these past few weeks, but Stoke City’s Jack Butland has been playing otherworldly between the sticks. His 87 saves lead the Premier League, and the Potters would be in the thick of a relegation battle if he hadn’t shone as brightly.

Ironman

Eleven players have played every minute of their side’s Premier League campaign this season (a 12th, Gareth Barry, has played all but one). Four of those 11 are goalkeepers, and six more are defenders. The only midfielder? Bournemouth’s South African standout Andrew Surman (above).

Top thief, too

Surman is also the league leader in interceptions with 92. The next seven players on the list, headed by Chris Smalling, are all defenders.

The most under-appreciated of the underdogs

Kante (Mark Thompson / Getty Images)

Leicester City has been fantastic, and people are quick to name Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy as big parts of the table-topping effort at King Power Stadium. Then, perhaps they’ll say something about goalkeeper Kaspar Schmeichel or defender Wes Morgan.

But how about the Premier League’s leader in tackles. Midfielder N'Golo Kante (right) has 115 tackles, 12 more than second-best Yohan Cabaye of Crystal Palace.

An all-expense paid journey to the massage parlor for…

Five players have been fouled more than 50 times this year, and you need to be around the ball a lot for that to happen. The four also-rans are Southampton’s Sadio Mane, Swansea City’s Andre Ayew, Everton’s Ross Barkley and Mahrez, but the man who deserved to skip to the head of the ice bath line is from Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha has been fouled 59 times. And that’s the amount of times the foulers were caught in the act.

Let Newcastle United’s captain climb in second, though; Fabricio Coloccini‘s 47 blocked shots are eight more than runners-up Neil Taylor (Swans) and Christian Fuchs (Leicester).

A man possessed

He hasn’t been heralded like a year ago, and most witnesses would tell you the midfielder’s been playing much worse. No, touches don’t equal success, but Cesc Fabregas‘ 2,027 credited touches are 74 more than the next player despite the fact that he’s the only player in the top four to have started less than 25 matches. He’s also completed 83 more passes than the closest competitor (Surman).

All-around stars

Advanced stats site Squawka uses an algorithm to generate statistics on who just might be the most complete player in the Premier League.

It’s certainly not foolproof, but the best player per-90 minutes would likely surprise you: Mousa Dembele of Spurs (Minimum 15 matches).

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As for who’s produced the most when numbers are averaged out over the entire game, one man rises to the top: Ross Barkley.

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Oft-targeted in the Premier League, Carvalho extends deal at Lisbon

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William Carvalho has been running through the rumor mill for ages, and Sporting Lisbon has made sure they’ll get their due if he ever stops somewhere else.

The Angola-born Portuguese defensive midfielder with 15 caps has extended his contract with Sporting through 2020, a date that carries him through his 28th birthday.

[ MORE: West Ham 3-2 Liverpool | Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

Carvalho is 23 now, and has been linked with loads of big name clubs from Manchester United to Chelsea, Arsenal to PSG.

His new buyout clause is said to be as high as $53 million, and Carvalho hopes his commitment calms his supporters.

“Sportinguistas, I say to you that I am very happy with the deal which I signed up to 2020 and that you will have total effort on my part to be champions.”

Sporting is tied with Benfica atop the Portuguese table, second on goal differential. The club leads third-place Porto by six points, and is still alive in the Europa League. Bayer Leverkusen is up next.

Klinsmann hints at Euro-heavy roster for World Cup qualifiers

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Danny Williams #14 of the United States looks on before an international friendly against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on September 8, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images)
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If your favorite Major League Soccer players don’t make the cut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s next roster, don’t think you won’t see them in the red, white and blue this summer.

[ JPW: What’s the best XI for USMNT’s World Cup qualifiers? ]

Perhaps it’ll be different for the players who were a part of January camp — stars Lee Nguyen and Steve Birnbaum chief among them — but Klinsmann says the late start of the MLS season can affect fitness for the critical qualifiers home and away to Guatemala.

That means there’s a better chance to see in-form Championship midfielder Danny Williams (above) or Pachuca’s Omar Gonzalez then, say, Orlando City’s Brek Shea or Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman.

From USSoccer.com:

“We are basically looking all over the place. We monitor all the players in Europe. We monitor all the players in Mexico, and obviously we can’t wait until MLS starts as well. It’s really kind of crucial that we see everybody getting in the best shape possible, everybody getting into a rhythm and making statements.

“Then you say, ‘Is the roster you see at the end of March the same one as Copa America?’ Probably not. The end of March comes early for MLS players. The European players are in the full swing, and also Mexican players because they started already a month ago with Liga MX. So we’ll be monitoring everyone.”

We’ve already covered the obstacle that is the CONCACAF-CONMEBOL Olympic qualifying playoff occurring at the same time as the Guatemala matches, but this is still good news for players in England, Germany and other European locales seeking caps in March.

Klopp on struggling Benteke: “He wants to score and we need him to score”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 09:  Christian Benteke of Liverpool reacts as he foiled by goalkeeper Darren Randolph of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round Replay match between West Ham United and Liverpool at Boleyn Ground on February 9, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Jurgen Klopp had his appendix removed this weekend, but it’s doubtful he’s feeling as sore as his big Belgian striker.

Christian Benteke had the opportunity to put himself in the good graces of Liverpool fans with a number of decent chances in Tuesday’s FA Cup loss to West Ham, but couldn’t get the job done.

[ MORE: Match recap | Watch Coutinho’s slick free kick ]

In one case, Benteke put himself in a prime spot only to lash his shot wide of the post. Instead, he’s now at 11 appearances without a goal (despite ripping nine shots against the Irons).

From the BBC:

“I don’t believe in the easy goal. He has to carry on like this. It’s not the nicest moment in his career but he has to work hard. He wants to score and we need him to score. We will work on it in the days, weeks and months.”

Klopp maintained that Liverpool was “the better team” on the night — counterpart Slaven Bilic disagreed — despite conceding a pair of very similar looking goals.

The game could’ve avoided extra time through Benteke’s boots and body, but he couldn’t find his finish again.

The 25-year-old has seen his goal production drop by nearly half since joining from Aston Villa in the summer, and it’s sure to return… just maybe not under Klopp.