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"We are very disappointed and to be honest I didn't see that coming as our momentum and confidence coming into the game was probably as high as it's been."
Those were the words of Brendan Rodgers as his side dropped points at home to Aston Villa to take the wind out of their sails. But those words were not spoken on Saturday evening after an inept display kept them eight points behind leaders Arsenal. No, that quote is from December 2012. Lightning, in the form of a largely woeful showing against mediocre opposition, does strike twice.
At some point, Brendan Rodgers will learn not to talk up Liverpool's title chances the day before a league match. The manager's claim on Friday that his side were showing "wonderful mental endurance" looked pretty laughable after a toothless display that surely ranked as one of the worst at Anfield since last season's 3-1 loss to the same opposition.
"You have to feel that we are [in the title race] and we have the confidence and belief in ourselves," Rodgers claimed on Friday.
"I have a group of players that are brilliantly focused and are determined to maintain our standards, take it into every game and ensure we get the points."
It didn't show.
The first half was incomprehensibly bad. Liverpool managed just one shot on target before Andreas Weimann gave Villa a deserved lead following concerted pressure from the visitors, and another Simon Mignolet mistake (they're becoming all too common) gave Christian Benteke an open-goal second as Anfield was left shell-shocked.
However, whilst Mignolet's error was the most obvious, it was in midfield that Liverpool looked most awry. Steven Gerrard, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson all gave away more than 25% of their passes throughout the first period, and 'quarterback' Gerrard took 22 minutes to even complete his first pass. That is the foundation for nothing more than inviting trouble.
Liverpool's response, coming seconds before the break, was as well-timed as it was delightful. Jordan Henderson to Daniel Sturridge isn't a combination that we may see much of in Brazil this summer (although gawd help us if Tom Cleverley is the alternative), but the former's flick to the latter was sublime, and Sturridge's finish was hugely impressive for a man that has spent a month on the sidelines.
The goal provided the home side with a shot in the arm they needed for the second half, assisted by the introduction of Lucas to provide solidity and aggression, allowing Gerrard to venture forward with far greater ease. Liverpool hauled themselves back into the match (evidently partly due to some theatrics from Luis Suarez), but this was still quite clearly two points dropped, and Lucas' latest injury will be a huge cause for concern for Liverpool fans and management.
Has Rodgers now learnt his lesson to keep schtum when asked about title prospects? When we made the comment on Twitter that this was like night following day, a stream of you (including Liverpool supporters) joked that they had seen it coming - pride before a fall is a particularly prevalent footballing occurrence. So if fans saw the danger, why didn't the manager?
Chirping about your title challenge is an exercise in futility. It makes you a target for the opposition, acting as a motivation tool, and one only needs to look at the words of Brendan Rodgers' peers for evidence. Jose Mourinho consistently claims that his side are not title favourites: "City, in terms of power of the squad, are in another dimension. You can't compare their situation with any other club." Manuel Pellegrini, meanwhile, has become the antithesis of his predecessor with the almost award-winning straight-batting of journalists' questions. "It's not important for us to think about what happens in one or two months," was his response to inquiries over City's title merits.
Instead, Rodgers air makes him a tabloid's dream, always relied upon to give those quotes that will gain hits and shift papers - that's how it works. It also makes the club vulnerable to setback, placed on a pedestal from which they look vulnerable to a blow. It is one part of football management that Rodgers is yet to learn - saying a lot whilst saying very little. Sometimes discretion is the better form of valour.
Daniel Storey - follow him on Twitter
Absolute rubbish kolevlfc, his tactical error had nothing to do with what he said to the press. If that's the case then how do you explain other games where he said similar things and then got it tactically spot on?- shockmaster