Under Pressure: But Rodgers Can Find Solace In Villa's Approach


To quote a Jamaican man with a bunion, there's pain in defeat. But every once in a while, having your pants rather unceremoniously pulled down in front of your own supporters needn't be the abject humiliation it ought to be; sometimes it can help you prove a point.

Until Brendan Rodgers finally ends insomnia as a blight on 21st Century life with the release of his autobiography, we'll probably never know why he chose his pre-match press conference to assert that Liverpool could still wedge themselves firmly between the Mancunian cleavage of the top 2 this season. Regardless though, given that his side were about to suffer their most embarrassing defeat of his reign so far (which in itself is saying something) his timing for putting his neck on the line like that couldn't possibly have been worse.

After what had looked for all the world like Liverpool were finally turning the corner, a much troubled but equally resurgent Villa side rolled up at Anfield and gave the sort of performance comparable only to a much taller boy holding the three points too high for them to reach, and laughing maniacally while they tried to jump for it.

From the home dugout, to the players, to the supporters in the stand, reaction will have been somewhere between quietly humbled, to violently shocked, with a few of the more worrisome staring into the club's future and seeing only a black empty abyss and a few smug Everton fans waving their passports with glee. But in amongst all the head-scratching, soul-searching, and frothing radio phone-in speeches, Liverpool's manager might just have taken a rather generous slice of comfort cake from the make-up and ethos of the side who beat him.

Brendan Rodgers was brought to Liverpool because he fulfils the very specific criteria of the club's owners. In the wake of Kenny Dalglish's transfer policy of simply adding a zero to the fee of whoever was on the front of Shoot! magazine that particular week, they needed to rebuild the side from the ground up for relatively little expense. That means finding a manager who can achieve with unproved or unfancied players. Rodgers did this at Swansea, and even managed to throw a little bit of style thrown into the mix. 

Whilst it's been a poor start (disastrous in his words) there have been positives. The gradual moving on and phasing out of the over-paid and the ageing is important for the long term, so too is the emergence of youngsters Sterling, Suso and Wisdom, who've arguably shown more of themselves in the opening months of this season, than messers Downing, Henderson, and Carroll did in the whole of the last. Their opponents at the weekend have done something similar, albeit that Paul Lambert has taken a staggeringly braver approach.

Villa's biggest names in Given, Ireland, N'Zogbia, Hutton, Dunne and, most vocally, Darren Bent, can hardly get a look in and all are allegedly available to potential suitors come January. In their place have come a mixture of promising academy graduates, and a raft of summer signings that flew in the face of conventional transfer logic. 

Before this season, Brett Holman, Karim El Hamidi, Matthew Lowton, Ron Vlaar, Joe Bennett, Jordan Bowery, Ashley Westwood, and Christian Benteke could boast, between them, a total of 45 minutes of that all important “Premier League experience”. Not what you apparently need if you're in for a relegation scrap, especially when you've got players sitting on the bench who are, allegedly, proven at this level/league/country.

But these unknown quantities are all hungry, youthful, and most of all economical, and after a shocking start to the season they're finally getting it together enough to pull away from danger. Progress is slow, and still precarious, but the goal is to take one of the country's most successful clubs and put them back where they think they belong, without simply throwing money around to do so.

Whilst the bloody nose that Villa gave Liverpool will have been thoroughly unwanted, Rodgers and his paymasters must surely take solace from the fact that the blueprint they themselves have committed to, might just work after all.

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