Liverpool finally confirm backroom changes – have they gone far enough?

After a horrendous season by Liverpool standards that saw the club crash out of Europe as early as possible – twice – as well as making it three years in a row without a trophy and slumping to a sixth place finish in the league it was obvious something needed to change. Brendan Rodgers kept his job but sacked his two assistants, bringing in Sean O’Driscoll in place of Colin Pascoe and creating a new role lower down the first-team coaching staff for Pepijn Lijnders.

Liverpool FC today officially announced two new appointments to Brendan Rodgers’ first-team coaching setup. Although the club are yet to officially announce the departures of former assistant manager Colin Pascoe or former first team coach Mike Marsh, both understood to have been given the news of their sackings whilst on holiday, the Reds have confirmed one of their replacements.

Sean O’Driscoll replaces Pascoe as assistant manager to Brendan Rodgers, with the club yet to announce a replacement for Marsh as first team coach.

O’Driscoll was England under-19 coach before taking the job at Anfield, before which he had been Bristol City manager for just under two years before being sacked with the club bottom of League One with only six points and without a win from 11 games. O’Driscoll had arrived 11 months earlier with the club fighting relegation from the Championship and was unable to save them from the drop.

He was also sacked as manager of Doncaster Rovers in 2011, when after seven games of the season his side had managed a single point. That run followed on from a poor finish the previous season in which he was only able to lead his side to one win from their last 19 games.

The Wolverhampton-born coach was also sacked by Nottingham Forest in 2012, however the club’s chairman said at the time that he “can count himself unlucky to have lost his job with the team just one point away from the top six.”

O’Driscoll’s Forest side included a number of new signings and the chairman stated that although the club knew it would take time for them to settle in, “that process has taken longer than we anticipated,” and that the club was “still searching for consistency in terms of team performance, underlined by the fact that we have not won more than two games in succession in the Championship this season,” adding that they were looking to bring in an ambitious manager with Premier League experience.”

 

sean-o-driscoll-1322Of course all of those roles were as manager, not assistant manager, and Brendan Rodgers says he is positive and excited to have the former Fulham man by his side: “I have made these appointments because I want to take us in a new technical direction, in terms of coaching.

“I believe the entire first-team set-up will benefit and I am extremely positive and excited about what we can achieve, as a group, going forward.”

There was no mention of Colin Pascoe whatsoever in the statement on the club’s official site and no words of thanks from Brendan Rodgers for a man he had worked with long before he arrived at Anfield.

Rodgers instead focussed on the new boys: “My admiration for Sean, as a professional, is well documented,” said Rodgers.

“He is someone with a clear vision and philosophy and has proved he has the ability to transfer that knowledge, through his coaching, to the players.”

It had been hoped by many Liverpool fans that any replacement for Pascoe would be with someone with experience not only in top-flight football but at the elite end of it, including European experience. Instead Rodgers has replaced his old friend with someone more accustomed to life in the lower leagues. O’Driscoll spent most of his playing days with Bournemouth, which is where he also began his coaching career, including a six-year stint as manager and promotion through the play-offs to what is now known as League One.

Rodgers added: “I am looking forward to working with him and also learning from his experiences and gaining valuable knowledge from his expertise.”

For O’Driscoll it’s quite clearly a bigger move than he could ever have hoped for, as he said in the club statement, although there probably wasn’t really any need to give Ian Ayre a mention: “I am excited to be joining one of the world’s most iconic football clubs. The hallmark of any successful club is its culture and that comes from the people who work there, from the chief executive and first-team manager to those people behind the scenes whose faces may not be known but who are the lifeblood of the club.”

O’Driscoll says he feels welcome at the club and can’t help but notice the desire for success: “From the moment I drove into Melwood last week and was greeted by Kenny the gateman, I could not have been made to feel more welcome.

“If you are going to have any level of success these people are as crucial as the players,” he added. “From my experiences so far it’s clear everyone wants to help this club succeed.”

As assistant manager O’Driscoll will only be asked on rare occasions to deal with the media immediately after a match, which is perhaps just as well if one particular post-match interview as Bristol City boss is anything to go by.

First team staff list, from the official LFC site

First team staff list, from the official LFC site

The role for Lijnders, reported in the midst of the club’s apparent information blackout as being the new first team coach, or the manager’s No.3, isn’t quite at the level it was thought to be. The former PSV Eindhoven and FC Porto man, who was in charge of the club’s U16s last season, is to get a role that overlaps between the first team and the Academy. On the official website he is the seventh name down, listed in between the goalkeeping coach and the head of physiotherapy.

Rodgers said: “This presents a fantastic opportunity for Pep and one I know he will grasp with both hands.

“He has excelled at the Academy and I believe this is the perfect time for him to make the step up to the first-team set-up and use his talents for the benefit of the senior squad.

“Pep displays a passion and enthusiasm for his profession that is truly infectious and I believe will have a positive impact.”

The role will see him working with “elite talent” at the Academy as well as with the first team and Lijnders is delighted to be given the chance: “I feel proud and honoured to work closely with Brendan and his staff,” Pepijn said.

Pepijn_Lijnders-12321“I couldn’t think of a better attacking manager to assist,” he added. “Everybody knows how I feel about representing this amazing club.”

Lijnders thanked the owners for the promotion: “The owners have a clear and strong philosophy which is based on developing top young players into elite – I want to thank them for giving me this opportunity.

“I had a great first year at the Liverpool FC Academy, I am proud to be part of the team and we will give everything.”

It is reported that Liverpool will be appointing a new first team coach to replace Mike Marsh and it is expected an announcement relating to that will be made before too long. Whether the club and the manager officially acknowledge the efforts of Pascoe and Marsh remains to be seen.

The Reds’ first pre-season game is in just over a week, with the club also announcing today that their new away kit – expected to be white – will be unveiled during the tour. The third kit was unveiled on the final day of the season when the Reds wore it for that 6-1 defeat at Stoke.

Moves to continue to add to Rodgers’ squad continue, with a striker considered the next most important target after Liverpool struggled so badly for goals last season.

After many – but not all – fans called for the manager’s head, are the changes going to be enough to get Liverpool heading the right way again? The season starts in a month, we’ll soon have a good idea.

Lallana: Nathaniel Clyne is a “massive signing” for Liverpool

Adam Lallana describes Liverpool’s new £12.5m full-back and his former Southampton teammate Nathaniel Clyne as a “massive signing” for the club and says the Reds’ work so far this transfer window has been “tremendous”.

New boy Nathaniel Clyne has been welcomed to Anfield with open arms by his friend, England teammate and former Southampton teammate Adam Lallana. The full back was unveiled earlier this week after the Reds agreed a £12.5m fee with the Saints for his services and Lallana predicts he’ll be a success for Liverpool.

“He’s as solid as they come for a right-back and, getting forward, he’s got goals in his locker,” Lallana said. “In one-v-one situations defensively, he’s the kind of full-back you just don’t want to come up against,” he added.

“Off the pitch, he’ll fit in absolutely fine. He’s quite quiet and likes to just get on with his football, but he’s a great lad and knowing the Liverpool dressing room, he’ll fit in absolutely perfectly.”

(Image: Liverpool FC)

(Image: Liverpool FC)

 

Clyne will be expected to settle in quickly at Anfield with the fee paid putting him towards the top end of the club’s spending on defenders down the years. He’s the fourth most expensive Reds defender of all time, just ahead of Alberto Moreno, and the second most expensive full-back the club have ever signed. The player he replaces, Glen Johnson, was the most expensive full-back, with centre-backs Mamadou Sakho and another of his former Saints teammates, Dejan Lovren, topping the club’s defensive spending chart.

Lallana, himself the second most expensive player Liverpool had ever signed when he arrived last year – he’s now third after Roberto Firmino took second place with that £29m fee – is delighted with the work the club have done so far to bring new faces in. “The signings so far have been tremendous,” he said. “There’s Firmino, Milner, Ings and now Clyne, as well as Bogdan and Gomez. It’s a great variety and added to what we’ve already got, hopefully it can be a good combination for success.”

Will Clyne make a difference for Liverpool? “It’s a massive signing for us,” Lallana said.

“I played with him for a couple of seasons at Southampton and since they signed him, he’s come on a lot. Last season he probably had his best season at Southampton, got an England call up and he’s been a regular in the squad ever since.”

Lallana suggests he was surprised Liverpool managed to land him, given the absence of Champions League football and reported interest from top clubs at home and abroad: “To manage to persuade him to sign for Liverpool – as I’m sure there would have been other top clubs, and even European clubs, interested in him – is a great coup for us.” Lallana said.

The Reds attacking midfielder also revealed he’d been on a break with Clyne this summer before the deal was done and that he’d discussed the move with him. “I’ve spoken to him and I was actually on holiday with him for a little bit this summer.” Lallana explained. “We were in America together. I managed to speak to him about it there and I kind of knew it could be on the cards.

“His intentions were there and he was hoping the deal could get sorted.”

Adam-Lallana-signs-for-Liverpool

Adam Lallana signed for Liverpool last summer (Pic: Liverpool FC)

Speaking to the club’s official website, Lallana said there wasn’t much persuasion needed on his part: “Liverpool explains itself.” He said. “The whole world knows about Liverpool.

“I just said to him that I hoped the deal would get done as it’ll be a great place for him to improve even more, especially under Brendan Rodgers’ guidance.”

The 24-year-old spent three seasons as St Mary’s before Liverpool signed him and Lallana has seen him mature and develop since his old club bought him from Crystal Palace: “I’ve not been surprised by his progress,” says Lallana.

“When Southampton signed him from Palace, you could see he had potential. Since then, he’s developed and learnt the game – he’s turned from a kid into a man on the pitch.”

Lallana is coming to the end of his summer break, cut short because of England duty and busy because of a new arrival in his family, but he says he’ll be ready to get back into action for the club’s pre-season tour and the new season ahead.

“I think everyone’s looking forward to getting back,” he said. “We’ve got an exciting tour, but we’ve still got a few more days left of our holidays, which we’ll enjoy because it’s a tough and long season.

“It’s not been too long [the break], but I’ve spent time with the family. I’ve just had another baby boy – my wife gave birth on June 2 – so it’s been quite full on, really, in terms of bottle feeding and entertaining my three-year-old, too.

“It’s been great fun. There’ve been a few sleepless nights, but not too many!”

Can Liverpool finish in the top four?

After Liverpool finished second to Manchester City in the 2013-14 campaign, they were extremely disappointing last season and finished sixth in the Premier League table. Brendan Rodgers accepted the need for change at the club and has already been active in the transfer window, signing Burnley striker Danny Ings, Manchester City midfielder James Milner, Hoffenheim forward Roberto Firmino and this week confirming a deal for England international Nathaniel Clyne. Liverpool supporters are excited at their chances this campaign and the Reds are well placed to compete for a top-four finish – which would bring Champions League football back to Anfield next season.

Liverpool were foolish in the transfer window last summer and failed to invest wisely after selling star striker Luis Suarez to Barcelona for an estimated fee of around £75million. The Reds struggled in the opening few matches of the campaign and many believe they panicked before buying Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. This season, Rodgers has acted quickly to secure the services of talented, experienced players as the squad begin to adapt to life without Steven Gerrard. Milner will bring stamina and energy to the midfield, while Ings – who scored 11 goals for Burnley last season – will provide some much needed support to Daniel Sturridge in attack.

sturridge-15-1

Image: Dean Jones

Furthermore, Brazil star Firmino – who is currently on international duty at the Copa America – has agreed to join the club and could be the ideal replacement for Raheem Sterling if the 20-year-old leaves this summer. Southampton’s Clyne was arguably the best right-back in the Premier League last season and, for less than £15 million, is an absolute bargain when compared with the £30million that rivals Manchester United paid for 19-year-old Luke Shaw.

Each of Liverpool’s signings will bring something a little different to the club and Reds fans are already licking their lips at the prospect of a three-pronged attack including Sturridge, Coutinho and Firmino. Many people believe that Liverpool are now not only well placed for a top-four push, but to challenge for the title. In fact, Liverpool supporters may have taken advantage of bookmaker signup offers to ensure that they receive the best odds possible for the Reds to win the Premier League crown this campaign.

Rodgers’ men finished a long way behind fourth-placed Manchester United last season but have already earned two huge psychological blows ahead of the upcoming campaign. The 13-time Premier League champions were reportedly interested in both Firmino and Clyne but their arch rivals secured their services early, much to the dismay of United’s supporters and to the delight of Liverpool’s. Fans are certainly excited at the prospect of watching their team this season after a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.

It is perhaps more realistic for Liverpool to target a top-four finish this season – a result that most supporters would be happy with at the start of the campaign. It may take some time for Rodgers’ new-look side to gel but they will be a huge threat in the near future. Liverpool’s signings so far have been smart purchases and they are more than capable of climbing up the table and guaranteeing those special European nights return to Anfield for the 2016-17 season.

Nathaniel Clyne signs for Liverpool

Southampton and England full-back Nathaniel Clyne has become the sixth new name to be added to Brendan Rodgers’ squad this summer as the Reds continue to get their recruitment in early.

Liverpool have bought a defender from Southampton for the second summer in succession – the fourth signing from the South Coast side in the space of a year – as right-back Nathaniel Clyne joins the club for a reported £12.5m fee.

The two clubs agreed a fee last week and the 24-year-old full-back had his medical earlier this week but it wasn’t until today that the club confirmed he had signed a “long term” contract at Anfield.

Speaking after signing for the Reds, Clyne said: “I’m delighted and it’s a dream move for me to come here and play for such a big club with all of its history,” adding: “I can’t wait to get started.”

clyne-signs-liverpool

Liverpool have been linked with a move for the player for some time and he says once he was aware there was a possibility of him moving to Merseyside he wanted it to happen: “As soon as Liverpool showed their interest in me, I was happy and just wanted the deal to go through.

“The gaffer has shown a lot of interest in me and this is a place where I can improve as a player, I think.

“It’s definitely a good opportunity to come here and try to fulfil my potential.”

Clyne also sent a message out to Liverpool fans through his Twitter account, tweeting: “I’m very proud and honoured to have signed for @LFC it’s a special club with a lot of history and looking forward to getting started now.”

Liverpool have signed two forwards – Danny Ings and Roberto Firmino – with a third, Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke, understood to be close to a switch from Aston Villa. Also recruited so far this transfer window are midfielder James Milner, goalkeeper Adam Bogdan and another defender, Joe Gomez.

There have also been changes to the coaching staff. Manager Brendan Rodgers kept his job but sacked his two assistants, Colin Pascoe and Mike Marsh, reportedly appointing England U19 coach Sean O’Driscoll and Liverpool U16 coach Pepijn Lijnders as replacements.

The club are yet to officially confirm any of the news on the changes to the coaching staff.

Clyne scored for Southampton at the Kop end last season and knows what it’s like to play at Anfield: “I’ve played at Anfield before and know what the atmosphere is all about,” he said.

“It’s a great atmosphere and will make me rise to the challenge. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully it can push me on to putting on good performances.”

Liverpool only finished one place above Southampton last term but the changes being made are designed to help Liverpool get back into the Champions League as part of what might be a last chance for Rodgers to prove that last season was a one-off and that he can ensure the Reds return to the form, results and style of 2013-14.