Chickens counted too early

Wednesday 19th December 2012 15:53

Rude awakening for the Reds

Rude awakening for the Reds

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Just when FanZoner Richard Garnett thought Liverpool had turned a corner, Villa turned up at Anfield...

Villa defeat brings morale-boosting run to an end

Football loves a good watershed moment. They act as a line in the sand, where a period of progress can be reviewed before moving onto the next chapter.

So when Antonio Di Natale blazed the ball over Pepe Reina's crossbar in the dying seconds of Liverpool's Europa League clash with Udinese, there was a feeling that the reds may have started to turn a corner in terms how their transitional season is destined to pan out.

Needing to at least match whatever result Young Boys could achieve against Anzhi, Brendan Rodgers' young guns secured the necessary victory to advance to the knockout stage of the competition and keep Liverpool's european trophy hopes alive.

Victories in Italy are not easy to come by and although there was little at stake for the hosts, it was still a great result and showed a level of resilience that had previously been lacking.

It has been said a hundred times over that other players need to be weighing in with goals from all over the park, to reduce the responsibility on Suarez, so it was good see Jordan Henderson score his first goal of the season.

Having recorded two victories in a week, going into the weekend away clash with West Ham United, Liverpool's players appeared to be in a much more positive mindset.

Sure enough, they were resilient enough to come from behind and snatch victory at Upton Park, when it looked like their early good work had been undone by a period of sloppiness.

Three wins in little over a week certainly lifted the spirits of everyone around Anfield. Negative speak was replaced by raised hope and expectation. Only four points from fourth position and other teams struggling for any sort of consistency.

A clearly excitable Brendan Rodgers went one further and suggested that his team were looking to break into the top two.

Was such talk premature? Yes, it turned out.

Liverpool's home defeat to Aston Villa may have come as a surprise to many but perhaps not those who have already had their expectations of what is realistically achievable with this current squad drastically lowered.

progress

Despite enduring a pretty torrid season thus far, Villa have been starting to make steady progress under Paul Lambert and arrived at Anfield fresh from a morale-boosting League Cup quarter-final victory mid-week.

For all Liverpool's patient attacking build-up, it is a concern that Villa were able to hit the Reds so effectively on the break. Individual errors cost goals and there were no shortage of examples of that against Villa, who demonstrated an enviable proficiency in front of goal.

As a result, the Rogers revolution has been brought crashing back down to earth little over a week after it started to gather pace.

As sobering a result as this might have been, it may serve Liverpool well in the long run.

For starters, it should teach the players that a run of a few good results does not allow any room for complacency. It should also act as warning to the club's owners that significant investment is vital if the reds are to start challenging near the top of the table again.

The muted transfers of Daniel Strurridge and Tom Ince are both welcome in my own opinion, but it is easy to focus on Rodgers' lack of attacking options when there are still weaknesses to be found across the team.

Competition for places can only improve performances but some players turn up every week knowing they are almost certain to start.

Although there appears to be little appetite for it, a domineering centre back would still be very much on my shopping list. A few clean sheets do not mask the harsh reality that Liverpool are not authoritative in defence.

If a team does not have the capacity to be free-scoring, then it certainly can't afford to have a leaky rearguard if ambitions of a top-four finish are to be taken seriously.

The January transfer window is not exactly regarded by managers as a great time to bring new players into a side (Harry Redknapp and his car door excluded),. but on this occasion, shrewdness in the market could be the difference between whether Brendan Rodgers' rein kicks onto greater heights or stagnates into a black hole of mediocrity.

As long as the owner doesn't offer him "£50m plus whatever we get in the draft" then the alarm bells are not ringing, yet.

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