In Depth

New direction for Liverpool as Rodgers overcomes 'trauma'

Victory over Stoke was a vindication of sorts for Reds boss, who is now firmly in charge at Anfield

Liverpool's winning goal against Stoke on the opening weekend of the Premier League season provided a cathartic moment for manager Brendan Rodgers after the humiliation of his side's 6-1 defeat against the same opponents on the last day of the previous season.

The abject end to the campaign almost cost the Northern Irishman his job, but in the end he won the backing of Liverpool's American owners and after a frank end-of-season review Rodgers appears to have emerged in a stronger position than before.

"The team that took to the field at the Britannia Stadium on Sunday highlighted this bold approach as it showed that, whether Rodgers succeeds or fails, he will be doing so on his own terms," write Tony Barrett in The Times.

His starting XI featured Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren, James Milner, Adam Lallana and Christian Benteke, "players that he identified and convinced his employers to sign", says Barrett. Players targeted by Liverpool's infamous transfer committee, like Mamadou Sakho, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno and Divock Origi, were omitted.

Victory over Stoke, he adds, "afforded Rodgers an early vindication" as Rodgers and Fenway Sports Group try to "remove many of the grey areas that clouded everything from team selection to performance assessment last season".

The game also saw a change in tactics from Rodgers. After signing striker Benteke for £32.5m he has "decided quite wisely to play to his strengths", says Alan Smith in the Daily Telegraph.

"For the very first time since arriving at Anfield three years ago, Rodgers instructed his goalkeeper, with the back four pushed up, to launch long balls towards the striker... we are talking about a major departure from the manager's well-known ethos of sticking to a patient, passing game," he adds.

"All the previous talk, then, about Liverpool's intricate style not suiting Benteke may be rendered redundant by a sensible tweak."

Rodgers may have a stronger grip on club affairs than before, but he has admitted that the past four years have been among the "most traumatic" of his life.

As well having to deal with the pressure of managing one of the world's biggest football clubs he has had to deal with off-field stress, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Talking to author Michael Calvin for a new book on the stress of football management Rodgers said: "I lost my mum. I lost my dad. I split up from the woman I loved for 23 years. I had a court case, two Old Bailey trials over six weeks with my son who was charged with sexual assault, which was an absolute disgrace.

"Yet professionally, here and at Swansea, these have been the best four years of my life. Something has to come from within. You have to put the professional and personal to each side. It's about being happy of course, but the owners have paid me to do a job, so I will do the job."

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