Aldo - Brendan Rodgers needs to keep on winning

SoccerBy John Aldridge
Rodgers and Liverpool preparing for a big test at Arsenal
Rodgers and Liverpool preparing for a big test at Arsenal

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has bought himself some time by winning the first two games of this new Premier League campaign – but the big test for his new look team will come on Monday evening against Arsenal.

Getting six points on the board was a massive bonus after a couple of average performances against Stoke and Bournemouth and we are about to find out whether the squad Rodgers has built in the last few weeks is any better than his failed model of last season.

Rodgers knew that he needed to start quickly after the nightmare of the final few weeks of last season saw so many pundits calling for his removal, but I was never in the camp and believe he deserved a chance to put things right.

No one has not forgotten the disappointment of losing to Manchester United when a place in the top four was up for grabs back in March, or the FA Cup semi-final loss against Aston Villa at Wembley and that is before we try to ignore the horrible 6-1 drubbing at Stoke a few weeks later.

They were damaging blows for Rodgers, but the club have stuck by him and he should head into the game at Emirates Stadium tomorrow feeling confident that his remodeled team are better equipped to deal with what will be thrown at them than they were last time they played Arsenal.

Rodgers' team were torn to shreds by Alexis Sanchez (goals against Liverpool last season before) and his Arsenal team-mates at the back end of last season and the 4-1 score line was justified on a day when Rodgers and his team were outclassed.

Things should be different ahead of this latest trip to the Emirates and let’s be honest, they need to be different as Rodgers has had plenty of time to get his squad assembled ahead of this vital game.

The signings Liverpool have made this summer have been positive and the manager has what he did not have for large parts of last season, which is a strong squad that gives him plenty of options and in essence, there can be no excuses this time.

This is Rodgers team, his players, his newly installed backroom staff and here is a massive opportunity to show that he can get Liverpool back into the mix for a top four finish.

They will be up against a strong Arsenal side and even though West Ham beat them in surprisingly fashion on the opening day of the campaign, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger appears to have a team equipped to take on the very best in the Premier League.

I watched Arsenal’s game against Crystal Palace last Sunday and while they only ended up winning 2-1, they could have had four or five as they had that many chances. Going forward they are a massive threat and this is why Liverpool have to play a shrewd game as they consider how to go about this task.

Emre Can needs to come into the team that started against Bournemouth last Monday as his influence in the heart of the midfield will be vital to breaking up the fluid passing movements Arsenal rely upon.

It has been proven in recent years that you can unsettle Arsenal if you close down the space the need to thrive in and disrupt what they are good at, which is picking teams apart and frightening them with their invention and pace.

Rodgers should tweak his formation a little and look to Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Can to form a solid midfield partnership, with Jordon Ibe, Adam Lallana or Philippe Coutinho supplying the ammunition for Christian Benteke up top.

The gritty and unspectacular performance Liverpool put in as they snatch a late win at Stoke on the opening day of the season is a blueprint for what will be needed against Arsenal and having Benteke as the focal point of the attack will help them on nights like this.

We saw how threatening the big man can be last week as when a decent ball was delivered into the box against Bournemouth, he got on the end of it and scored the winning goal. He should have had a second as well, but hit the woodwork with a late effort.

Yet once again, the concern for me against Bournemouth was the lack of decent crosses going into the box to feed Benteke. I hope Rodgers and his coaching staff are working on this issue every day on the training pitch because they haven’t been producing it in matches so far.

I’m told that Lallana (above) has managed to put in one, solitary cross into the box in two matches he has played so far, which is no where near good enough from a player who is on the pitch to get hold of the ball and deliver it into dangerous areas. 

Arsenal are certain to have a lot more of the ball against Liverpool than Bournemouth managed at Anfield the other night, so Rodger’ side need to make the most of what may be fleeting opportunities in the attacking third.

Benteke has given the Arsenal defence some trouble during his days at Aston Villa, so they will not be looking forward to another meeting with the big Belgian and yet the concern for Liverpool may come at the other end of the field.

I would be delighted with a draw from the Arsenal game as it would provide tangible evidence that the gap between Liverpool and the top four has been closed. Another heavy defeat and all the old concerns will be revived.