The manager says frank chats have led to amicable departures or to the development of attitudes he seeks at Anfield
Brendan Rodgers returns to Swansea City on Monday evening, not for the first time as Liverpool manager but the first time as manager of the month, with a side at the top of the table at the start of the weekend and the Premier League's only 100% record.
"We've made a good start," he says. "But it is only a start. It is important to maintain the level we have set for ourselves and no one here is getting over-excited this early. I believe we can still play better and of course you don't need to tell me that you never get an easy game at the Liberty Stadium."
Waiting to meet Liverpool in south Wales will be Jonjo Shelvey, formerly of Anfield, a player who decided to take Rodgers' advice when he realised his opportunities on Merseyside would be limited. "Jonjo himself will tell you what happened," Rodgers says. "He wanted to know where he stood, so I told him. I said: 'Where you are at the moment is behind the captain of Liverpool and England, who plays in your position. So you can stay and pick up knowledge and experience but probably not play in too many games for the next couple of years or you can find a new club and play week in week out. Several clubs have expressed an interest in taking you but the one I would recommend is Swansea.'"
Shelvey listened, as did Pepe Reina when Rodgers told him he wanted more competition for the goalkeeper's shirt. "Pepe is a lovely guy and a very good goalkeeper but I didn't think he was being pushed hard enough," the Liverpool manager explains. "So I took him out for dinner and told him that. I explained that my whole coaching philosophy is based on hunger and competition and I didn't want anyone getting too comfortable.
"He had been at the club a number of years and done well but I didn't do anything underhand. I looked him in the eye and told him I was thinking of bringing in another goalkeeper good enough to be No1. He accepted that at the time. When he decided he wanted to go on loan to Napoli I never got the two No1s I had wanted but I still ended up with a good goalkeeper. Simon Mignolet had the hunger, he wanted to come here and prove himself and that's what I wanted to see. I was comfortable enough with the situation to let Pepe go. Looking at it from his position, it is a World Cup season and he needs to be on view."
Although a restaurant seems the perfect venue to debate whether or not a player is sufficiently hungry, Rodgers does not make a habit of booking tables to deliver bad news, otherwise he would quickly find himself dining alone. He simply likes to be up front and available for discussion when he has something to say. "One thing I'll always do with players is let them know what I am thinking to their face," he says.
"I won't wait six months to tell them what I know now. There's no point bluffing because I believe players appreciate honesty. One of the things I've learned in all my years of coaching is that not only are players human beings like the rest of us but that some of the biggest, richest and most famous names are actually quite vulnerable individuals. Because maybe 99% of people always tell them what they think they want to hear, they appreciate a bit of straight talking even if they don't always like it. I'm not saying you have to be brutal. It's not about being nasty or nice. But there's a way of dealing with people based on respect."
It is not only early results that suggest Rodgers may be on to something. The way Martin Skrtel played against Manchester United, after being dropped in favour of Kolo Touré then brought back from the cold as injury cover, suggested he, too, has bought into the competitive ethos the manager is trying to instil.
"I want fierce competition for places, I don't want a situation where players are comfortable," he says. "Martin never moaned once about being left out. He just made sure he was ready when the chance came and he was absolutely brilliant. That is exactly the attitude I am looking for."