Liverpool 3 Aston Villa 2: Brendan Rodgers needed no evidence of the short term memory of the football industry, the knee-jerk reactions that can turn champs into chumps and back again, all within the blink of a news cycle now measured in minutes rather than weeks.
But if he did, the last seven days at Anfield would be a good place for him to start.
Underwhelming in a home draw with Norwich last Sunday, unspeakably bad in scraping through a penalty shoot-out victory over Carlisle, two goals from Daniel Sturridge finally saw Liverpool win in front of their home support, even if there were enough defensive frailties on display to offer concern.
And so, at the end of a week in which former Anfield captains Graeme Souness, Jamie Redknapp and Jamie Carragher had been among the many voices to question the job being performed by the Liverpool manager, Rodgers found himself having lost fewer games than Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal this season and two points behind the Champions League places in the table.
“Yes, there has been a frenzy, there is no doubt about that, to get me out of here,” said Rodgers of the personal criticism he has faced.
“Whether that’s a Liverpool-hysteria or big club hysteria I am not so sure.
“The scrutiny here is obviously greater, for me, than any other club. But it is a huge club and as a manager you know that and deal with it. Players and staff are very much together to live up the expectations we create for ourselves to be the best. Today is about the players. They were brilliant.
“I am fine. You know what comes from leadership and being a manager and the scrutiny. I’ve never got too carried away when we’ve won, and not too disappointed when we lost. I have a hunger to succeed.
“I know last season and this there have been a lot of things going against us, but we’ve always managed to stick together. The players are very much fighting and with players returning we can have a great season. With me there is no drama.”
Drama was certainly the order of the day two years ago when Rodgers almost masterminded a Liverpool success in the Premier League title race and his achievement in coming that close to his club’s first championship since 1990 features prominently in the defence he launches.
“I am the same guy who nearly won us the league but better,” he said defiantly. “If I have the tools, we can do the work.
“It’s not about proving people wrong. I think I have shown in the early stages of my management — without being arrogant — that with a talented group of players I can compete at the top end of the league.
“There are very short memories in football. The team was eighth when I got here and we built and produced a team to excite people throughout European football that should have won the league.
“It didn’t but nobody even expected us to be near the top four. I know how to manage top players and manage the group, but when you lose that or those players are not available and you have to piece it together, that takes time. Then all the good work gets forgotten.”
Rodgers’ status, and short-term job prospects, at Anfield might appear far healthier had he had Sturridge and his undoubted goalscoring potential at his disposal on a regular basis.
Back from a lengthy hip injury, Sturridge scored twice - a feat matched by Villa’s Rudy Gestede - in a hectic 12-minute period in the second half to add to the opening goal from James Milner after 66 seconds. With an astonishing career record of 63 goals in just 93 league starts, Sturridge could be the difference between Rodgers seeing out his current predicament and going on to a successful season or being left looking for new employment.
“Every manager is under pressure; that’s the nature of the job now,” said opposite number Tim Sherwood.
“It’s not the same job as it was 10 or 12 years ago. Everyone’s got their own opinions, faceless people out there, you’ve got social media, you’ve got more pundits than players and they’ve all got their opinions so as a manager you know that you’re going to be under pressure. You just get on with it.”
Mignolet 5; Can 5, Skrtel 7, Sakho 6; Clyne 8, Milner 8, Lucas 9, Moreno 7; Coutinho 6; Sturridge 8 (Allen 90), Ings 6.
Subs (not used)
Bogdan, Toure, Gomez, Lallana, Allen, Origiu, Ibe.
ASTON VILLA (4-1-4-1):
Guzan 6; Hutton 7, Richards 5, Lescott 5, Amavi 6; Sanchez 6 (Veretout 59, 6); Sinclair 5, Westwood 7, Gana 7, Grealish 4 (Traore 69, 8); Gestede 8.
Subs (not used)
Bunn, Clark, Bacuna, Ayew, Traore, Gil
J Moss 7
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