Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup by Aston Villa and their dream of giving Steven Gerrard was shattered as they could finished second best in every department. Here are some of the talking points from the game.
No silver lining for the woeful season
After a second placed league finish last season, Brendan Rodgers was expected to do good, if not great, things with the team this time out. After a woeful start to the season in the league, Liverpool didn’t even make the most of getting back to the Champions League after five seasons and were knocked out of it prematurely. Fans thought perhaps the reward of getting a Champions League berth by virtue of being the Europa League winners would inspire the team to play well in the competition but the Merseysiders lost the crucial away game on penalties. The side performed admirably against Chelsea in the two legs of the Capital One Cup semi-final but the league leaders had more quality to grind out a win in the tie and eventually be crowned winners. Rodgers found a ticking system for his side and the team went on an admirable 13 game unbeaten run only for a disappointing loss and performance against Manchester United and Arsenal which effectively ended the team’s top-4 hops. This meant that only one thing could save Liverpool some humiliation this season. Winning the FA Cup (or at least getting to the final by beating Aston Villa). So by losing out in the game by putting on a shambolic performance, Liverpool have nothing to sustain the success and progress of last season. Only a miraculous top-4 finish could help them, the possibility of which is extremely bleak.
Why fix what’s not broken, Brendan?
After the losses to Manchester United and Arsenal, Liverpool’s 3-4-2-1 system that got them on the 13 game unbeaten run was said to have been “found out”. Due to suspensions and injuries, Rodgers was forced to play a 4-3-3 system against Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle and the change worked for the Reds. Liverpool got two wins in the two matches and against Newcastle, they dominated the game like expected. It was an absolutely bizarre move from Brendan Rodgers to shift the formation back to the 3-4-2-1 system. Steven Gerrard could have come in as a direct replacement for Lucas and Henderson, Allen and Gerrard could have formed the three man midfield for the Reds. Philippe Coutinho, who played magically against Newcastle as a false nine, should have continued in the position in a striker’s absence. However, Rodgers decided to revert back to his old system and played Gerrard as a number 10 behind false nine Sterling. After being dominated by Villa in the opening minutes, Rodgers switched to a four man back-line but persisted with Gerrard as number 10. In the second half, after going two goals down, the Northern Irishman made more tactical changes and by the end of the game, Liverpool looked extremely disorganized due to all these changes.
An expiration date to Rodgers’s term as Liverpool boss looks increasingly inevitable unless some miracle comes into play by the end of the season.
Don’t absolve Liverpool players of the blame
Brendan Rodgers’s role in the loss cannot be understated, but it would be foolish to absolve the Liverpool players from their share of the blame. Lethargic and second-best from the first whistle, the Liverpool players didn’t play like they even wanted a Wembley final. Liverpool had a non-existent midfield throughout the game and while Rodgers definitely played a part in it by switching things around, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen struggled to set any form of dominance in the middle of the pitch. Steven Gerrard for whom a fairy tale ending to his wonderful Liverpool career could have occurred, himself was extremely mediocre throughout the game. Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho were average for most part of the game and the two men who have lately been entrusted with the job of creation, clearly looked out of ideas. Only in the last 10 minutes did the Reds players looked like they wanted to take something from the game.
Brendan Rodgers can’t seem remove the “big match bottler” status
Chelsea at Liverpool last season- a game where Rodgers was tactically outmaneuvered by Jose Mourinho; Basel at Anfield this season- a win would have kept them in the Champions League and Rodgers fielded an astonishingly defensive side; Manchester United at Anfield- a win would have put Liverpool in the top 4 for the first time this season; Arsenal at Emirates- a win would have ensured Liverpool remained in the running for top 4. These are memorable instances where Brendan Rodgers has failed to get a result from his side in crunch situations and the semi-final against Aston Villa was an opportunity for the former Swansea boss to redeem himself in this aspect.
a Technically, we were off. It looked as if maybe the occasion and the energy got to us a bit. Sometimes that can happen. It has happened a number of times. I think sometimes you can want to win too much, and the focus comes away from what allows you to win,” Rodgers admitted after the game.
It seems like Rodgers won’t get another opportunity to change this status with Liverpool.