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Rodgers backs midfield options

20 Dec 2013 13:48:05

Rodgers backs midfield options

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers believes he has a multi-functional midfield which can compensate for the loss of injured Steven Gerrard.

The England skipper is sidelined for up to six weeks with a hamstring injury but in his absence the trio of Lucas Leiva, Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen helped tear Tottenham apart last weekend.

Allen, who Rodgers brought with him from Swansea in a £15million deal in the summer of 2012, had arguably his best match for the club after an up and down 18 months.

But Rodgers believes the Wales international did not get the credit his performance deserved as Henderson, who scored in the 5-0 win, and Luis Suarez, who got two, took the spotlight.

"I saw a report after the game which rated Joe Allen six out of 10, which I found remarkable," he said.

"I thought how the three of them (Allen, Henderson and Lucas) complemented each other was outstanding.

"You had Lucas in that controlling role. He did his job with the ball and was aggressive when he didn't have it.

"Joe is a dynamic player and he can control the possession while he's being aggressive in his pressure and Jordan is one who is comfortable on the ball with great running ability to get in and get goals.

"I thought the dynamic of the three was very good but what you can't rule out is the presence and the quality of Steven Gerrard.

"This guy is still a wonderful player. He's a monumental figure here and I've always said that if he's in the team, Liverpool are a better team.

"He's working very well to get back (to fitness) but what we showed was it's about the team.

"If the weekend reinforced anything it was that it really has to be about the model of our game.

"We can't rely on one player."

Even with Gerrard, striker Daniel Sturridge (ankle) and Jose Enrique (knee) out injured Rodgers believes there is enough competition in a small squad to prevent standards dropping.

After the 5-0 drubbing of fellow top-four rivals Tottenham last weekend, Liverpool host Cardiff at Anfield, where they have scored 20 goals in their past five appearances.

The manager is keen to avoid complacency and feels competition will help, providing players meet the challenge.

Vice-captain Daniel Agger's presence on the bench at Tottenham provoked a tentative loan enquiry from ex-Reds boss Rafael Benitez at Napoli, who already has taken their former first-choice goalkeeper Jose Reina on a temporary deal for the season.

But Rodgers is not inclined to allow players to leave and stressed the only way they will achieve their minimum aim of a return to the Champions League is if they present a united front.

And that means players putting in the same performance against the Premier League newcomers as they did against Spurs.

"If any game defines what we're trying to do here in terms of our football it was against Tottenham where the team was outstanding in every element," he said.

"It was a statement of how we've been working over the last 18 months or so.

"We feel that we're improving. The headlines are about football, which is important. We still feel that there's a way to go for us."

Rodgers is also keen for there to be no disharmony to their bid to finish in the top four, which may yet turn into a title challenge.

Victory in the early kick-off on Saturday would put Liverpool top of the table with Arsenal not playing until Monday.

"You saw the spirit in our team as well at the weekend. If you looked at our bench when we were scoring the goals and when we were winning, it was a happy bench," he said.

"I've always said to the players that aren't playing that it's their responsibility to support the players that are playing.

"There's very much a togetherness here, and that's one of the key facets of the season so far.

"This season won't be about 11 players for us, it will be about the whole squad.

"Of course some are going to play more than others but they are professional players at the end of the day.

"Every time someone is on the bench there shouldn't be a question of 'Does he go?', or do other people come and want to take them on loan.

"The job as a professional footballer is to work hard, be professional and respect your team-mates and that is what they are doing."


PA

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