Rodgers has plenty to ponder

Tuesday 5th November 2013 10:50

Brendan Rodgers: Will have to take stock after the Arsenal defeat

Brendan Rodgers: Will have to take stock after the Arsenal defeat

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Liverpool FanZoner Richard Garnett believes Brendan Rodgers has plenty of things to ponder after Liverpool's sobering defeat to Arsenal.

Liverpool may have suffered some capital punishment at the weekend, but the target of returning to the Champions League remains on course.

With a quarter of the season now complete, Brendan Rodgers' evolving side find themselves in a satisfactory third position which has surprised many, including plenty of the club's own fans.

The disappointment of missing the opportunity to return to the Premier League summit at the Emirates should now give way to an appreciation of the strides Rodgers has made in reversing the club's fortunes.

The humbling defeat merely serves as a reminder to all that there is still a long way to go before the Kop can lay claim to a fresh Premier League title assault.

In a game of high quality that cruelly exposed any player who was not quite at the technical level of the various magicians on show, Liverpool came up a couple of wizards short.

With the bizarre enforced absence of Glen Johnson through illness, questions will be asked of Rodgers' decision to persist with the wing-back formation that has otherwise served him well in recent weeks.

Aly Cissokho and Jon Flanagan struggled to perform the role with the proficiency you would expect from Jose Enrique and Johnson.

To Rodgers' credit, he made an early move to rectify the problem, with a switch to four at the back at half time, but a bigger problem was to be found in the centre of the park.

Liverpool were overrun in midfield by an Arsenal quartet who were quicker, smarter and ultimately more effective.

Individually, Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and Jordan Henderson have all come in for praise for their performances this season.

But a lack of mobility was laid bare by the Gunners as their super-talented midfielders exhibited why they are now five points clear at the top of the table.

The trio can take some heart from the knowledge that few of their other opponents possess an engine room that operates so efficiently.

Better still is the boost that their ranks have been swelled by the return of Philippe Coutinho - a player who would not look out of place in the existing Arsenal midfield.

If the delay to the Brazilian's return to the starting line-up in London had always seemed likely then a place in the first eleven next weekend against Fulham is almost inevitable.

The question is how Rodgers will choose to shuffle his pack to accommodate him.

One option would be too deploy a diamond midfield with Lucas at the base and Coutinho at the spearhead.

But with the wing-back position rendered redundant, Liverpool would lose the width that proved to be so effective against West Brom in the last Anfield fixture.

Fulham will no doubt try to be compact in their own half so it is vital that the reds can stretch them across the park and create openings for Suarez and Sturridge.

This is a must-win game for Liverpool, ahead of the Merseyside derby and a run of daunting fixtures in December.

With so many teams separated by the finest of margins any slip up can mean swift changes in the league standings - as we saw on Saturday, even before a team has played.

The problems Rodgers is faced with are not necessarily a bad thing. He has the personnel to win matches and at the quarter-way stage can be more than satisfied with the progress that has been made.

To his credit, he has normally learnt from every defeat that the team has suffered with the most recent reversal being the harshest lesson yet.

He has made no secret of a desire to bring in reinforcements in January as he looks to build the depth of the squad. Until then he will continue to draw the best out of the players he has who deserve praise for their performances on the whole.

Liverpool have proven that their top four aspirations are genuine but how they fair over the next 10 matches will be crucial to keeping those fragile hopes alive.

It makes every league match exciting however and Kopites can look forward to a home encounter against Fulham with a level of anticipation usually reserved for top four competition.

By Richard Garnett, FanZone's Liverpool blogger. Follow him on Twitter at @garnster - and don't forget to follow @FanZone too!

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