Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool given painful reality check by rampant Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke
Villa stun Liverpool at Anfield
There is just one game to go before Anfield says goodbye to 2012, a year that in terms of defeats is now their worst since 1937. That year saw Liverpool escape relegation by three points, although Manchester United were not so fortunate.
By the time 1937 came to an end with a 2-2 draw at Birmingham, Liverpool were 20th and had their manager, George Kay, remarked that they were only six points off fourth place he would have been met with incomprehension. They were only nine points off the leaders – Brentford.
Kay's latest successor, Brendan Rodgers, said he had no regrets about arguing before a crushing 3-1 defeat by Aston Villa that Liverpool should be aiming for second place come May. For a side that, however vast its fan base, has only once scraped into the Premier League's top 10 this season, that is some talk.
It is usually unwise to judge a manager by the comments left on internet forums but in the wake of the ninth defeat at Anfield, the Liverpool Echo's message board was awash with invective, mostly directed at what was seen as their manager's delusional over-confidence.
After the 3-1 loss, what he described as "the worst defeat of my time here", Rodgers remarked: "It is not an issue. It is a great privilege to deal with the history and tradition of this club. Huge standards have been set at this club over the years and that's why the players and myself came here. That is part of it. You have to embrace it.
"Expectation is something we all want to experience because we all want to be at the top end. You can't take a job at a place like Liverpool and complain about expectations."
Nevertheless, Rodgers will have to take some tough decisions next month and not just the embarrassment of trying to buy back Tom Ince for around £6m, 17 months Kenny Dalglish allowed him to leave for Blackpool for a 10th of that fee. He will have to address whether the decline in the form of Steven Gerrard and Pepe Reina is a blip or something more terminal.
Before this game, Rodgers had claimed that the wins over Udinese and West Ham might be a "defining moment" in the season. The victories achieved by a young, highly effective Aston Villa side at Norwich that took them to a Capital One Cup semi-final and this one at Anfield look far more likely to fall into that category.
Their manager, Paul Lambert's, decision to dispense with Darren Bent has worked out better than Rodgers' gut feeling to let Andy Carroll go. His young defenders handled Luis Suarez as well as anyone and in Christian Benteke, Aston Villa have a centre-forward potentially as exciting as anyone in the division. They are now staring upwards. So, too, are Liverpool but they have to make base camp before they can talk about assaults on any summit.
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