Daniel Sturridge continued his positive start to the campaign with another goal – a well-taken strike in the first-half that displayed Luis Suárez-esq close control and a clever finish.
Despite the fact that the Reds sit with a 100 per cent record after two outings, the situation could have been completely different. The Merseysiders have had luck on their side in the first two games, and can also thank new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet for turning what could have been draws into wins.
The Belgian stopped a late penalty from Jonathan Walters last week in the Reds’ 1-0 home win over Stoke, before showing his shot-stopping ability this week to deny compatriot Christian Benteke with a wonder reaction save in the dying moments.
After taking the lead in the first half, Liverpool retreated slightly in the second 45 minutes, allowing Villa to come into the game more and create chances. The visitors had the lion’s share of the ball in the first half and used it better than the hosts, and Rodgers will be slightly annoyed that his side caved in to their natural instinct of defending what they had.
On another day, we could be looking at Liverpool sitting on two points rather than six, but this will be of little concern to Rodgers or the club’s fans.
Next week sees the Merseysiders welcome rivals and Premier League champions Manchester United to Anfield in what should be a real measure of just how serious Liverpool are about posing a top-four challenge.
The Anfield crowd will back their team to get one over their fierce rivals, but an even-more polished performance is needed if the home team are to get anything from the game.
Regardless of the manner of the first victories or the luck that may or may not have accompanied them, Rodgers’ passing mentality and positivity looks to slowly be seeping its way into the players’ psyche. There has certainly been a lot more positives than negatives in the first 180 minutes of action for the side.
With Jamie Carragher retiring it was always going to be a transitional period for the Merseyside club’s defence, however back-to-back clean sheets will be a source of delight for Rodgers. Yes, Mignolet’s heroics had something to do with it on both occasions, but the Reds have looked relatively solid. Kolo Touré has slotted in well at the heart of the defence and if he stays fit and can continue this promising start, the Ivory Coast international could well be one of the signings of the season.
Rodgers spoke in the week of Philippe Coutinho and the potential that the attacking midfielder has to influence games. The former Inter man had a part to play in Sturridge’s goal yesterday, and has again looked neat and tidy in possession.
However, as the Northern Irish manager pointed out in previous comments, the Brazilian is slightly nullified by starting from a wide position and has struggled to play the significant role that his coach would like him to.
With eight days left of the transfer window, if the powers that be at Anfield could bring in a left winger of quality, it would allow Coutinho to play more centrally. This would see the South American more involved in Liverpool’s attacking game and unleash his guile, creativity and superb range of passing.
In attack Daniel Sturridge will be pleased with his efforts of scoring in successive games, and Liverpool really have a 20-goal-a-season man in their ranks in the form of the ex-Chelsea striker. It will be interesting to see what will happen if and when Luis Suárez returns to the fold, and how the Uruguayan’s presence will impact upon Sturridge.
At Manchester City and Chelsea the forward was not given a prolonged run of games to build momentum and was used on the flanks instead of through the middle more often than not. Liverpool should not replicate the mistake. If they play him as the furthest man forward Sturridge can get the goals to fire them into top-four contenders.
However, if Rodgers decides to play Suárez as the lone forward, with Sturridge on the left to free up Coutinho centrally, it will nullify a striker who is in form and ready to make a big statement ahead of next year’s World Cup.
All-in-all, these are nice selection problems for Rodgers to have, as Liverpool look to be progressing under his direction. However, with Manchester United heading to Merseyside next weekend there will be no room for luck, as the Anfield outfit must prove that they are worthy of being considered as top-four contenders.